Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s Ruban Nielson on Finding Clarity Through Music

We speak with the musician about the four years of work and life that have gone into the band's fifth studio album

A lot has changed since 2019 when singer, songwriter and musician Ruban Nielson began working on Unknown Mortal Orchestra‘s fifth studio album, V. Initially named Guilty Pleasures, the project transformed and evolved over time. “It’s like four years of music,” Ruban (who is Hawaiian and Maori, grew up in New Zealand and is currently based in Palm Springs) tells us. “There were quite a few different …

Unknown Mortal Orchestra: Layla

Following “I Killed Captain Cook,” Unknown Mortal Orchestra has released “Layla”—both tracks from the highly anticipated upcoming double album, V (out 17 March). Frontman Ruban Nielson, who is of Hawaiian and Maori heritage, says the sound was inspired by “the rich traditions of West Coast AOR, classic hits, weirdo pop and Hawaiian Hapa-haole music.”

Interview: Ruban Nielson of Unknown Mortal Orchestra

On his fondness for skulls, how polyamory intertwined in music and life, and what makes a record important

On their first two albums, Portland-based Unknown Mortal Orchestra charmed fans with dirty low-fi tracks—poppy but unafraid to be thought-provoking—recorded out of a basement studio. Their third and latest effort, Multi-Love (out now via Jagjaguwar) was born in the same basement studio, but from the ashes of exhaustion, depression and too many drugs. Like a phoenix reborn in explosive sheen of disco and R&B and …