Interview with Unknown Mortal Orchestra


A Multi-Love infinite through Mexico.

A few days ago I had the opportunity to talk with Ruban Nielsonvocalist and guitarist Unknown Mortal Orchestra about his relationship with our country and what we can expect from his next visit within the framework of the Crown Capital 2023.

A very important factor for Ruban In each show it is the altitude, as he assures that he notices the lack of oxygen as soon as he starts singing. Given this, I tell you that CDMX is more than 2,000 meters above sea level. “That’s something very good to know before playing there because that way I can prepare myself” he answers between laughs. And I hope they make it because in a little less than two weeks they will arrive in Mexico to play at the Crown Capital.

I love the Crown Capital because it is always very fun and I like the shape of the backstage because you can meet many people who are also going to play. As for Mexico, I’m very excited to come back because I haven’t been there in a long time and since we filmed in the earthquake. That time we were supposed to be there for another two weeks and I was sad that we had to leave because we were basically kicked out by the earthquake, but I can’t wait to go back. “We have always loved Mexico City, it is one of the most fun in the world and it is beautiful.”

It was during the sessions of Sex & Food that Unknown Mortal Orchestra He was in Mexico that September 19. Since he did not know that they had experienced the earthquake, I asked him about his experience that day.

In New Zealand I have been to some technically large earthquakes, but none like the one I felt in Mexico City, it was very impressive. It wasn’t safe to re-enter the building we were staying in so Jake (Portrait, bassist) and I had to sleep in the park and it was interesting to see the community coming together and helping each other so quickly. People brought us coffee and food, there were people removing debris and looking for people trapped in the buildings that collapsed. It was very scary, but my memories are mostly positive because of the way people helped each other, it was really incredible.”

Returning to Crown CapitalI take the opportunity to talk to someone who has played in two different editions (2012 and 2016) to ask him if he has noticed any changes in the festival over time.

It’s funny, the thing that comes to mind when you ask me that is how much it hasn’t changed, but with my memories of Crown Capital I feel like I know what to expect, I feel like there’s something comforting about how reliable it is. Maybe it will be different this time, but I think I like how it’s been the same both times we’ve played there.”

On what we can expect from his first performance here in five years, Ruban responds excitedly:

In our set we try to include as many songs as possible, which means we mix the most popular ones with the lesser known ones to include more of our favorites. Whenever there is some similarity between an old song and a new one we combine them to make a kind of new track (…) I’m very excited for the band now, I think we have the best lineup we’ve ever had and we’ve worked very hard, so I’m very proud of the state of the band that we will take to the Crown Capital”.

Regarding the difference of planning the setlist for a festival and for a solo concert Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Ruban He explains his point of view to me.

“I think at a festival you have to be more concise, you can’t be so self-indulgent, so we want to make sure we play the most popular ones. I don’t like it when bands disappoint fans, I think it’s important that they play their best songs. The rest is playing things that really excite us and that we can transmit that same energy to the audience to make it feel fresh and have fun.

It’s like a movie trailer and, in certain ways for us, it’s an audition to see if the industry in Mexico wants to have us back for a full tour because, there are no concrete plans yet, but my ambition is to be able to come back and do a formal tour to play in more cities instead of just the big festivals and not come back until the next album. “I want to go back and do a tour of Mexico.”

The poster of Crown Capital It’s full of interesting acts, both up-and-coming and music legends. I ask Ruban If you plan to see someone during the festival and without hesitation answer me:

I’m excited to see pulp. Maybe that’s the main one, I really want to see “Common People” live. That would be incredible. I saw that it will be Alvvays and I like it a lot, I haven’t been able to see them live, so I probably will. There are a lot of bands I’ll probably want to see, but I also like to wander around and find something new, I think that’s the best way to enjoy it.”

Unknown Mortal Orchestra share poster with Blurwho are led by the creative genius of Damon Albarnwith who Ruban collaborated in 2020 for “Severe Head” of Gorillaz.

It was done remotely, but it was incredible, especially after so many years of being a fan of Gorillaz. I like the song, I think it’s a very strange one and I had fun making it. It was nice because during the pandemic I didn’t have much human contact, so it was great to participate in the culture,” he remembers with a laugh. “It’s almost something unreal because it’s even difficult to understand that someone so famous (like Damon Albarn) from my childhood has heard my music or knows who I am.”

When asked who he would like to collaborate with next, he thinks for a bit and explains his way of working with more people.

I have a friend, YEBBA, we were in the studio a little bit and I still want to do something with her because I think she’s one of the best voices of our time. What I want most is to hang out and meet people. My way of collaborating is very different from my way of working. I take my time and do a lot of things on my own, and by collaborating everything happens in a short period of time, so my approach is ‘let’s get drunk and give me a guitar!’ and I make up a lot of things, I don’t really worry about what happens next. I also like to be with Anderson .PaakHe is a sweet and fun boy. He did a song with his band (the Free Nationals), those guys have been super nice to me and my band, I would definitely do another song with them.”

Unknown Mortal Orchestra will arrive at Crown Capital next Friday, November 17 to present their most recent album, V. Although, as she already told us Rubanwill also delight their fans with songs from throughout their career and sonic experiments that will conquer both fans and the curious with their unique style of psychedelia.


Written by

Christopher Johnson

Christopher Johnson is a dedicated writer and key contributor to the WECB website, Emerson College's student-run radio station. Passionate about music, radio communication, and journalism, Christopher pursues his craft with a blend of meticulous research and creative flair. His writings on the site cover an array of subjects, from music reviews and artist interviews to event updates and industry news. As an active member of the Emerson College community, Christopher is not only a writer but also an advocate for student involvement, using his work to foster increased engagement and enthusiasm within the school's radio and broadcasting culture. Through his consistent and high-quality outputs, Christopher Johnson helps shape the voice and identity of WECB, truly embodying its motto of being an inclusive, diverse, and enthusiastic music community.