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.
Garland Jeffreys’ album, 14 Steps to Harlem, grew out of a soulful period of retrospection late in the artist’s life and career. As a veteran songwriter, Jeffreys started writing provocative, ahead-of-its- time, genre-bending songs in the early 1970s, with lyrics focused on everything from relationships to racial diversity to political turmoil. Now in his seventies, the New York musician is looking back on his life with an album that takes on bold topics and includes a title track inspired by his turbulent relationship with his father. Jefferys spoke with Georgie about his latest release, his relationship with Lou Reed and his somewhat unconventional approach to songwriting. Georgie—14 Steps to Harlem is a great album. Garland Jeffreys—Thank you. I’m very proud of the record. I took some chances in recording it but had confidence that it could be something special. You don’t know a record is good or bad until it’s done – then you know. I worked on the album with my co-producer, James Maddock, who’s a great artist in his own right. G—The title track, “14 Steps to Harlem”, stood out to me. I read that it was written with your father in mind. Did the experience of writing about your dad
Since his 2005 breakthrough, Breaking Kayfabe, Cadence Weapon has been an artist to watch. The two-time Polaris Music Prize nominee, writer, producer and rapper is known for his innovative musical style and has made waves worldwide. Following a five year hiatus – which included a move from Montreal to Toronto and a stint as Edmonton’s poet laureate – Cadence Weapon returns with a new self-titled album. Cadence Weapon is armed with furious flows, big collaborations and themes that include dance-party politics and dystopian futures. For his latest effort, the rapper is noticeably more focused and is reintroducing himself in a big way. Georgie caught up with Cadence Weapon to talk about the new album, his musical journey, and the L-word: legacy. G—Your new self-titled album is being called a “reintroduction to Cadence Weapon.” What does that mean? Cadence Weapon—I feel like I’ve matured a lot more and the music really reflects that. There is a reason why this album is self-titled. It feels like a rebirth for me; it feels like my first album in a lot of ways. I feel like the creative process for this album is what I’ve always wanted to do in my career. I was
Using his life experiences growing up in downtown Toronto as a source of inspiration, Langston Francis is on his grind as a young artist discovering himself and the world of music around him. We caught up with Francis on the heels of his debut single release to talk about his foray into music, early influences and his direction as an artist. G—You are still in high school. Do you find it hard to juggle your new music career with school? Langston Francis—It’s challenging. For example, I had two exams in one day, then a show at night and I was feeling under the weather. I have school every day, so it definitely gets hard to juggle things sometimes, but it’s sort of something I just have to take in stride. I’m just so grateful for all the opportunities I have. G—Can you tell us a little about your first single, “FCKD IT UP”? LF—I wrote the song and beat when I was 14. At the time, the song had a certain meaning to me. We ended up finishing the song about 12 months later, after that it took on a whole new meaning. As I grow up and change