As part of their nonstop 2013-14 world tour in support of their acclaimed second studio album, II, New Zealand/US psychedelic pop-rockers Unknown Mortal Orchestra will visit Bangkok this week before heading to the Laneway Festival in Singapore. BK got a chance to chat with frontman Ruban Nielson about the band’s busy climb to fame.

What’s the major inspiration for you guys in making music?   

It’s the combination of influences that makes the band special. I’m influenced by The Beatles, The Family Stone, The Mothers of Invention and Love, but also Wu-Tang Clan, Boards of Canada, J Dilla and Prince. The combination of these things is what’s important.

With your album II there’s a lot of diversity in mood. How would you describe your sound?

I think that live we’re like a classic three-piece psych-rock band, like the Jimi Hendrix Experience or Cream, but we also have soul elements.

Is there any direction you’d like to experiment in? 

I’ve been rebuilding some really old synths lately. I refurbished a Mini-Korg 700 which is the first keyboard Korg ever made in 1973. I’m using it a lot. I’ve also been rebuilding an old Moog MG-1. I’ve been thinking about people like Wendy Carlos and listening to early 70s Yes and Pink Floyd and things like that. In the first two records there is a bit of that early analog synth texture and I want more of that on the next one. 

You guys have been touring a lot since the release of II, how’s life on the road?

It’s so much fun but also very exhausting. The adrenaline of always being on the move and playing in front of people keeps you going. The best thing is playing music every day with your friends on what is basically a nonstop party. The worst thing is having no personal space, no quiet time alone.

What can we expect from your Bangkok gig? 

I don’t know any bands who have played Thailand. I have friends who visited to study kickboxing and things like that but I have no stories of the music scene. We’re going to play our hearts out for the Bangkok audience and hopefully they’ll connect with our music.

What are you listening to at the moment?

I’m listening to the album Fragile by Yes right now. I just finished listening to a record called Music From Saharan Cellphones Vol. 2

You guys have also just released Blue Records EP; what are your plans for your next studio album?

I’ve started working on the next album already. Next year I’ll be working on it a lot. I’m really excited about writing and recording right now.


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