You’ve probably heard Superorganism dripping out of your local hipster’s speakers. Their trippy songs are always on the verge of overflowing, bursting with sun-saturated samples that stretch over warped beats. ‘Something For Your M.I.N.D.’ seems to have been beamed to us from a spaceship, quickly taking off as a hit down here on earth. But despite its success, the band behind it have remained mysterious – partly because they only really knew each other from the internet, and together inhabited that weird twilight zone of instant messenger and filesharing that many of us have been intimately connected with since childhood.
But now they have returned to our time-space-continuum for the release of their self-titled debut this coming March. They even live together IRL in a flat in East London where singer, lyricist and painter Orono Noguchi spends time crafting strange, deeply referential verses. “We still send files to each other like, back and forth because it feels really natural to us to work that way – because that’s how we made friends as teenagers and stuff, like on forums,” she says.
Orono’s delivery is deadpan on most of the new tracks, which seems to be an intentional complement to the strange chaos of the music behind her voice. Her words are also often abstract, and very funny. Take the lines “I know you think I’m a psychopath / A Democrat lurking in the dark”. It’s hard to pinpoint where the humour lies: is it in the image of a psychopathic Democrat, or in her totally flat delivery? “I think me sounding kind of deadpan and all ‘I don’t give a fuck’ is because it’s a reflection of my personality,” she says. “All of us [in the band] are really fascinated with the light and dark of everything in the world, and the way that things have two sides.”
I think that not being optimistic is just kind of … going to lead to suicide pretty much.
Like their single, the album’s songs reveal a tension between chaos and unfeeling detachment. It would be easy enough to tie this to the band’s fondness for ‘internet culture’ – online, there’s a constant oscillation between over-the-top cartoonish humour and a total disengagement from the outside world. But that would seem to imply a kind of nihilism that Superorganism constantly resist against.
“At the end of the day we’re all really optimistic people, but that doesn’t mean we’re like, ‘Hey, we should be happy all the time’,” explains Orono. “Especially me being like, an angsty teenager.” It helps explain the absurdity of their sound, a kind of playful attitude that ties everything together, but also serves a more serious artistic purpose. “I think that not being optimistic is just kind of … going to lead to suicide pretty much,” she says. “And maybe that’s a big statement right there, but you know I think that most people are optimistic, and I think it’s a relatable quality.”
Connecting on a personal level is really important for good art.
Their first release from their debut, ‘Everybody Wants To Be Famous’, is accompanied by a very psychedelic video clip starring Orono herself. It’s an ode to internet culture, but also reflects the band’s recent experience of shooting to fame in a short space of time. Although at first, Orono was unsure whether she should write a song about fame, as it certainly isn’t the most relatable experience. She says, “connecting on a personal level is really important for good art.”
So the imperative was to connect with her rapidly growing fan base while still writing about her personal experiences. It was while listening to Car Seat Headrest, and lyrics that Stephen Malkmus of Pavement had written, that Orono had a revelation. “I realised I can write about whatever I want and anyone somewhere, somewhere out there in the world will probably relate to that.”
Orono’s favourite track from the new album, Relax, represents a lot of what Superorganism set out to do. It’s a lush, downtempo song woven around cartoonish samples, including one of a car crash. But it’s catchy as heck, and mimetic of the barely contained anxiety that comes from having someone tell you to “calm down” when you’re on the edge of a panic attack.
Absurd lyrics like “Stereo’s getting too loud / Mustard seeds on the ground” add to the feeling of skirting close to the edge of sanity. But Orono says that, like many of her lyrics, it’s a “nerdy reference” from a Steve Malkmus interview with Pitchfork. “Stephen is saying mustard is a refined taste thing and when going through puberty you begin to like mustard and I thought it was really fascinating”, she says. “I think there is a weird sense of humour, like an inside joke going on with myself inside most of the lyrics,” Orono says. Such nods are littered throughout the album – though it will take a bit of digging to uncover the more obscure references. But in the end, it just seems like another way that the band, and Orono in particular, try to connect with people through their music.
“It’s weird, but I’m glad people kind of get it and people get in on it, on a joke that I didn’t know other people were into. It’s really cool.” And, really, isn’t that what the internet is all about?