After beginning Unknown Mortal Orchestra in a Portland basement a few years ago, Ruban Nielson didn't expect anyone to hear the music at all, let alone demand to hear an entire album's worth of it. He'd returned to Portland intent on turning away from music following the dissolution of The Mint Chicks, the band he and his brother Kody led for nine years. But that's not quite how things worked out.
"I came back here, and I started making music as a hobby," he told opbmusic. "I thought, 'Oh, nobody's gonna care,' you know? I can just make it and I won't have to tell anyone I'm doing it." Nielson posted a lone track, "Ffunny Ffriends," to his Bandcamp page in the spring of 2010 and — once music blogs got a hold of it — there was suddenly a lot more attention than he'd ever intended.
Skip to now and the release of UMO's second album, II — it's one thing to make a record in anonymity and another to create and deliver while fans eagerly await your work. Nielson, for his part, doesn't seem to have felt too much pressure for that shift, and likens the process to cooking: "If you cook a meal for yourself, you'll enjoy it, because you know what you like. But then, if you're making food for your family ... then you're always gonna put more effort into it, so it's gonna be a little bit better." A tasty spread it is, adding a subtle R&B side and a bit more nuance to the bluesy, lo-fi vibe of his debut. In this opbmusic studio session, Nielson plays a solo version of "Swim and Sleep (Like a Shark)," with just his acoustic guitar for accompaniment.
Watch more videos from Unknown Mortal Orchestra's session at opbmusic.org.
- Audio: Steven Kray
- Video: Jarratt Taylor, Marjorie Deocampo