New Zealand band Un­known Mor­tal Orchestra are break­ing the al­ter­na­tive genre mould, and the ev­i­dence is in their new record, Multi-Love

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - LIVE & LOUD - MIKEY CAHILL

This year there have been two epics for the epoch of self doubt, Tame Im­pala’s Let It Hap­pen is one, where Kevin Parker does as he pleases for eight min­utes with­out seem­ing to lift a fin­ger and then Un­known Mor­tal Orchestra came at us with Multi-Love, a song that goes for half the time but achieves a sim­i­lar state of nir­vana, trac­ing back to The White Al­bum via The An­i­mals and Metron­omy.

“That was the first song I started for the al­bum … and the last one I fin­ished. The vo­cal took eight months to get right,” says ec­cen­tric Kiwi Ruban Niel­son, lead singer and brains trust be­hind the Port­land­based band.

Multi-Love is the ti­tle track to their third record, af­ter UMO’s 2011 self-ti­tled de­but where Niel­son pre­tended he was “a char­ac­ter in a car­toon band”, and solid fol­low-up II.

Niel­son was for­merly in NZ’s noiseniks The Mint Chicks with his brother Kody (now find­ing suc­cess with his Sil­i­con project) and it got bro­hemian in the stu­dio for UMO’s third al­bum.

“We were in New Zealand and my brother started play­ing this gospel chord change he was work­ing on and then started play­ing it on pi­ano and I started hear­ing this melody for Multi-Love and I wanted to make this melody based on the chord change I had,” he says, get­ting right into the polyamorous ode.

“We messed around with it then I de­cided I’d fly him out to Port­land where I live and the first thing we worked on was Multi-Love. I was singing and try­ing to find the per­fect melodies. He was mess­ing around with melodies and arpeg­giat­ing the pi­ano and I was like ‘Oh my god! That’s crazy, let’s do that!’ ” he says, break­ing out of his mel­low fel­low vibe.

“I wanted it to be a mod­u­lar love song, does that make sense? A love song that you could rear­range in your head to suit your own sit­u­a­tion. Whether you were straight or gay or what­ever, it was a love song that could be moulded into your life. I wanted to get the lyrics right. Also I wanted to make some­thing that would break peo­ple’s expectations about what the band was sup­posed to sound like. A song that sounds like UMO but also strangely fu­tur­is­tic.

It works on multi-lev­els. “We didn’t want Multi-Love to be very ‘of-our-time’ like other bands ... but some­thing that sounds like it could only be made in 2015,” he laughs at his pre­cious­ness.

“It was pretty am­bi­tious. I also wanted it to be a jam you could throw on when you’re hav­ing your cof­fee in the morn­ing and get­ting psyched to go to work. It was a big deal to make all those things come to­gether for me. I couldn’t have done it with­out my brother.”

In­ter­est­ingly, Multi-Love’s themes are based around Niel­son meet­ing a mys­te­ri­ous girl in Tokyo who then moved to Port­land to live (!) with Ruban, his wife and two kids. An ar­ti­cle in Pitch­fork laid the polyamorous sit­u­a­tion bare.

“She’s gone to China now; limbo. It taught me a les­son about turn­ing my life into art.”


Un­known Mor­tal Orchestra will per­form at The Trif­fid, Brisbane, Sun­day.

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