Unknown Mortal Orchestra
Unknown Mortal Orchestra announces the release of the previously-teased forthcoming double album V, due March 17th via Jagjaguwar. Conceived in Palm Springs, California between the dry freeways and the lush coastline of Hilo, Hawaii, V is led by Hawaiian-New Zealand musician Ruban Nielson and draws from the rich traditions of West Coast AOR, classic hits, weirdo pop and Hawaiian Hapa-haole music. Today UMO also share the single, “Layla,” along with an accompanying cinematic video, directed by Vira-Lata, that serves as part one of a two part series documenting the adventures of two young women, here. In October of 2022, the group set the stage for the album with the first taste of V — “I Killed Captain Cook” — with a video featuring Nielson’s mother, Deedee Aipolani Nielson, Miss Aloha Hula 1973.
With V, UMO’s first double album, Nielson reframes and enriches the road that led him to this moment. During the pandemic’s early days, Nielson’s brother Kody flew from New Zealand to Palm Springs to help him with his recordings. One of their Hawaiian uncles began displaying health issues, and Nielson realized he was facing a sharper and more acute sense of mortality. To be with him, he put aside his recordings and helped his mother and another of her brothers move from New Zealand and Portland, respectively, to Hawai’i. He reunited with his brother at his cousin’s wedding in Hawai’i and together they traveled back to Palm Springs, where the fourteen singalong anthems, cinematic instrumentals, and mischievous pop songs in V were brought together with the help of his father, Chris Nielson (saxophone/flute), and longstanding UMO member Jake Portrait.
V evokes blue skies, beachside cocktail bars, hotel pools and the darkness that lurks below perfect, pristine surfaces. The desert resort city’s palm tree-lined streets reminded Ruban of a childhood spent playing by hotel swimming pools with his siblings while their entertainer parents performed in showbands across the Pacific and East Asia, and he became aware of the glamorized hedonism he’d internalized since childhood and the darker side of his parents’ lifestyle when they were working as entertainers.
“In Hawaii, everything shifted off of me and my music,” Nielson said. “Suddenly, I was spending more time figuring out what others need and what my role is within my family. I also learned that things I thought were true of myself are bigger than I thought. My way of making mischief – that’s not just me – that’s my whole Polynesian side. I thought I was walking away from music to focus on family, but the two ended up connecting.”
A primary goal of V for Nielson was to make music and art that transcends notions of clout and cultural currency while also aiming to inject having fun back into the process of creating music. For Nielson, V is about having fun while making music and art and by doing so, he reclaims taste as a personal part of selfhood, propelling UMO to new creative heights.
This past October, Unknown Mortal Orchestra announced their first tour in 4 years with a headline North American and UK tour that will kick off in March shortly after the release of V. Before heading to the UK, the tour stops in Los Angeles, Phoenix, Denver, Detroit, and New York City.