With a name like Oh Wonder, one has to ask if this London-based duo could ever have expected to transform from aspiring songwriters for other musicians to selling out shows across the globe. The answer is an affirmative no. Ask their fans, however, and it’s no surprise Oh Wonder continues to be one of the most talked about international bands on the rise.
Georgie spoke to Oh Wonder’s Josephine Vander Gucht and Anthony West about their rapid online success, close relationship and unconventional record debut.
G—You’ve been defined in a few different ways, but mainly as alt-pop. Is this how you would describe your sound?
Anthony West—Someone once described us as a musical comforter because our sound relates to what others are going through.
Josephine Vander Gucht—We don’t try and pigeonhole ourselves. We try to write relevant songs with catches and hooks, and meaningful lyrics.
G—Growing up, did music play an important role in your lives?
JVG—I didn’t come from a musical family, but we did spend a lot of time driving in the mountains, listening to music like Cat Stevens and Joni Mitchell. And my parents always supported me and my music, whether it was sending me to violin lessons or coming to my school performances.
G—Your debut record started off in a rather unique way, with songs being released online periodically over the course of a year before the album was formed. Why did you decide to do it this way?
JVG—There wasn’t any grand plan. It was more of a personal endeavor to build up a portfolio, with the hopes of having 13 songs at the end. We never had any intentions of releasing an album or becoming a band. We just wanted to practice our craft. It turned out to be a great way for us to build momentum and a loyal fan base.
G—Do you think you will continue to release music that way, or do you see future album releases taking on a more traditional approach?
AW—We never really had a chance to write an album or think about the context of the tracks together – more as separate songs. We’ll be in New York writing our next album, and then plan to release it in a more traditional way.
G—Are there challenges when co-writing from a collaborative female and male perspective?
JVG—Not at all. We’ve shared similar outlooks on life, so this was just an extension of that. We really do respect one another, so we find we enhance one another’s songwriting abilities.
G—There is an evident closeness between the two of you. If you had to pick one song off your debut that sums up your relationship, which would it be?
AW—(laughs) It’s true, though. It sums up our music in a way, because we write for others, not just for us.
JVG—“Lose It” is a great one, too. Anthony is always encouraging me to be myself, and that’s what the song is about.
G—How did you decide to both co-lead on your songs?
AW—It was accidental, really. We started off as songwriters so when we would pitch ourselves to other artists, I’d sing lower male and she’s sing higher female. People liked our sound.
G—Aside from writing collaboratively, how else do you think you’ve grown as a band since the album’s release?
JVG—The live aspect has been a radical change for us. It’s a whole new territory to perform around the world. We’ve been to some amazing places that I think have helped us grow both physically and emotionally. It takes a lot of getting used to though. These few months have really taught us a lot about ourselves and what matters.
G—You were initially interested in writing songs for other artists. With the success of Oh Wonder, is that something you are still interested in exploring?
AW—Absolutely. We’ve done a few sessions over the past six months, and are trying to find a balance between it all. It’s a totally different art form to write for others versus yourself.
G—Previously, you wrote and produced all of your songs in your London apartment. Do you think you’ll write while on tour, or do you prefer writing at home?
AW—It’s hard to write on the road. I don’t know how people do it. That’s why writing in New York is so important to us. It’s such an inspirational place.
G—With such a fast online following, you didn’t have a chance to perform your songs together live until recently. What’s changed now that you’ve have been touring internationally and selling out shows?
JVG—I think, if anything, we’ve grown and become a lot more ambitious. International shows – and the power of the internet – have made us realize that music has amazing force to reach and impact people.
G—What was it like performing live for the first time?
JVG—Terrifying! The show had sold out the month before, but nobody knew if we were good live – not even us! It was a relief to know we were.
G—How does it feel knowing your shows are selling out within minutes of tickets being released?
AW—Really weird! Vancouver was one of quickest selling shows we’ve had. Tickets were sold out within minutes. We couldn’t wrap our heads around it. it’s still really bizarre for us, but we definitely value it every single day.
Named for the Toronto area they grew up in, The Beaches are a far cry from a placid day on the lake. Led by singer/bassist Jordan Miller—with her sister and guitarist Kylie Miller, guitarist/keyboardist Leandra Earl and drummer Eliza Enman-McDaniel—the Canadian four-piece burst out of Toronto with their 2018 debut, Late Show, and have since built up an aura of dissident swagger. Taking home this year’s Juno for Breakthrough Group of the Year, the all-fem rock quartet is bringing grunge, gloss, and 70s glamour to a predominantly male genre. Georgie caught up with Leandra to talk about the band’s latest music video, taking charge of their music, and three simple ways to keep women in the industry. G—Did you grow up together in Toronto? LE—Yeah, I met the girls in high school. Jordan and Kylie are sisters, so they’ve known each other a bit longer, but they grew up with Eliza in Toronto’s Beaches area. G—What kind of music were you listening to at that time? LE—We grew up listening to all of the music our parents listened to. That definitely influenced us while writing our debut album since we drew from a lot of the 70’s music that our
Tyler Shaw is going through a renaissance. After exploding onto the scene and the charts in 2012 with his hit single “Kiss Goodnight” and a wildly successful debut album that followed, it’s hard to imagine what the Canadian pop singer could possibly need to reinvent. But after two years of writing and exploring, Shaw has taken the reigns on developing a new album and a new sound that’s better in tune with his growth as an artist. Just before the release of his new single “With You”, Georgie caught up with Shaw over the phone to talk about his upcoming album, mental health, and the feelings he’s harnessed into a musical renewal. G— What were some of the biggest differences for you between making the upcoming album and making Yesterday? TS—Yesterday was more so “I’m a new artist, I don’t really know what I want to do. This sounds cool on my voice, so does this.” With this album on the other hand, I know what I want. I know what melodies I want to go to and what I want to talk about. [Yesterday] came out in 2015, and ever since then, I mean, you go through life experiences
A few years ago, Danielle McTaggart was ready to throw in the towel on her music career. Now she and her husband, Drew, make up the powerhouse duo known as Dear Rouge and have two full-length albums and a Juno to their name. Known for their hook-driven tracks—and being “the nicest couple in Canadian music”—Dear Rouge just dropped their sophomore LP, Phases. The record recounts a season of emotional extremes for the couple, including winning the 2016 Juno for Breakthrough Group of the Year, and losing a loved one. We caught up with Danielle over the phone to talk about finding joy in music again, and the personal and public significance of Phases. G—On your website, you describe your style as “sinewy, hook-driven indie rock”. Where did that particular style evolve from? DM—I was always very into hook-y music with beautiful melodies. I grew up listening to The Carpenters and they have beautiful melodic parts, but I also always loved harder music and really rock-driven music. Bands like Metric or Yeah Yeah Yeahs or St. Vincent were hugely motivating for me, and I loved that these frontwomen were powerhouses. They’re very confident and trying to push the boundaries while