A Conversation With Oh Wonder: A Touch of Humanity
    • FRIDAY, AUGUST 07, 2015

    • Posted by: Niko Demetriou

    Thankfully, there's a lot of crazy stuff that goes on across the pond. A pairing that some may never have credited with an immediate appeal, Oh Wonder is riding high as a representative for all the crazy musical concepts that London has to offer. The product of a classically trained solo performer and a rock band singer turned producer, Josephine Vander and Anthony West have crafted one of the most phenomenally haunting and sincere electronic R&B groups out there. The duo started their journey with a goal of showcasing some of their talents as writers, and with the right amount of admitted naivety and luck, Oh Wonder has found themselves a well deserved following. Working their way up to a debut album, Josephine and Anthony have released one song every month for nearly a year now, each one as riveting as the last. With the album and tour on the way, we were lucky enough to get to phone in to London for a quick conversation with the pair: sharing their origin story, thoughts on their popularity, and some insight into what they've got planned for us, Oh Wonder fills us in on everything.

    So, if you don't mind I'd like to start from the beginning because I'm sure a good portion of your U.S. fans don't really know how this pairing of talents came to be. Could you just tell me a bit about how you two met and your background as artists?

    Anthony: So we started working together and writing songs together for the fun of it really. It was a good way to get to know each other and we have quite similar musical backgrounds, so it was a really nice way to start and ease into writing. Then we realized we actually really enjoyed it, so we started taking it a bit more seriously. We started writing more songs and then the first song came out, "Body Gold," and we were kind of like 'this could be something.' Then a year later we finally got around to releasing it, and we started Oh Wonder.

    Yeah, "Body Gold" was the song that gave you so much attention to kind of get this release train going, what do you think it is about that one song in particular that had such an immediate appeal for everyone?

    Josephine: I think the main defining feature of our music that is quite interesting is our voices, the way we're using it in our music which I don't think anyone is doing. I think that was definitely a point of interest from the get go, to be vocal. It's like a conversation in that respect. In terms of "Body Gold" specifically; you see we don't come from electronic backgrounds, I'm a classically trained artist and Anthony comes from rock bands, so I think "Body Gold" for us was sort of an experiment. It could be our ignorance in a way which made it special, we had no idea what we were doing. We were building up the track and programming without any idea what we were doing. So I think it sounds so unusual because it was totally accidental.

    Ok, so you released "Body Gold" and it was a big success, then you started this release train of one song every month for a year. This isn't something incredibly new, I've seen many people try this schedule of releases but I've also seen most of these artists fall flat on their face: either they give up half way through and can't keep up with it, or the quality of songs gradually decreases. With you guys, each one of your tracks is just as popular as the last one, how do you think you guys managed to keep it rolling so well?

    A: For us, the whole project started as a way to write the best songs we could. It was always the production that came second, which I think was to our advantage. We always made sure the song's first part was complete and never started producing a song until we were super, super happy with how the actual writing was. So, every track that we've released so far has been the only one we've finished. We've written fifteen songs for this album and we're using fifteen songs for this album, there's no extra. That was the original idea, and that's what we wanted to do.

    J: In terms of not giving up, I think the nature of Anthony and I, we are very driven and ambitious people. Stopping was never really an option and fulfilling the deadlines was never really a problem.

    I also think just by the very nature of how you're releasing your music, you're album is building hype up for itself. There's a lot of eyes on this record now, do you feel any pressure for it to do well or perform above expectations?

    A: I think this first album is sort of less pressure than the rest of the albums, because this is your chance to sort of put out who you are. We already know now that we've finished the album who we are. So this one is definitely more for ourselves and for the fans we've already made. I think the next album will be done in more of a normal schedule. But we definitely do feel good putting this one out there.

    I hate asking if upcoming work is going to sound like recent tracks, but I am curious about the subject matter of the songs on the album that you haven't released yet. All your releases so far have this grand sense of a connection to humanity, is this going to be a continued theme with your future tracks?

    J: Yeah, you've definitely hit the nail on the head with the theme of the album. We come from London and we write all our songs from London. That sort of need for human interaction, love, and friendship, and aspiration, and determination; all of those kind of human emotions that need encouragement from others is a massive part of this album and the songs that we haven't yet released. There's two songs on the album called "Heart Hope" and "Plans" which we haven't yet put out, and "Heart Hope" is kind of the song that pinpoints what this album is about. London, much like anywhere else in the world, is surrounded by deprivation, all the time there are buildings going up and this perpetual focus on the future and the new. We wrote this song to kind of harness this idea of what is more important than technology, and being able to fly to the moon, and building the highest building in the world what's more important is love and friendship, community and the now. It's the tiny moments in life that actually make up a persons life. Nowadays, we like to focus on the bigger picture but so often people get lost in that bigger picture and feel lonely; and definitely London is a place that you do feel lonely. "Heart Hope" is kind of a song that epitomizes that idea that all we need is a little bit of heart hope. All we need is love and human interaction, human interaction is really important. We need to hold hands, as cheesy as it sounds, talk to people and be there for people.

    I think a lot of these ideas do come across very clearly in your work.

    J: I do hope so, that's what it's all about.

    Well, one of the last things I want to talk about is this quick, four show U.S. tour through California and New York. I'm curious as to what a live show from Oh Wonder entails, can you give me a bit of insight into what you've got planned for us?

    A: Absolutely, we started rehearsal about a week ago so we got some time to get it all together. We've been to a lot of shows recently, there's some really amazing electronic artists and shows out there. This guy in London, Jack Garratt, he's absolutely killing it on stage. I think in electronic music these days, to stand out you need to have music at the core of it, which is good musicians and good musicianship. So, on stage we're going to have a great drummer, a good friend of ours, and also a bass player who is one of our friends. With all that we're hoping to bring a really talented live feel to the shows, we don't just want to be another electronic band cause that's not our background. We want to bring our live music talents to the stage.

    J: As for what you can expect, I'm sure you can just expect us being absolutely crazy and so excited to be performing in the states. Anthony and I have dreamed of performing in New York, and it's going to be very hyper-real and bizarre to actually be doing it. I just want to be playing for more than one night.

    Is there any chance for more U.S. shows after this, or what do you have planned for down the line?

    A: Yes, in fact we're just heading out to a meeting now to talk about it. So I think we're gonna be back in the states in the near future, which is super exciting. A more thorough tour, we're going to try to cover as much ground as we can.

    Ok, well I have one last question for you. You mentioned Jack Garratt as an artist you admire, can you give me the names of any other musicians that you would want to spread to your fans?

    A: Yeah, there's a band over here called Everything Everything, I dont know how big they are in the states but they just released a phenomenal record which we really love. It's called Get To Heaven, it came out a couple weeks ago and it's an amazing record. So that would be our music recommendation of the month.

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