Superorganism / Yuno at Union Transfer
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Occasionally, along comes a band that perfectly captures so much of what is thrilling about music right now. In 2017, mining the golden moments of pop’s past, sights firmly set on the giddy possibilities of music’s future, emitting an infectious sense of wonky fun and producing a kaleidoscopic riot of sound and visuals, that band could well be Superorganism.
Superorganism is a sprawling, multi-limbed collection of international musicians and pop culture junkies. They number eight in total — recruited from London, Japan, Australia and New Zealand — seven of whom now live together in a house-stroke-DIY studio-stroke-band HQ in Homerton, east London.
It was in this house, in January 2017, that the collective had their Big Bang moment. Though they’d previously created music and visuals together, this was something distinctly fresh. They sent the track to their friend Orono, a Japanese student who at that time was studying at high school in Maine, New England. Orono wrote and recorded a vocal part and pressed ‘reply’. What came back across the Atlantic was an intoxicating piece of idiosyncratic, technicolor pop. That track was ‘Something For Your M.I.N.D.’. Superorganism was born.
At that point it’s unlikely any of the members would have expected to hear that track — or its follow up AA single ‘It’s All Good’ / ‘Nobody Cares’ — played by Frank Ocean or Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig themselves on their respective radio shows. Or that the band’s identity would be the subject of so much speculation. Or that they would sign a deal with the legendary independent Domino label. Or that there’d be such demand to see Superorganism live that their debut UK show would take place at London’s 700 capacity Village Underground venue. But over the last few months, such is the trajectory of this unique band, that that is exactly what has happened.
“They will fuck with your brain, turn it inside out, make you question what you knew to be possible from the art of using instruments to make music” — Noisey
Despite being stuck in his bedroom in the city of Jacksonville, the 27-year-old Yuno’s pedigree is diverse. His parents are from the UK, and of Jamaican descent, and his musical upbringing involved a wide array of discovery mainly as a result of being part of his local skateboarding subculture. That’s what got him into music: hanging out with friends at their now abandoned mall, going to the skate shop, playing Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater video games, watching skate videos, and listening to all the music featured therein. “In high school I had a lot of friends that played guitar also. We would all come into school early, learn songs and play for each other in the cafeteria.”
In the house he’d listen to reggae, ska, rocksteady and classic R&B, but it was skating that got him into rock and rap. Formative albums included ones his friends would pass along to him on burned CDs: HIM’s Razorblade Romance, AFI’s Sing The Sorrow and Rancid’s …And Out Come The Wolves. He never really went to shows because rarely would anyone worth seeing come through. His first gig he attended was headlined by a rapper called MC Lars. That’s what made him consider starting a solo project – seeing one dude onstage, recreating all the music alone with a laptop. To this day, he’s only been to four shows. “I’m used to just watching them on YouTube,” he says. “ I never think about a live show when writing songs. I just make whatever.”
Yuno creates all his of music alone at home, self-producing and engineering, playing all the instruments. He also shoots all of his own press photos, design’s his album art and directs his music videos. “I like being really hands on with everything surrounding my music, even now that I’m with Sub Pop,” he says.
However, the exotic lure of bright lights, brighter city, is one of the most relatable of tales, and it certainly makes a whole tonne of sense once you’ve wrapped your ears around Moodie– Yuno’s first mini album, released via Sub Pop. Take for instance, lead single “No Going Back” which marries a summertime vibes of Tame Impala,” the surreal, R&B atmospherics of Frank Ocean and, well, Len’s “Steal My Sunshine.” It’s a collection of songs that chimes with pop’s increasing lack of concern for genre. It’s the opposite of tribal, as multicultural and diverse as a ride on the New York City subway, across all five boroughs. It can’t be attributed to one particular origin of sound or vision.
Yuno continues, “I don’t really go anywhere in Jacksonville. I don’t drive. I spend a lot of time in my bedroom.” Thus, the six song collection sounds like a collage of bedroom posters. “So Slow,” for instance, would be a Washed Out flyer sat next to a piece of Kid Cudi artwork, whereas “Why For” with its squealing Wavves guitars would probably be represented by a big weed sticker or some Sleigh Bells ticket stubs. It’s deeply creative and visual.
He continues “I knew in high school that I wanted to do music. Drawing had been my thing when I was really young, then I started to make videos in middle school with my friend – little skits. Then I began playing guitar.” In eighth grade his cousin taught him how to make beats, and that’s when Yuno arguably began. His dad also bought him a $20 guitar at a flea market. Despite his mom insisting he get lessons, he taught himself by learning online guitar tabs, mostly for metal bands. “I’d bring my guitar to school every day.” He’s learned how to sing over pop punk songs too, hence the abrasive nature of his vocals.
Sub Pop found Yuno via Ishmael Butler of Shabazz Palaces and Digable Planets fame, who’s on the A&R staff for the label. He stumbled upon Yuno on Soundcloud and kept a close eye on him. Similar to Ish, Yuno is encouraged by the genre-bending age of melody we’re living through, citing Lil Uzi Vert and Young Thug as sources of influence.
The multiple flavors of sound also reflect the breadth of feeling that he’s chasing in the writing. Moodie – the EP’s title – clearly relates to his surname, but it’s also channeling the emotional variety of the tracks. “It covers all the different feelings you have at the end of a relationship,” he notes. “Sometimes you’re really happy to be moving on, other times you’re really upset to see something go.”
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