Guest post by Emily Blake of Next Big Sound
If you’re looking for a preview of where pop music might be headed, Superorganism would be a good place to start. The eight-person collective is a weird, hodgepodge product of the Internet, with members hailing from four different countries. Writing their debut single, “Something For Your M.I.N.D.,” was a global affair, with one person contributing parts at a time, then passing it to another via email. Despite its unconventional formation, “Something For Your M.I.N.D.,” was a viral hit, and launched them to the mainstream pop map.
As they demonstrated on “Something For Your M.I.N.D,” Superorganism have a knack for mixing cartoonish, quirky effects and a variety influences — ranging from the Beatles and Pink Floyd to Katy Perry and Kanye West–all into one cohesive sound. Their self-titled debut album, released on March 2, was heralded by Pitchfork as a “hugely accomplished reflection of the present.” Buzz around their single “Everybody Wants to Be Famous” took the band to the Pandora Predictions Chart, which predicts the up-and-coming artists most likely to debut on the Billboard 200 Chart in the next year.
That’s why they were the perfect choice for our Anatomy of a Sound series, where we delve into data from Pandora’s Music Genome Project to dissect an artist’s sound on a totally data-driven, totally-nerdy level. Read below for our interview with the band. Head here want to find out more about the Music Genome Project, the most comprehensive music analysis ever undertaken.
Combination of Synthetic And Acoustic Sounds
On a single song, Superorganism will mix Beach Boys-esque surf rock with robotic synths, and the sound of birds chirping with video game sound effects. But producer/songwriter Harry said this juxtaposition of synthetic and acoustic sounds isn’t something they set out to do. “It’s not necessarily a considered thing,” he said. “It just worked without really thinking about it.”
Multi-instrumentalist Emily says that this mix of sounds is a product of the group’s wide-ranging musical influences and tastes.
“I think it’s more because we’re interested in a lot of different eras of music, and the types of sounds used in music vary depending on the era,” he said. “We like that kind of big reverb of the 60s as well as a 70s-sounding analog synthesizer, and then we also love that grunge sound of the 90s.”
Compared to the buoyant BPMs of many radio-friendly pop song, Superorganism’s music tends to stay on the slower side. “Everybody Wants to Be Famous,” one of the album’s more radio-friendly songs, comes in at under 90BPM. (For comparison, Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream” is around 120.)
Harry says that in addition to their love of more slower-tempo genres like hip-hop or 80s ballads, the lower BPM also reflects their collective personality.
“We’re all personally quite laid back people so we really like that kind of music. Because we’re all quite chill it just kinda leans that way. It’s always a bit more fun and grooves a bit more when you give it some space in terms of tempo.”
He adds that that space that a slower tempo gives contributes to their songs’ overall arrangement.
“We’re packing so much into these songs that if they were a lot faster I think maybe — there’s so much going on in the songs anyway that if they were any faster than that you simply just wouldn’t have space to put that stuff in there.”
Emphasis on melody
While there are seemingly countless elements on a single Superorganism song, one thing is constant: They’re catchy as hell. Pandora’s Genome tells us their songs tend to score very high on an emphasis on melody. But how do you maintain a strong melody when so much is going on? Harry says the key is to keep it simple.
“If you strip all the songs down, almost every single one is like, three chords at its core. I think it was Lou Reed who said if you can write a song with three chords great if you can write it with two even better. If you can strip it down to a basic structure, then all of the production you build on top of it and its all just there to serve the central melody and the theme,” he said. “I think we all gravitate toward things that traditional way of songwriting, that Beatles style melody being the basis and everything else being built around that.”
Lead vocalist Orono Noguchi is quite decidedly not a belter, opting for a softer, more reserved vocal delivery, scoring high on what we call breathy vocals. Why? It turns out, she never really considered herself a singer to begin with.
“I had never properly sung before the band or anything. I was just using it as a tool for songwriting and that’s pretty much it,” she said. “I never considered myself a singer.”
Want to hear it for yourself? Check out Superorganism’s self-titled debut album on Pandora Premium here.