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.
Over the past four years, Halifax pop artist Ria Mae has accomplished dreams she has openly spoken about: being produced by fellow Nova Scotia success story Classified and touring with Tegan and Sara and Coleman Hell. Since creating her self-released demo of “Clothes Off” in 2013, she has signed with Sony Music and Nettwerk Management. The former has helped develop the careers of Avril Lavigne, Barenaked Ladies, Coldplay, Dido, Sarah McLachlan, and many more. The finished version of the song – her major label debut – earned Mae her first Juno nomination, for “Single of the Year” in 2016, which put her in direct competition against Drake, The Weeknd, and Justin Bieber. From Mae’s new home in Toronto, only two days removed from a cross-Canada tour with Scott Helman, she spoke with Georgie about her sudden rise, working with Classified, stepping up as a voice for LGBTQ groups, and more. G—As you’ve discovered, you can make a lot of unexpected connections in a small town. But that can be a good thing because working with people who differ from you in their approach forces you to create from new perspectives. Do you ever have reservations about working with people who
Three years after the release of his first EP, Augusta, Canadian singer-songwriter Scott Helman has unleashed his debut full-length LP, Hôtel de Ville, a collection of 12 alt-pop coming-of-age tracks. The 22-year-old Toronto native who successfully broke into the music industry in his mid-teens earned himself two Juno Award nominations, certified gold status for his hit, Bungalow, and began quickly fielding comparisons to the likes of Vance Joy and Jeff Buckley. With a new level of acclaim awaiting him, Helman has recently finished his cross-Canada Scott vs. Ria tour with fellow Juno nominee Ria Mae. We thought it would be the right time to ask him about his momentous musical journey. G—You got your first guitar when you were ten. Was this what led you to become a musician? Scott Helman—I used to mess around on my friend’s guitar, and really wanted to learn how to play. So, I asked my parents for a guitar for Christmas. I remember coming down the stairs and seeing it, and knowing instantly what it was because of its shape. I never put it down after that. G—What kind of music did you listen to growing up? SH—My parents are British immigrants, so
Swedish electro-pop mainstays Little Dragon have been around the block. The four-piece band first formed over a decade ago and in that time steadily rose to become one of the world’s biggest indie electro-pop acts. Touring in support of their fifth studio album, Season High, we spoke with bassist Fredrik Källgren Wallin about evolving band dynamics, love of music and inspiration behind their latest release. Georgie—You released your fifth album, Season High, earlier this year. How do you feel about this record in comparison to your previous one? Fredrik Källgren Wallin—It is different, but it is hard to pin down how. We worked a little bit with a producer for the mixing parts, and we have never done that before. We have also become better at communicating and making decisions. I think we fight less; it’s more civilized [laughs]. G—You’ve also worked on some interesting collaborations with other artists, but these tracks didn’t make it onto any of your albums. Was this a conscious decision? FKW—It was a conscious decision; it is such collaboration between the four of us. We did have a friend who appears on the first track of the album – he’s an old high school friend,