Pop Quiz: Unknown Mortal Orchestra


Started as a lark by singer-songwriter Ruban Nielson – who was fed up with the music industry after his first band, the Mint Chicks, failed to set fire to the world – the psychedelic-pop act Unknown Mortal Orchestra has somehow turned into a serious concern for the 33-year-old New Zealand native. The songs on the group’s latest album, “II,” revolve around his struggles with an itinerant life, set to a soundtrack that recalls early Paul McCartney and Captain Beefheart. Unknown Mortal Orchestra headlines Thursday at the Fillmore. We spoke with Nielson from his home in Oregon.

Q: Your dad is a jazz musician and your mom is a professional hula dancer, but you were never interested in playing music growing up. What do they make of what you’re doing now?

A: I don’t know. They have a funny relationship with me. Everyone was doing music except me. I was the one who was the exception. Now I’m the most active musical member of the family. It’s a mixture of emotions.

Q: What ultimately brought you around to the family business?

A: It happened so accidentally. I didn’t even start playing until I joined the Mint Chicks. I think I’ve ended up accidentally becoming a good musician as well. My dad recently impressed on me how good of a guitarist I’ve become.

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