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Oh Wonder

Nov 29/2016
INTERVIEW Lisa Babiuk PHOTOGRAPHY by Alison Seto

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—“Landslide”.

JVG—Aww.

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.

 

 

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