This Friday, New Zealand duo Unknown Mortal Orchestra will return to Hong Kong to perform at This Town Needs in Kowloon in support of their new album, Food. The performance will be their first show in the city since 2014, when the psychedelic rockers performed at a sold-out Grappa’s Cellar in Central.
“I remember the show was very fun,” singer and guitarist Ruban Nielsen said. “We went on a ferry and to Ozone in Tsim Sha Tsui, and had some great food.”
This time, the band will be playing material from their latest releases – 2015’s Multi-Love and their spring release Food, as well as fan favourites from their first two records. “The live show is a lot more boisterous and celebratory than the records,” the songwriter said, dispelling any expectations of a sombre, reflective affair. “We have certain sections that are improvised and jammed out, which often surprises some people at first.” For Nielson, Ministry of Alienation off the latest album is a personal highlight during the set list. “There’s a lot of fun interplay between everyone in the band [the band sometimes perform as a four-piece]. It feels slightly different every night, and the crowd respond a lot to the lyrics.”
The duo has, since 2010's debut single Ffunny Ffrends, gained consistent acclaim with each new LP. Still, even for a group with as many accolades as Nielsen and bassist Jake Portrait, it doesn’t give them any relief from the pressures of the music industry. “There’s always pressure. Everything has to grow which causes a problem artistically, because things in art should ebb and flow.” The pair said they have tried their best to ignore these stresses and to keep working towards their career by writing and recording in different locations to inspire new ideas. Despite these challenges, Nielson freely admitted, “If I’d tried to do something different, I would have regretted it.”
One of the album highlights is the single Hunnybee, which is accompanied by an animated music video by New Zealand-based artist Greg Sharp, who has gone on to collaborate with the group for other videos. “Greg called me, and we talked for a couple of hours about all the ideas around the album,” revealed Nielson. “He wanted to capture something essential about the songs and I love how his vision contrasted with the music. I really like a combination of darkness, sentimentality, and humour, and Greg has all those things.”
With all the different components and the amount of effort that went in to Food, it begs the question whether Nielsen is pleased with how the record turned out in the end. “I’m really glad. Everything about that record is the way I hoped it would be, and things have gone really well for us. Honestly, I still find it amazing that I get to do this for a living.”
Tickets are available for HK$390 from ticketflap.
Edited by Ginny Wong