Unknown Mortal Orchestra

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Unknown Mortal Orchestra
Unknown Mortal Orchestra (2015).jpg
Unknown Mortal Orchestra performing at Sala Apolo in Barcelona, Spain in 2015
Background information
Origin Auckland , New Zealand / Portland, Oregon, United States
Years active 2010–present
Associated acts Blouse, The Mint Chicks
Website unknownmortalorchestra.com
Members Ruban Nielson (guitar, lead vocals)
Jake Portrait (bass)
Amber Baker (drums)
Quincy McCrary (keyboards)
Past members Julien Ehrlich
Gregory Rogove
Riley Geare

Unknown Mortal Orchestra is an American and New Zealand rock band composed of singer, guitarist and songwriter Ruban Nielson, bassist Jake Portrait, keyboardist Quincy McCrary, and drummer Riley Geare. The band was started by Nielson (formerly of The Mint Chicks).



Singer and guitarist Ruban Nielson released the track "Ffunny Ffrends" on his anonymous Bandcamp profile on May 17, 2010.[1] It was paired with no further information and notably 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 June 21, 2011 on Fat Possum Records. The album quickly received critical acclaim. 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 February 5, 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.

II has received widespread 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]

During the winter of 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 then 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 the UK/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.

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

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


On February 5, 2015, the band announced their third studio album, Multi-Love. Soon after, they released the title track as the first single, which was designated "Best New Track" by Pitchfork.[15] Multi-Love was released on May 26, 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 the UK, Europe, the US and Canada, with many sold out dates. They are currently back touring in Europe through November, before heading to Australia and New Zealand for a string of headline shows in December. On August 12, UMO performed Multi-Love on Late Night with Seth Meyers.[19] On August 25 they performed "Can't Keep Checking My Phone" on Conan. On February 16, 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]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Nominee/Work Award Result Ref.
2012 "Unknown Mortal Orchestra" Taite Prize, Independent Music New Zealand Won [21]
2015 Ruban Nielson and Kody Nielson for "Multi-Love" APRA Silver Scroll Won [22]
2015 "Multi-Love" Best Alternative Album, New Zealand Music Awards Won [23]
2015 "Multi-Love" Best Single, New Zealand Music Awards Nominated [23]
2016 "Multi-Love" Taite Prize, Independent Music New Zealand Nominated [24]


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 39
  • Released: February 5, 2013
  • Label: Jagjaguwar
  • Format: CD, LP, download
38 120 96 122 170 2 26 48
  • Released: May 26, 2015
  • Label: Jagjaguwar
  • Format: CD, LP, download
14 45 70 158 37 44 98 7 12
"—" denotes releases that did not chart or were not released in that territory.

Extended plays[edit]


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

"Ffunny Ffrends" 2010 Unknown Mortal Orchestra
"How Can You Luv Me" 2011
"So Good at Being in Trouble" 2013 II
"Swim and Sleep (Like a Shark)"
"From the Sun"
"Multi-Love" 2015 25 Multi-Love
"Can't Keep Checking My Phone" 84
First World Problem 2016 First World Problem
"—" denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.


  1. ^ "Ffunny Ffrends by Unknown Mortal Orchestra". Bandcamp. May 17, 2010. Archived from the original on June 9, 2010. Retrieved April 19, 2016. 
  2. ^ Ryan, Catbird (May 18, 2010). "Unknown Mortal Orchestra – "Ffunny Ffrends"". MBVMusic.Com. The Catbirdseat. Retrieved April 19, 2016. 
  3. ^ Fitzmaurice, Larry (May 18, 2010). ""Ffunny Ffrends"". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved April 19, 2016. 
  4. ^ "Who Is Unknown Mortal Orchestra?". The Corner. Retrieved on February 27, 2012
  5. ^ Hyman, Dan (December 4, 2012). Listen Up: Unknown Mortal Orchestra. Elle. Retrieved on December 7, 2012
  6. ^ Cohen, Ian, (June 22, 2011). Unknown Mortal Orchestra. Pitchfork. Retrieved on December 7, 2012
  7. ^ "UMO Wins Tate Music Prize". stuff.co.nz. April 20, 2012. 
  8. ^ Young, Alex (November 28, 2012). Unknown Mortal Orchestra announces 2013 tour dates. Consequence of Sound. Retrieved on December 7, 2012
  9. ^ "Unknown Mortal Orchestra - II | Reviews | Clash Magazine". Clashmusic.com. February 4, 2013. Retrieved May 20, 2013. 
  10. ^ a b "Watch Unknown Mortal Orchestra Play Fallon". Stereogum. February 26, 2013. Retrieved May 20, 2013. 
  11. ^ "NME Album Reviews - Unknown Mortal Orchestra - 'II'". Nme.Com. January 31, 2013. Retrieved May 20, 2013. 
  12. ^ "Unknown Mortal Orchestra Plot Tour". Pitchfork.com. Retrieved May 20, 2013. 
  13. ^ "30 Must-See Acts at SXSW 2013 - Photos - South by Southwest - Festivals - Fuse". Fuse.tv. February 28, 2013. Retrieved March 7, 2013. 
  14. ^ "ALBUM ANNOUNCE // Unknown Mortal Orchestra Announces Acoustic 'Blue Record' EP, Out 10/29 Blog :: JAGJAUWAR". Jagjaguwar. Retrieved October 22, 2013. 
  15. ^ ""Multi-Love" by Unknown Mortal Orchestra Review - Pitchfork". 
  16. ^ Suzy Exposito (July 24, 2015). "Unknown Mortal Orchestra Multi-Love Album Review". Rolling Stone. 
  17. ^ "Unknown Mortal Orchestra: Multi-Love Album Review - Pitchfork". 
  18. ^ "Unknown Mortal Orchestra". BBC. 
  19. ^ "Watch Unknown Mortal Orchestra Bring 'Multi-Love' to 'Late Night' - Rolling Stone". Rolling Stone. 
  20. ^ "FIFA 16 Soundtrack". 
  21. ^ "Unknown Mortal Orchestra Wins Taite Music Prize - Amplifier NZ Music". 
  22. ^ "'Nielson Brothers Awarded 2015 APRA Silver Scroll'". Under the Radar. Retrieved September 21, 2015. 
  23. ^ a b "Broods clean up at the Vodafone New Zealand Music Awards". The New Zealand Herald. 
  24. ^ "Best Kiwi albums of 2015 announced". The New Zealand Herald. 
  25. ^ "charts.org.nz – Unknown Mortal Orchestra albums". charts.org.nz. Retrieved May 16, 2014. 
  26. ^ "ARIA Australian Top 50 Albums Chart". Australian Recording Industry Association. June 1, 2015. Retrieved May 30, 2015. 
  27. ^ a b "ultratop.be – Unknown Mortal Orchestra albums". Ultratop.be. Retrieved May 16, 2014. 
  28. ^ "ultratop.be – Unknown Mortal Orchestra albums". Ultratop.be. Retrieved June 7, 2015. 
  29. ^ "Discografie Unknown Mortal Orchestra". dutchcharts.nl. Hung Medien. Retrieved May 16, 2014. 
  30. ^ "Chart Log UK 2013 - Zobbel". zobbel.de. Retrieved May 20, 2014. 
  31. ^ a b c d "Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Chart History: Billboard 200". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved May 16, 2014. 

External links[edit]