About a Million Words: Unknown Mortal Orchestra
Multimedia. It's everywhere. I mean, it's more than likely you can hardly fit into the room you're currently occupying because of all the plasma televisions hanging on the wall...
In an attempt to ca$h in on this newly discovered technological revolution we've decided to take the bold step of merging Words with Visual Representations. For our first daring experiment we started with a little ten question email-and-response interview with Ruban Nielson, former Mint Chicks guitarist and current brain/soul-controller of enigmatic lo-fi psych outfit Unknown Mortal Orchestra. We then took his responses and (loosely) matched them up with some videos that we found lurking/hiding around the back-corners and alleyways of The Internet. It's our way of diving head-first into the Web 3.6 Multimedia Dimension of 2008, as well as a sneaky attempt to briefly grab hold of the short attention spans of the untapped Generation V demographic.
You guys hail from literally opposite ends of the Earth. How'd you guys meet and how did you get started playing music together?
I recorded the whole first album by myself without really considering how I would play the music live. The first song I posted on Bandcamp ended up on Pitchfork and a bunch of other pretty big blogs and I immediately started getting interest from labels so I needed to start thinking about putting a live band together, I originally met Jake Portrait, the bass player when we made a Mint Chicks record with him in Portland. We became friends and when the UMO recordings started getting attention he was an obvious choice. Julien Ehrlich, the drummer is someone Jake's known forever. Their parents are friends. We started trying to play the songs I'd recorded and it sounded good so we started practicing a lot.
Did you have influences or a specific style of music in mind when you got started, or did the music come about organically?
I had a vague idea that I was making a psych record.
Your debut EP has a really distinct, analogue sound, where did you guys record it and what was the recording process like?
I recorded by myself in a few different cramped situations: the living room of my little apartment I lived in at the time, and also I'd ask friends who went on tour if I could use their basements while they were away. I have a collection of tape recorders of all different types. Quarter inch Reel-to-Reel recorders, Cassette recorders, a 4-track, several different kinds of dictaphones from all different eras. I tried out all kinds of stuff with them. Combining them and mixing the tracks in Pro-Tools. It's a lot of fun for me to work that way.
Live you guys have a really big sound for a three piece, is that something you've worked on and is that larger sound something you expect to transfer to your future recordings?
It's nice to think that it sounds big for a three-piece. There was never any discussion about the sound being big or anything but it'll be interesting to record with those guys and see what comes of it.
You're currently on tour with Smith Westerns, how'd you guys land that gig? How is the tour going?
Dean Bein at True Panther suggested us to the SW management a few months ago and we just kind of continued to get attention online and stuff. We were very lucky.
Are you guys planning on doing some of your own headline shows anytime soon?
We playing our first headline show in NY this Sunday [Editors Note: this was a while ago]. In terms of touring we'll probably do a few more supports through the summer and after that who knows.
Any plans to release an album this year to follow up the EP?
The album's coming out in the US on Fat Possum in late June.
You can stream the album right now via SPIN. It's also available for purchase in CD, digital and vinyl formats via Fat Possum, as well as via iTunes [US only].
Your website doesn't offer any contact info, and you've only got a Twitter account. Is a level of anonymity part of the identity of UMO?
It's just my way.
So many great acts, including yourselves, are based in Portland. What is it about that city that offers a haven to artists and bands?
It's cheap and it's good!
What's the plan for the rest of 2011 for UMO?
We're touring with Smith Westerns some more, then with Portugal the Man, who we know from Portland, then we're doing two other big tours that haven't been announced yet. [Editors note: since this interview happened these tours have been announced. Check the band's website for all the details]. If all goes according to plan we'll be touring in Australia before the end of year.