Unknown Mortal Orchestra Brings Psychedelic Carnival to Holland

Although you shoved your Halloween costume into a closet months ago, you will soon have an occasion to dust it off. 

For fans of Unknown Mortal Orchestra, quirky attire that corresponds with scenes from the band’s more trippy music videos is the dress code for the band’s shows.

Unknown Mortal Orchestra
Park Theatre, Holland
March 6, 8 p.m.
(616) 355-7275

“There are a slew of kids in weird costumes dancing,” said Jake Portrait, the group’s bassist and producer, noting that rabbit ears are not uncommon.

Costumed fans weren’t the only thing the band members experienced during their first world tour. Sleep deprivation and partying on the road got the best of them and according to Portrait, the good and bad experiences influenced frontman Ruban Nielson lyrically on UMO’s sophomore album, II.

“To me, [it’s] a little darker and a little more saturated sound than the first album,” Portrait said. 

Released on Feb. 5, the album represents a band that has greatly matured, having played more than 400 shows worldwide since 2011.  The press took notice, as well. In January, Rolling Stone recognized UMO as a band to watch, thanks to their rough-hewn fusion of psychedelic rock and pop sensibilities.

This sound is due in part to Portrait’s production skills, which he has honed since he was 15, when he dropped out of high school to work at a Portland recording studio. After listening to Nirvana, Lou Reed and late-‘70s ambient pop, Portrait is often introduced to new influences by Nielson. 

“Ruban is constantly buying strange albums based on the way the cover looks.  He’ll walk out of the store with like seven albums I’ve never seen before.”  

Much like their musical tastes and audience attire, the band’s live performances are constantly evolving. 

“I think on this tour, there is much more of an idea of the environment we want to create,” Portrait said. “We’re playing hand-picked rooms, so you can expect this to be very much representative of the band and the music as a whole.”

UMO plays Holland’s Park Theatre, a historic and intimate venue that provides an ideal setting for the carnival-type atmosphere the group has come to expect from their fans.