Having instantly captured attention with the sort of playful (and sometimes cryptic) approach to samples that characterises world-building artists like Beck and Gorillaz, international alt-pop collective Superorganism bring their gay-glo, transhumanist spirit to hyperlife on their self-titled debut. We spoke to lead songwriter Emily about the fascinating Superorganism.
Right now you’re in Spain, and tomorrow it’s back to London, then Tokyo, then the States. Do you have your pre-tour packing regime down pat?
Oh my God. Only just. The first trip we did… I managed to lose my Visa card. Do you know how expensive that is? What a nightmare. It’s still going on, this stupid thing. Now I’ve got a place for everything. This is all totally new to all of us; it’s a steep learning curve.
We know that all eight of you live in an East London house together, and have musical pow-wows in the kitchen. Has the house itself become like a bandmember to you, because it’s your musical home?
I really like your take on this. I’m afraid that the house is actually really small and everything’s broken. The oven hasn’t worked for two months. The shower doesn’t really work properly anymore. It all leaks. It’s a bit sh-t actually, the house. But I’ve got to tell you, it’s really cool living together – it’s fantastic. But it’s weird because we’re all people who have been born somewhere and grew up somewhere else, or moved somewhere else. To us, our sense of being home isn’t really connected to a geographical location, or the sh-t house we’re living in; it really is more about the people we’re with. We make it home out of the family around us.
One of the recurring sounds across the album is a certain bending guitar – it starts just under the surface of its destination chord and then flexes upwards, like a bubble. It’s very ‘Hawaii holiday.’ Is it something you think of as a distinctive Superorganism sound?
I guess so. It’s really weird, with putting together this music, all eight of us have taken this approach where we send these files around and it’s like a collage. I didn’t really think of [the guitar] like that until people started telling me what they thought about it – about all these elements. It’s really interesting. Yeah, I guess it is kind of Hawaiian. I thought of it a bit more like – do you know that song Slice of Heaven? It’s got this kind of, [mimics Dave Dobbyn’s synthetic flute].
Let’s talk about sound effects! There are tons: in Everybody Wants To Be Famous you’ve got a popping champagne cork and a camera shutter; in Relax you’ve got a ring-pull being opened and car horns, and in stand-out Nai’s March there’s an apple crunch, applause, and a frog. Where did they all come from?
A lot of the sound effects and the samples are from around our house. For example: the shower downstairs has been broken for so long that it just drips extremely loudly, almost pouring out. That kind of water theme seeped into the actual record, as we were sampling the taps. There’s just a lot of sounds in London. It’s about combining these [habitats] – things from our own little environment and things from other environments as well; much grander, like a rocket taking off. So, you’re putting these different rooms and spaces all together. I find it disorienting, but it also gives you a sense of place. It’s kind of double-edged like that. Things like ringing a bell, or children talking… I find them really emotionally evocative. Like, really similar to playing a really beautiful guitar chord or strumming a harp. It’s got the same kind of musical quality.
One particularly successful effect is in The Prawn Song: as we approach the chorus, there’s the rush of water and it sounds just as if you’ve jumped off a pier and are heading down to the prawn’s home. How was it created?
I’m glad you liked that. [We made] those samples using buckets and cups of water, and running up and down the stairs. I really like it. It’s cool how you can take a sound like that and when you change the context, it sounds like something completely different.
Superorganism is out March 2 via Domino.