IN a London sharehouse, eight cosmopolitan creatives are creating their own DIY version of Stockholm’s “hit factory”. They’re called Superorganism, and they’ve written arguably 2017’s biggest earworm.
The track has been feted by the likes of Frank Ocean and
“When we first put the track together, to be honest, we were thinking no one is going to hear this,” admits the band’s chatty guitarist Harry, who’s spent the day nursing a hangover and watching movies in the band’s Hackney home. “In doing that [taking it down] we actually increased the anticipation for it to come out.”
Superorganism’s teenage singer Orono has had a slightly more productive afternoon. At just 17 years of age, she’s now appeared on Later… With Jools Holland and BBC Music, and is still buzzing after shooting her first proper clip: “a secret music video that will be out sometime in the future”.
How Orono has found herself here, living with seven other musicians in inner-London, is a story in and of itself.
After the track bounced around between rooms and members, Superorganism keyboardist Emily sent it to Orono, who was living in Maine, New England, at the time. It was the day after her birthday and these were the first few lines that tumbled out of her mind:
I know you think I’m a psychopath
A Democrat lurking in the dark
This sucks, I’m the K-mart soda jerk
Cirque du trash, I kept the stash
So what was the starting point of the song?
Harry: Emily [keyboardist and songwriter] came up with the initial beat for it and threw together a demo. It was around this time last year. We were kinda spitballing for ideas for a new project. This was a few of us that lived together. That was one of a batch of songs that came together at that time. We were all living together in London. [Emily] came up with the initial idea and worked on it here a bit.
Orono: And then they sent it across to me in Maine … I got it and Emily was like, “Hey, do you want to write some lyrics for this song and sing on it?” And I was like, “Hell, yeah. Sign me up!” I was in my bed and I wrote it in like 30 minutes, recorded it on GarageBand on my MacBook. I sent it back and that was pretty much it.
Harry: That really tripped us out – getting it back off Orono. It was the first song we did as a group, so getting that back – she sent it back within an hour of us sending it to her – so complete, and so well put together so quickly was amazing.
Orono, what frame of mind were you in when you received that track? Did the lyrics just pour out stream–of–consciousness style?
Orono: Yeah, I think so. It was senior year of high school. It was pretty good. I really liked it. I was generally happy, not 24/7 optimistic or constantly depressed or anything. It was a good balance. I was just having a really good year.
It was pretty much after going back home to Japan. I was feeling rejuvenated about seeing my family and relatives. I was pretty objective about everything. And then the song, which is based around a sample, is pretty simple. It doesn’t have a specific theme, it could be about anything. So I was like, “Cool. I’m going to write about anything – and everything.” I didn’t really have a specific theme in mind or anything.
Did you have a specific character in mind?
Orono: I really didn’t either. “I know you think I’m psychopath”, “I know you think I’m a sociopath”, covers multiple sides. I’m not saying I’m on either side. I think we can all relate to either side in some way or another … I tried to write a wholesome song with wholesome lyrics.
"I was in my bed and I wrote it in like 30 minutes, recorded it on GarageBand on my MacBook. I sent it back and that was pretty much it."
There’s a real laidback Kimya Dawson/Moldy Peaches vibe to the song. Were they an influence at all?
Orono: Not really. I get how people can make that comparison though … At the time what I was most listening to was Pavement. And so I think the reason why people make the
Harry: That’s totally what I thought. [Laughs]
Orono: I really like that whole “I don’t give a fuck” vibe. It’s speaking, but also singing at the same time. I was really inspired by that … I like taking something I really like that’s not close to what I do, and then I try do it. And then there’s a completely different product.
Is the vocal on the track the exact thing you recorded onto your MacBook, Orono?
Orono: That’s pretty much the thing. [Superorganism member] Tucan mixed it, and I was like, “Woah – we made a song.” We weren’t really expecting anything. We were a bunch of nobodies putting up a song on SoundCloud. At first we were like, “Maybe it’ll get 200 listens. That’d be sick.” And then it started getting more and more and more. It kept multiplying exponentially almost. Then Frank Ocean played it, Ezra Koenig played it, and it snowballed from there. It was insane. Mind–blowing.
What’s the Korean sample in the chorus?
Harry: That’s [Sydney-based singer] Seoul who does that. His heritage is Korean. He’s spent a lot of time there and he speaks Korean as well, so that’s his little touch. He’s usually the last person to get his hands on the track, so he adds his own colours that way.
And what’s the translation?
Orono: It’s something like, “I don’t know what’s on your mind, blah blah blah blah.” Something along those lines.
Harry: We get lots of comments from people on YouTube in Korean. That’s a cool element to the song.
Are there any other buried samples or hidden touches on the track that you can divulge?
Harry: There’s nothing scandalous or anything. We always use various samples in our song. Like if it’s a sunny day and the birds are chirping.
Orono: Or the apple crunch.
Harry: Yeah, there’s an apple crunch at the end of the first chorus. It’s colouring in the song. The song at its core is A, E and D, the whole way through. It’s a very simple song in that way. The whole colouring in or the shading of it, is how we frame these samples, or how we can evoke certain moods or create certain effects that transition into the next part. There’s quite a lot throughout the track.
Who’s responsible for the apple crunch?
Harry: That was Emily. It’s really fun. On every song we enjoy finding the sample online or creating the sample. Tucan is really good at that end of things. He’s the mixmaster. He’s a mix engineer.
Orono: A master of sound.
Harry: He’s really good at creating those samples. So it’s a fun process.
With eight members and with so much happening when did you know when this track was finished?
Harry: It gets to a point where it just feels right. Usually we just draw a line under that before Tucan actually does his mixing – although the mixing is obviously a part of it. With this one it wasn’t too laboured over. Other tracks on our upcoming record got to like mix 20 before we felt it was complete. I can’t remember off the top of my head, but I think this one was two or three mixes … We usually try and get them to a point of reasonable completion before we give it to Tucan for his magical shine.
And how is the [full-length] album coming along?
Orono: We are so close. We are just trying to figure out the technical issues at this point.
Harry: Audio–wise the album is complete. We had a bit of a listening party on Sunday to the vinyl master, the test pressing. Listening back to that on record was a bit of a trip. It’s so cool when you can do that. It’s the physical form of the music you’ve made.
Orono: It’s cool because it’s tangible. Most of what we do is online. So even when we played our first show it was like, “Woah, all these people actually listen to us.” All those accounts aren’t fake. [Laughs]