A wave of nervous excitement passes through the crowd in the basement of East London nightclub XOYO. As a DJ set comes to a close, a bustling audience is becoming impatient: they’re waiting to catch their first glimpse of mysterious LA group, Emotional Oranges.
A wild cheer erupts when V, the singer of the band, steps out dressed as a modern-day Cleopatra finished with an ornate, silver mask that covers half her face – think Daft Punk, but in the times of the Pyramids.
Her appearance, accompanied by the dazzling light show, disorientates the crowd – she’s an incredible and confounding performer. “All the versions of myself come to life at my shows,” V tells NME over lunch at her hotel in West London the day prior. “It’s performance art meets nostalgia futuristic,” A adds.
V and A, the male singer of Emotional Oranges, have chosen to not reveal their names for the sake of their anonymity. It’s a good-old-fashioned mystery.
Keeping their identity on the down-low must have been hard – Emotional Oranges made quite an arrival back in 2018. Their buttery-smooth single debut single ‘Motion’ turn heads, and the handful of tracks that followed landed them an intense following. Their sole EP, ‘The Juice Vol.1’ was released in May this year, and they’ve since headed out hype-building seven-date tour, including shows in Brooklyn, Los Angles, San Francisco, Amsterdam and Toronto.
At the London show NME witnesses, the crowd hold on to every single word – some would scream along, others would weep. Listen to ‘The Juice Vol. 1’ and you can see exactly why fans adore every word. Their music sounds like the lovechild of Sade and Janet Jackson: soulful R&B sprinkled with intimate and playful lyrics. With over a million plays on YouTube alone, ‘Motion’ caught the attention of Ru Paul’s Drag Race, and the song became the official theme song of the show in 2018.
“It inspires me,” V says of the crowd’s devotion to the music. “I think on my perspective of the records, I’m the female. There aren’t many females speaking to females in a way that empowers them and in a way that allows them to be vulnerable. I’ve really connected with the females at our shows because I’ve been there or I am there.”
Much like other popular acts who occupy the specific groove between pop and R&B – The Weeknd, for example – what sets this duo apart is the interplay between A and V. “We could write a whole album in a week,” A says. “Maybe a day,” V responds, without missing a beat.
“We both love a lot of the same music, but we also have polar opposite tastes in terms of how we live our lives,” A adds. “That’s why it meshes so well.” Both on the record, in-person and at their show, the duo bounce off each other – they’re completely in-tune with each other creatively.
At the moment, they don’t like to specify how many members of Emotional Oranges currently exist – “it’s a collective,” A says – but right now, A & V are the two performers and singers. The group’s individual identities cloaked in secrecy has allowed their collective work to speak for itself rather than focus on individual personalities.
Despite what has come their way, Emotional Oranges don’t want to take their futures for granted. With day jobs to sustain themselves, their anonymity allows them to live normal lives while ensuring they keep evolving. “I think it’s still developing,” A says. “I think the one thing is that we all aren’t afraid, to be honest with one another. If you don’t feel comfortable with the people around you being able to tell you how they really feel about something, it doesn’t matter. Being able to do this project and not have to worry about the restraints of money or who’s going to get the fame or who’s going to be the person talking in interviews – all that shit, that’s what clouds great artistry.”
“The crowd know all the words but they don’t know who we are. Like, before the shows, sometimes I go to the restroom and I walk past everybody. It’s not about us, it’s about the music. It’s a feeling, it’s an emotion.”
With such a fast-paced start to their career, Emotional Oranges are looking towards the future. As long as the group stay together and keep refining their art, they seem destined for even more success. “I get to do this with family. There’s no better feeling,” V says.
With a smirk on his face, in a nod to their aspirations, A confidently states, “we’re going to be the biggest band in the world in 5 years, headlining Coachella.” We’ve seen little that suggests they won’t be able to achieve that.