13 Mar 2018


From The Sampler, 7:30 pm on 13 March 2018

Nick Bollinger discusses the mad, hook-filled debut of a trans-national eight-piece pop conglomerate - with a lot of New Zealanders in it.


Superorganism Photo: supplied

I should have sensed something familiar when I heard the debut of the latest signing of influential English indie Domino Records.

They call themselves Superorganism and the first single, ‘Something For Your M.I.N.D.’, started getting serious traction online right after its release last September: an unholy mashup of squelching Moog and slide guitar, laconic verses and an earworm chorus, all delivered in what feels like slow motion.

An accompanying video collaged nature films with psychedelic animation but revealed nothing of the group’s identities, though the vocalist did sound rather young. And, as it turns out, she is.

Seventeen-year-old Orono Naguchi was barely a teenager when she first became a fan of the New Zealand indie pop band The Eversons, whose music she had discovered online. When the group toured Japan in 2015 she met them, and stayed in touch. Last year she was going to school in the U.S. when the group, now based in London, invited her to contribute vocals to a side-project they were working on. ‘Something For Your Mind’ was the result, everyone liked it, and over the following months Orono collaborated on several more songs, swapping sound files with the other musicians.

Further long-distance contributors were pulled in, including New Zealanders Ruby and B, and Korean vocalist Soul, who was living in Sydney.

It was only after an album’s worth of material had been completed that the full band actually met for the first time. And, to judge by recent performances on Jools Holland and Paste Studio, the chemistry was a good live as it was in the cyber-studio.

The last time I’d thought about The Eversons was just over a year ago when I reviewed their second album, Stuck In New Zealand; a strong if strangely misnamed record, as by the time it came out the quartet was London-based. As I noted then, their influences seemed to stretch from bubblegum to classic rock to modern Max Martin-style super-pop, yet it all seemed to be trapped in the body of a rather old-fashioned four-piece, all-boy rock band.

Those pop instincts are still intact, which is why I feel I should have recognised Superorganism immediately. But this new identity, as a multi-racial, trans-national eight-piece pop conglomerate is exactly the rebirth they needed. And it is aptly named: a sprawling entity made up of unique and interdependent parts.

Orono is a find, and her singing provides much of the character of these songs. Her voice, while obviously youthful, has a droll, less-than-impressed quality – shades of Nico-era Velvet Underground - while her lyrics are surreal streams of pop-cultural observation that recall the Beck of ‘Loser’ and Odelay. As for the former Eversons, they seem to have been liberated by the transition from traditional band to God-knows-what. An arrangement no longer has to consist of guitars, bass and drums. It can be based around bubbles, foghorns and party-whistles.

After their internet-based origins, Superorganism are now apparently all living in London, in a single eight-roomed house in the West End – just like a real band -  though it appears that this hasn’t substantially changed their music or work methods. It’s an odd group for sure, but a very charming one, to which their success would seem to attest. This nutty, hooky self-titled debut can only consolidate that.

Superorganism is available on Domino