Under The Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Sunday, August 7th, 2022  

Superorganism’s Orono Noguchi on “World Wide Pop”

Finding Inspiration During Isolation

Aug 05, 2022 Photography by Jack Bridgland Web Exclusive
Bookmark and Share


“Welcome back,” chants the indietronica band Superorganism on “Black Hole Baby,” the opener from their new album World Wide Pop. It’s been five and a half years since the group broke through the indie pop scene with the single “Something For Your M.I.N.D.,” a tune that fused lead singer Orono Noguchi’s impassive vocals with nostalgic and whimsical production. Less than a month after the song was released on Soundcloud, it quickly gained popularity, getting attention from the likes of Frank Ocean and Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig. In just a short time, Superorganism had garnered an underground following that was eagerly anticipating what the group would come out with next.

A couple years earlier, Noguchi had found many of her future bandmates through YouTube recommendations for an indie pop collective called The Eversons. She attended one of their gigs in Tokyo, and they quickly became friends. After hearing Noguchi’s covers on SoundCloud, the band asked if she could add lyrics and vocals to a demo they were working on. This soon became the single “Something For Your M.I.N.D.,” a worldwide hit that placed Superorganism at the forefront of alternative pop.

This came almost too fast for Noguchi, who was still in high school when the single was released. She had planned to go to college after graduating, but her path changed after the near-instant success of the group. She decided to leave her old life behind to pursue a music career in London. The transition was tough though. “It was hard being alone in London with no friends except my bandmates at 17,” she recalls. “It broke my heart seeing all my high school classmates posting on Instagram about learning and making friends in college.”

Touring was a different story altogether. “It’s not all glitz and glamor. It’s a lot of work you have to put in, and it takes up all your time,” said Noguchi. She was getting paid to make music and travel around the world, so why did she feel so alone and unhappy? Her words quicken as she explains how she felt that she wasn’t allowed to be frustrated with certain aspects of being a musician due to the general perception of the job as a dream occupation. It made her feel worse that she found success in the music industry at such an early stage in her career. “That’s a big difference between me and my bandmates. They have had a long experience trying to make it in music. I was definitely ungrateful in the first album cycle.”

She credits her tour manager with changing her mindset, “He was like, ‘You know it’s a job, right? Everyone hates their job. It’s fine. It’s not a big deal.’” She then started seeing musicianship as simply a regular profession, going on to cite some of the “cool times,” including the opportunity to be creative in the company of friends and connecting with fans after shows. She continues on about the “free stuff” she gets for being in the band, mentioning a pair of Doc Martens she received with a proud smile.

World Wide Pop is a grander and more ambitious effort than its predecessor. The production has transformed from the debut’s laid-back, groovy style to more upbeat and energetic tempos. This change may best be exemplified by the wildly imaginative music video for the record’s first single, “Teenager,” which features actor Brian Jordan Alvarez dancing atop a rainbow unicorn in outer space. Their production aesthetic seems to stand in stark contrast to the state of the world today. Noguchi says that this cheery tone to their music comes naturally for the band. “I think we just think it sounds interesting and fun. That’s what attracts us and what our favorite kinds of music do for us in a lot of ways.”

However, this change in production coincides with the record delving into more personal themes of disillusionment and anxiety in light of the group’s recent fame and global tour. Take the single “crushed.zip,” which opposes “feeling crushed” and being “stuck in a sitcom, [that] shoulda never been pitched in the first place” with the imagery of “candy cane, lollipop, sugary sweet.” Although the track was written before the start of the pandemic, its themes are easily relatable to the current times. Noguchi said that she intentionally set out to make more personal songs, thinking of some of her favorite lyricists like Elliott Smith. “I remember playing so many shows and kind of feeling like, ‘Next album I’m just going to write more honestly.’ Not just my perspective but more Kacey Musgraves-style writing.”

Noguchi also finds beauty in the juxtapositions in not only Superorganism’s sound but also the band itself. The five members of the group’s current lineup (which also features Harry, Tucan, B, and Soul) and their wide array of featured artists come from all over the world, bringing different music backgrounds and perspectives to the table. Despite this, the band manages to work well together with Noguchi stating their collective “outsider status”—she says many of the members had the shared experience of relocating to different places during their childhood—and open-mindedness as key contributors to their chemistry. Instead of shying away from their differences, Superorganism aims to accentuate them both sonically and lyrically, pairing intimate thoughts and feelings with zoomed out ideas of outer space and people’s place in the world.

In several 2019 interviews, the band hinted that they would have World Wide Pop ready for the following year, but these plans were placed on hold as the world came to a halt. The group’s synergy helped them through this process and allowed the members to tweak the songs for the next couple of years. They brought on producers such as Stuart Price—who has worked with the likes of Madonna, The Killers, and Dua Lipa—and had the time to step away from the project, reflect on it, and come back with fresh ears. During this time, Noguchi worked on the album artwork, which portrays a large group of people dancing in outer space with the Earth acting like a disco ball, shooting out streams of bright color in all directions.

The pandemic also afforded Noguchi more space to pursue her own creative ambitions. “The thing that was upsetting to me in the last album cycle was that I felt like I was so attached to the band, and I had no other outlet,” she recalls. However, she now feels more refreshed, going to therapy and allowing herself to pursue personal goals that she believes has given her more energy to put into the band. She’s working on a zine and recording a podcast about her road trip from Arizona to Montana and is also painting and journaling every day, activities that help her relax but also stretch her artistic muscles.

Noguchi seems more self-assured, becoming aware of what she wants and performing self-care when needed. She admits she’s “slightly overwhelmed but in a good way,” extending her reach to other creative passions. She’s also more confident as a musician, revealing parts of herself that she kept hidden on the band’s debut. When asked about what the future holds, she says, “look forward to me being more myself and [making] more art in general”—a fitting response from an artist with so much ahead of her.

www.wearesuperorganism.com

Also read our 2018 interview with the band.

Support Under the Radar on Patreon.



Comments

Submit your comment