INDIO, Calif. – It’s normal for music lovers from as far away as Tokyo, New Zealand and London to converge at the Coachella festival, but it’s not often you find such a global contingent crammed into one band’s backstage trailer.
That was the scene two weekends ago as the members of the electro-pop septet Superorganism settled in ahead of their set.
Sporting a plain tourist-shop T-shirt with “Maine” emblazoned across the front — the state where she attended a boarding high school — Tokyo native Orono Noguchi confused a question about playing the festival for a broader query about her band’s whirlwind two-year career. Either way, her answer fit.
“It’s been a lot of fun but a lot of chaos,” she said.
Noguchi was still attending high school in 2015 when her future bandmates e-mailed her a demo recording from London of the song that became “Something for Your M.I.N.D.,” a weird, warped-grooving blend of synth-pop and space-funk that went viral in early 2017 and had some fans believing it was a secretly released song by Damon Albarn’s sneaky group Gorillaz.
In the same flat, sweetly blasé-sounding tone that defines her singing voice, Noguchi recalled her reaction to that demo: “I thought, ‘What a cool song. Yeah, I’ll try something over it.’ ”
“I did my vocals in like 30 minutes and sent them back. I didn’t think anything beyond ‘this is fun and sounds cool.’ I certainly didn’t think it would lead to all of this.”
“This” is Superorganism becoming one of the biggest bands ever formed over the internet.
Now with a second hit on their hands, “Everybody Wants to Be Famous,” Noguchi and her bandmates have a summer of Coachella-like festival gigs on their itinerary, preceded by a club tour that brings them back to First Avenue in Minneapolis on Thursday.
Not bad for a band whose members had never all been in a room together before they started making a record two years ago.
“We really just got thrown into this,” the group’s flaming-red-haired co-vocalist Ruby (no last name) said as she and Noguchi sat for a pre-gig interview.
“Some of us had never been on tour before we hit the road. It was a big learning curve for the whole band. But after doing 100-some shows last year, I think we can confidently say it’s working.”
Noguchi interjected, “It was 144 shows, to be exact.”
Ten or so years younger than many of her bandmates, the 19-year-old lead singer — whose not-quite-5-foot stature and T-shirt-and-sneakers attire make her look even younger — met some of the members when their earlier band, the Eversons, came to Tokyo on tour. A Facebook friendship ensued, which then led to making music via the web.
Noguchi humorously recalled what it was like starting Superorganism while she was still attending school in Bangor, Maine:
“You know how at the end of high school, all the teachers and even some students are like, ‘So, what are your plans?’ Usually, it’s stuff like, ‘Oh, I’m going to Hunter College,’ or whatever. For me, it was, ‘Oh, I’m moving to London to start a band with a bunch of strangers from the internet.’ I would get looks like, ‘Oh, I guess you’re gonna be a failure.’ ”
For her, though, the decision was a no-brainer: “Why wouldn’t I do this?”
From graduate to ‘Famous’
Like an international, coed version of the Monkees, Superorganism’s members wound up living together in a cramped London house, three girls and five boys (also counting their visual producer). There, they finished their album and soon signed with Domino, the U.K. label that helped birth Arctic Monkeys and Franz Ferdinand.
Given their close living arrangements at home, they apparently made a pretty easy transition once it came time to travel the world.
“We already knew how to live together and get along, and how to allow time for ourselves and not think it weird if one of us needs some quiet time,” Ruby explained.
Plus, she cheerfully added, “The [tour] buses actually have a living room, which we don’t have at home.”
And while Superorganism has seemingly enjoyed an effortless, instantaneous rise, Ruby said her group has put in a lot of effort into making their live show a unique and literally colorful experience. This would prove true a couple hours later, when their oddball video and light production, fun stage outfits and light choreography shined bright amid the darkness inside Coachella’s Sonora tent.
“We feel like if someone pays the money to buy a ticket to your show and stands there waiting for you to go on, you really owe it to them,” she said.
“Everybody Wants to Be Famous” sparked a big singalong from the crowd. Noguchi said that song has taken on an even more ironic tone now that her group is flirting with at least modest fame.
“My favorite art is always anything that’s abstract enough for it to be interpreted in different ways, and that’s a song I personally interpret different ways depending on the day,” she said. “On a bad day on tour singing that song, I interpret it as, ‘What am I doing?! I don’t want to be famous.’ ”
Gesturing toward the wild, sprawling festival setting around her, though, she added, “But sometimes, I’m like, ‘[Expletive], yeah! We’re playing at Coachella. I do want to be famous!’ ”