Unknown Mortal Orchestra

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Unknown Mortal Orchestra
Unknown Mortal Orchestra performing at Sala Apolo in Barcelona, Spain in 2015
Unknown Mortal Orchestra performing at Sala Apolo in Barcelona, Spain in 2015
Background information
OriginAuckland, New Zealand
Years active2009–present
Past members
  • Julien Ehrlich
  • Greg Rogove
  • Riley Geare
  • Amber Baker
  • Thomas Mabus

Unknown Mortal Orchestra (UMO) is a New Zealand psychedelic rock band formed in Auckland, primarily composed of singer, guitarist, and songwriter Ruban Nielson, and bassist Jacob Portrait. The band is based in Portland, Oregon, US. Nielson started the band in 2009. The band's first album was released in 2011 on Fat Possum Records; four subsequent studio albums have been released on Jagjaguwar, the most recent being V (2023).



Singer and guitarist Ruban Nielson released the track "Ffunny Ffriends" on his anonymous Bandcamp profile on 17 May 2010.[1] No further information was provided and no mention of who created it. Within a day, the song had received significant coverage from independent music blogs such as Pitchfork.[2][3] Through their reposting and attempts to hunt down the creator,[4] Nielson eventually claimed the track as Unknown Mortal Orchestra's.[5]

Unknown Mortal Orchestra[edit]

The band's debut self-titled album was released 21 June 2011 on Fat Possum Records. The album received critical acclaim. Nielson promoted a 'Kiwi Edition' of the album on his Instagram, which includes a bonus track. Pitchfork gave the album an 8.1, describing that with "an expert use of space rare for such a lo-fi record, UMO manages a unique immersive and psychedelic quality without relying on the usual array of bong-ripping effects."[6]

In the spring of 2012, the band won the Taite Music Prize for the album.[7] Although the nominated Unknown Mortal Orchestra did not win Best Alternative Album, Nielson took home the title of Best Male Artist at the 47th annual Vodafone New Zealand Music Awards.


In September 2012, Unknown Mortal Orchestra announced that they had signed to Jagjaguwar and were working on their second full-length album. Unknown Mortal Orchestra's second album, II, was released on 5 February 2013.[8] The first single from the album, entitled "Swim and Sleep (Like a Shark)", was first available as a 7" on their tour with Grizzly Bear.

Ruban Nielson

II has received critical acclaim. In November 2013 it won Best Alternative Album at the New Zealand Music Awards. II was nominated for the Taite Music Prize 2014, an annual music prize awarded for the best album from New Zealand. Clash Music gave the album a 9 out of 10, saying "from opener 'From The Sun', which recalls George Harrison-psychedelia, to the tender Family Stone shuffle of the closing of 'Secret Xtians', 'II' displays both a glowing warmth in its production and a deft use of space that illuminate Nielson's superbly crafted compositions."[9] Paste magazine called the album "a modern, beat-heavy take on '60s psych, with plenty of hooks and fuzz to get you hooked and feeling fuzzy."[10] NME praised Ruban's ability to turn his songs into "works of warm, fuzzy beauty."[11]

In late 2012, Unknown Mortal Orchestra capitalized on the success of II and embarked on a world tour.[12] The tour started off with shows in Australia, and hometown shows in New Zealand, followed by several stops in Europe. The band toured extensively throughout North America with opener Foxygen. In March 2013, Unknown Mortal Orchestra was named one of Fuse TV's 30 must-see artists at SXSW.[13] Unknown Mortal Orchestra consistently sold out shows in both Europe and in North America, and as a result of their success on the road they announced in early April that they would extend their tour through the end of 2013. That summer the band performed at a number of major European festivals, including Roskilde Festival, Pukkelpop and Lowlands.[citation needed]

On 25 February 2013, Unknown Mortal Orchestra made their American television debut, performing "So Good At Being in Trouble" on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.[10]

On 29 October 2013, the band released an EP titled Blue Record.[14] It included three acoustic versions of songs taken from their previous album.


On 5 February 2015, the band announced their third studio album, Multi-Love. They released the title track as the first single, which was designated "Best New Track" by Pitchfork.[15] Multi-Love was released on 26 May 2015. It was well received by critics. Rolling Stone commented that "Multi-Love sees Nielson coloring outside the lines for a vibrant vision of connection" [16] and Pitchfork praised Nielson's ear for how something should sound and referred to the album as his "most accomplished."[17] Singles "Multi-Love" and "Can't Keep Checking My Phone" were both A-listed at BBC's 6 Music.[18]

Following the release, UMO embarked on a tour through Europe, the US and Canada, with many sold out dates. On 12 August, UMO performed "Multi-Love" on Late Night with Seth Meyers.[19] On 25 August they performed "Can't Keep Checking My Phone" on Conan. On 16 February 2016 the band performed on Last Call with Carson Daly. "Can't Keep Checking My Phone" also appears in the association football video game FIFA 16.[20]

Sex & Food and IC-01 Hanoi[edit]

The band's fourth studio album, Sex & Food, was released on 6 April 2018, garnering a lot of praise from critics.

In a review in Reflektor Magazine, the following was said: "The consistent thread through the UMO catalog remains strong; frontman Ruban Nielson spins a soulful vocal over a backdrop of melodically rich music and slick rhythm. This album builds on many of the synthesizers and sampled drum textures introduced on the previous breakout LP Multi-Love in 2015, but offers a different ride. The entire album was covertly previewed in SB-05, the 2017 installment of a Christmas day instrumental/ambient track released digitally for free. Upon first listen, Sex & Food reveals each song in its full form, a pleasant surprise."[21] In July, the BBC Radio & 6Music named Sex & Food one of the best albums released in 2018.

Following the release, the band set out on a global tour with stops in North America, Europe, UK, Asia, New Zealand and Australia, with many sold out dates. In September 2018, they announced the release of an instrumental album that originated from the sessions for Sex & Food, titled IC-01 Hanoi. It was released on 26 October 2018.[22]


On 25 June 2021, the band released "Weekend Run", its first proper single since 2018's Sex & Food. The song was released via the band's long time label Jagjaguwar. Of the new song, Ruban Nielson said "At the end of the day I don't take for granted that I have the perfect job -- I truly work to make music that will set someone's day right and I think that shines through on 'Weekend Run.'" Later on 4 August, they released a second single "That Life".

On 25 October 2022, the band announced a 2023 US/UK tour in support of a forthcoming double album and released the single "I Killed Captain Cook".[23] On 2 February 2023, the band announced the double album V, which was released on 17 March 2023 via Jagjaguwar, and released the single "Layla".[24] On 21 February, “Nadja”, the fifth single from V was released.



  • Ruban Nielson – lead vocals, guitar, drums, bass, piano, keyboards, synthesizers (2010–present)
  • Jacob Portrait – bass, synths, backing vocals (2010–present)
  • Kody Nielson – drums, percussion, synths, backing vocals (2018–present; studio only 2013–present)


  • Quincy McCrary – keyboards, synths, backing vocals (2015–2018; 2019)
  • Chris Nielson – keyboards, synths, saxophone, backing vocals (2018–present)



Studio albums[edit]

List of studio albums with selected chart positions and certifications
Title Album details Peak chart positions
BEL (Fla.)
BEL (Wa.)


Unknown Mortal Orchestra 35 [A]
  • Released: 5 February 2013
  • Label: Jagjaguwar
  • Format: CD, LP, cassette, digital download
38 120 96 122 170 26 48
  • Released: 26 May 2015
  • Label: Jagjaguwar
  • Format: CD, LP, cassette, digital download
14 45 70 158 37 57 44 98 7 12
Sex & Food
  • Released: 6 April 2018
  • Label: Jagjaguwar
  • Format: CD, LP, cassette, digital download
9 76 63 98 50 56 188 12 35
  • Released: 17 March 2023
  • Label: Jagjaguwar
  • Format: 2×LP, CD, cassette, digital download
7 97 32 [B] [C]
"—" denotes releases that did not chart or were not released in that territory.

Instrumental albums[edit]

List of instrumental albums, with details
Title Details
IC-01 Hanoi
  • Released: 26 October 2018
  • Label: Jagjaguwar
  • Format: CD, LP, cassette, digital download

Extended plays[edit]


List of singles, with selected chart positions, showing year released and album name
Title Year Peak chart positions Certifications Album





"Ffunny Ffrends" 2010 31 Unknown Mortal Orchestra
"Thought Ballune" 49
"How Can You Luv Me" 2011
"I'll Come Back 4 U" 2012 Adult Swim Singles Program 2012
"So Good at Being in Trouble" 2013 II
"Swim and Sleep (Like a Shark)" 48
"From the Sun"
"Multi-Love" 2015 25 44 Multi-Love
"Can't Keep Checking My Phone" 84 36
"First World Problem" 2016 44 Non-album single
"Shakedown Street" Day of the Dead
"American Guilt" 2018 1 34 Sex & Food
"Not in Love We're Just High"[49] 5
"Hunnybee" 36
"Hanoi 6" IC-01 Hanoi
"Weekend Run" 2021 34 4 V
"That Life" 11
"I Killed Captain Cook" 2022 13
"Layla" 2023 10
"Nadja" 13
"Meshuggah" 28 2
"—" denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.

Other charted songs[edit]

List of songs, with selected chart positions, showing year released and album name
Title Year Peak chart

"Everyone Acts Crazy Nowadays" 2018 4 Sex & Food
"A God Called Hubris" 1
"Ministry of Alienation" 2

As featured artist[edit]

List of singles as featured artist showing year released and album name
Title Year Album
"Satanic Planet"
Daniel Johnston feat. Unknown Moral Orchestra
2012 Space Ducks
"Cellphone (Unknown Mortal Orchestra Rework)" [50]
Silicon & Unknown Moral Orchestra
2015 Phone
"Raakost (Remix) Lindstrøm cover"[51]
Prins Thomas feat. Unknown Moral Orchestra
2018 The Movement of the Free Spirit
"Beauty & Essex"[52]
Free Nationals feat. Daniel Caesar and Unknown Mortal Orchestra
2019 Free Nationals
"Severed Head"
Gorillaz feat. GoldLink and Unknown Mortal Orchestra
2020 Song Machine, Season One: Strange Timez
Aminé feat. Unknown Mortal Orchestra
2020 Limbo
"Space Inc."

Paul Epworth feat. Unknown Mortal Orchestra (composer, vocals)[53]

2020 Voyager
"Too Good - Unknown Mortal Orchestra Remix"

Arlo Parks & Unknown Mortal Orchestra[54]

2021 Too Good (Unknown Mortal Orchestra Remix)

India Shawn feat. Unknown Mortal Orchestra

"The Medium"
Toro y Moi feat. Unknown Mortal Orchestra
2022 Mahal
"Chaise Longue - Unknown Mortal Orchestra Remix"

Wet Leg & Unknown Mortal Orchestra

2023 Chaise Longue (Unknown Mortal Orchestra Remix)
"Summer of Luv"

Portugal. The Man feat. Unknown Mortal Orchestra

2023 Chris Black Changed My Life

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Nominee / work Award Result Ref.
2012 Unknown Mortal Orchestra Taite Prize, Independent Music New Zealand Won [55][failed verification]
2013 II Album of the Year, New Zealand Music Awards Nominated [56]
"So Good at Being in Trouble" Single of the Year, New Zealand Music Awards Nominated [56]
2015 Ruban Nielson and Kody Nielson for "Multi-Love" APRA Silver Scroll Won [57]
Multi-Love Best Alternative Album, New Zealand Music Awards Won [58]
"Multi-Love" Best Single, New Zealand Music Awards Nominated [58]
2016 Multi-Love Taite Prize, Independent Music New Zealand Nominated [59]
2019 Sex & Food Best Foreign Album, Sweden GAFFA Awards Nominated [60]


  1. ^ Unknown Mortal Orchestra did not enter the Billboard 200, but peaked at number 39 on Top Heatseekers chart.[32]
  2. ^ V did not enter the UK Albums Chart, but peaked at number 22 on the UK Album Sales Chart.[33]
  3. ^ V did not enter the US Billboard 200, but peaked at number 31 on the US Billboard Album Sales Chart.[34]


  1. ^ "Ffunny Ffriends by Unknown Mortal Orchestra". Bandcamp. 17 May 2010. Archived from the original on 9 June 2010. Retrieved 19 April 2016.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  2. ^ Ryan, Catbird (18 May 2010). "Unknown Mortal Orchestra – "Ffunny Ffriends"". MBVMusic.Com. The Catbirdseat. Retrieved 19 April 2016.
  3. ^ Fitzmaurice, Larry (18 May 2010). "Ffunny Ffrends". Pitchfork. Retrieved 19 April 2016.
  4. ^ "Who Is Unknown Mortal Orchestra?". The Corner. Retrieved 27 February 2012.
  5. ^ Hyman, Dan (4 December 2012). Listen Up: Unknown Mortal Orchestra. Elle. Retrieved 7 December 2012.
  6. ^ Cohen, Ian, (22 June 2011). Unknown Mortal Orchestra. Pitchfork. Retrieved 7 December 2012.
  7. ^ "UMO Wins Tate Music Prize". stuff.co.nz. 20 April 2012.
  8. ^ Young, Alex (28 November 2012). Unknown Mortal Orchestra announces 2013 tour dates. Consequence of Sound. Retrieved 7 December 2012.
  9. ^ "Unknown Mortal Orchestra – II | Reviews | Clash Magazine". Clashmusic.com. 4 February 2013. Retrieved 20 May 2013.
  10. ^ a b "Watch Unknown Mortal Orchestra Play Fallon". Stereogum. 26 February 2013. Retrieved 20 May 2013.
  11. ^ "NME Album Reviews – Unknown Mortal Orchestra – 'II'". NME. 31 January 2013. Retrieved 20 May 2013.
  12. ^ "Unknown Mortal Orchestra Plot Tour". Pitchfork.com. 28 November 2012. Retrieved 20 May 2013.
  13. ^ "30 Must-See Acts at SXSW 2013 – Photos – South by Southwest – Festivals – Fuse". Fuse.tv. 28 February 2013. Retrieved 7 March 2013.
  14. ^ "ALBUM ANNOUNCE // Unknown Mortal Orchestra Announces Acoustic 'Blue Record' EP, Out 10/29 Blog :: JAGJAUWAR". Jagjaguwar. Archived from the original on 22 October 2013. Retrieved 22 October 2013.
  15. ^ "Listen to "Multi-Love" by Unknown Mortal Orchestra" – via pitchfork.com.
  16. ^ Suzy Exposito (24 July 2015). "Unknown Mortal Orchestra Multi-Love Album Review". Rolling Stone.
  17. ^ "Unknown Mortal Orchestra: Multi-Love". Pitchfork.
  18. ^ "Unknown Mortal Orchestra". BBC.
  19. ^ "Watch Unknown Mortal Orchestra Bring 'Multi-Love' to 'Late Night' – Rolling Stone". Rolling Stone. 13 August 2015.
  20. ^ "FIFA 16 Soundtrack". 11 July 2021.
  21. ^ "Reflektor – Unknown Mortal Orchestra kick off the springtime..." Reflektor. Retrieved 9 June 2018.
  22. ^ Blais-Billie, Braudie (25 September 2018). "Unknown Mortal Orchestra Announce New Album IC-01 Hanoi, Share New Song: Listen". Pitchfork. Retrieved 26 September 2018.
  23. ^ Monroe, Jazz (25 October 2022). "Unknown Mortal Orchestra Announce 2023 Tour, Share New Song: Listen". Pitchfork. Retrieved 2 February 2023.
  24. ^ Bloom, Madison (2 February 2023). "Unknown Mortal Orchestra Detail New Album V, Share Video for New Song "Layla": Watch". Pitchfork. Retrieved 2 February 2023.
  25. ^ "charts.nz – Unknown Mortal Orchestra albums". charts.nz. Retrieved 16 May 2014.
  26. ^ Peaks in Australia:
  27. ^ a b "ultratop.be – Unknown Mortal Orchestra albums". Ultratop.be. Retrieved 16 May 2014.
  28. ^ "ultratop.be – Unknown Mortal Orchestra albums". Ultratop.be. Retrieved 7 June 2015.
  29. ^ "Discografie Unknown Mortal Orchestra". dutchcharts.nl. Hung Medien. Retrieved 16 May 2014.
  30. ^ Peak chart positions in Scotland:
  31. ^ a b
  32. ^ a b c d "Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Chart History". Billboard. Retrieved 13 April 2018.
  33. ^ "Official Album Sales Chart Top 100 - 24 March 2023 - 30 March 2023". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 24 March 2023.
  34. ^ "Unknown Mortal Orchestra Chart History: Album Sales". Billboard. Retrieved 31 March 2023.
  35. ^ "SB-01". Discogs. Retrieved 19 February 2023.
  36. ^ "SB-02". Discogs. Retrieved 19 February 2023.
  37. ^ "SB-03". Discogs. Retrieved 19 February 2023.
  38. ^ "SB-04". Discogs. Retrieved 19 February 2023.
  39. ^ "SB-05". Discogs. Retrieved 19 February 2023.
  40. ^ "SB-06". Discogs. Retrieved 19 February 2023.
  41. ^ "SB-07". Discogs. Retrieved 19 February 2023.
  42. ^ "SB-08". YouTube. 24 December 2020. Retrieved 19 February 2023.
  43. ^ "SB-09". YouTube. 25 December 2021. Retrieved 19 February 2023.
  44. ^ "SB-10". YouTube. 1 February 2023. Retrieved 19 February 2023.
  45. ^ Peak positions for Unknown Mortal Orchestra's singles on the NZ Hot Singles chart:
  46. ^ a b Peak positions for Unknown Mortal Orchestra's singles on the NZ Artist Heatseeker singles chart:
  47. ^ "Mexico Ingles Airplay". Billboard.
  48. ^ "American certifications – Unknown Mortal Orchestra". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved 8 February 2023.
  49. ^ Fu, Eddie (28 February 2018). "UMO share new song "Not in Love We're Just High": Stream". Consequence of Sound. Retrieved 2 March 2018.
  50. ^ "Unknown Mortal Orchestra / Silicon – Phone (2016, Clear, Vinyl)" – via www.discogs.com.
  51. ^ "Prins Thomas reveals nearly four-hour, 80-track mix to mark 25 years of Smalltown Supersound · News ⟋ RA". Resident Advisor.
  52. ^ "Beauty & Essex (feat. Daniel Caesar & Unknown Mortal Orchestra) - Single by Free Nationals on Apple Music". iTunes Store. 10 October 2018. Retrieved 16 October 2018.
  53. ^ "Jaxsta". jaxsta.com. Retrieved 10 November 2022.
  54. ^ "Arlo Parks shares Unknown Mortal Orchestra remix of 'Too Good'". faroutmagazine.co.uk. 28 July 2021. Retrieved 10 November 2022.
  55. ^ "Unknown Mortal Orchestra Wins Taite Music Prize – Amplifier NZ Music".
  56. ^ a b "Unknown Mortal Orchestra Wins Taite Music Prize – Amplifier NZ Music".
  57. ^ "Nielson Brothers Awarded 2015 APRA Silver Scroll". Under the Radar. Retrieved 21 September 2015.
  58. ^ a b "Broods clean up at the Vodafone New Zealand Music Awards". The New Zealand Herald.
  59. ^ "Best Kiwi albums of 2015 announced". The New Zealand Herald.
  60. ^ "GAFFA-priset 2019 – här är artisterna som ligger bäst till". GAFFA (in Swedish). Sweden. Retrieved 3 September 2019.

External links[edit]