SXSW 2018: Behold Superorganism’s Ecstatic Pop Utopia

Superorganism take the stage in a cult-like procession. Most of them are wearing brightly colored rain jackets, hoods up. Their three back-up singers are holding bells, which they chime into their microphones as the band’s intoxicating combination of rubber-band beats and squelching samples revs up behind them. Orono Noguchi, the group’s 18-year-old lead singer, heads to the front of the stage, grabs her mic, and lets out a guttural scream, loud and long enough to startle everyone to attention in the FADER Fort field, where the UK-based pop collective are performing a midday set. Despite her small stature, Noguchi has a commanding stage presence, the sort where your eyes are constantly drawn to her. She’s somehow insular and external at the same time, her musings on the mundanity of life mumbled out with an intensity that encourages you to hang on every word.

The band’s live set is sort of an ecstatically sloppy mess, though that probably reads as harsher than intended. There are a lot of moving parts to Superorganism — both in the tracks themselves and their abundance of members, which totaled eight on stage yesterday — and that means there are a lot of components that can go wrong. They’re definitely still learning how to most effectively rein in the hodgepodge of sounds and sharp hooks that are present on their debut album, which came out earlier this month, but it’s thrilling to watch them try. The band have a force of personality that built up as the set went on, a self-assuredness that they settled into with time. By their last song — naturally, their early hit “Something For Your M.I.N.D.” — they were firing on all cylinders, their panoramic pop vision fully realized.

Superorganism, the album, is populated with songs that sound disaffected on first scan but are actually filled with a lot of warmth and hope. One of its best, “Everybody Wants To Famous,” which they performed during their set yesterday, is less about achieving actual fame and more about learning to be proud of what you’ve done and leaving a positive mark on the world before we’re all gone. Noguchi writes with a sardonic eye that counterbalances the rest of the band’s more buoyant compositions. Superorganism are concerned with learning to live simply in a world that’s constantly connected, and they really thrive when they use the power of a collective as a way to embrace individuality.