IN CONVERSATION WITH: OH WONDERJanuary 13, 2016
The delectable sound of Oh Wonder is washed in summer sunshine with delicious layers of boy-girl harmonies. Josephine Vander Gucht and Anthony West are a bubbly singer-songwriter duo who produce R&B flecked, electronic pop. The duo spent a year writing, recording and uploading one song a month to Soundcloud collating around 13 million plays on Soundcloud. The results of their year-long endeavour make up their charming debut album. We caught up with Ant & Josephine from their more than adorable south-east London home (which used to be a bakery, obviously) on musical influences, playing for a live audience and the excitement of creating a second album.
UO: Do you come from creative families or is your creativity all your own?
Josephine: Everyone in the world is creative in some way, and everyone’s creativity is their own, but our families are particularly sympathetic toward the arts. Anthony’s grandpa was a writer, his uncle is a bluegrass musician, and there is art of all kinds across all the walls of his parents’ house. Creativity is highly respected in his family, which is awesome. My great-grandparents were in a band in the 1930s, and my great-grandma played piano for the silent movies. Everyone in my family loves musicals – my mum is a drama teacher and my dad plays the guitar and they have both been involved in directing and performing in plays all their lives. My brother is a wonderful saxophonist too.
Josephine wears: Striped Ringer T-shirt and Bad Habits Jumper. Anthony wears: Worland Ronan Navy Tee
UO: What kind of music did you listen to growing up. Has that inspired your sound now?
Anthony: We both grew up listening to the classic songwriters of our parents generation – Joni Mitchell, Elton John, James Taylor, Cat Stevens, Labi Siffre. They all taught us the power of good songwriting. In fact, we watched Labi sing ‘Something Inside So Strong’ on Jools Holland recently, and amidst all the layers of production and performance of everyone else’s music, he was a perfect example of how all you need is a good song with beautiful melodies and meaningful lyrics. Production, instrumentation, marketing, branding, what you look like, how good your voice is… all that stuff has to come after you have a brilliant song at the core. So we try really hard to write good songs and let them speak as the foundation for this project.
UO: When did you both realise that you wanted to take music full time rather than as a side-project?
Josephine: Both of us have always wanted to pursue music as a full-time career, and we are firm believers in the power of committing yourself wholeheartedly to something in order to make it a reality. We had both taken the plunge and quit our jobs to focus on music a few years ago, and we definitely believe Oh Wonder is the fruition of having that creative headspace. If you have a plan B, you’ll most likely fall back on it.
Josephine wears: BDG Girlfriend Jeans and BDG Striped Navy Jumper Anthony wears: Shore Leave Oxford Shirt
UO: What’s been the biggest ‘wow’ moment of your Oh Wonder career so far?
Anthony: Our first show in LA was pretty magic. We played at The Troubadour, and it was the first time either of us had played outside Europe to a crowd of people that knew all of our songs. It was pretty phenomenal. Josephine cried.
UO: Is there a creative process from the initial idea for a track to the finished product or is it different every time?
Josephine: It’s pretty similar every time actually. We typically write the song in its full form at a piano, to ensure that it emotionally and musically translates at its bare bones. And then we’ll take it into the studio to layer up instruments, record and produce it and finally mix it!
UO: What’s been the biggest challenge to date?
Anthony: Finding time to sleep. And trying to find vegetarian food in France!
Anthony wears: Loom Banbury Stripe Shirt
UO: Are there any particular themes you find yourself repeatedly drawn to when songwriting?
Josephine: Loneliness, fear, love, comfort, London, human relationships, the importance of needing other people…
UO: Your sound is quite stripped back. How does that translate to a live audience?
Anthony: Our live show is infused with musicality – we have enlisted the help of our two friends to play bass and drums, and we both play piano and guitar, so the live set is actually very full and musical. We wanted to reinterpret the songs for a live setting, and make sure that the show is about four musicians playing real instruments together.
Josephine wears: Adidas three striped jacket and Ribbed Turtleneck Top Anthony wears: Shore Leave Olive Shirt
UO: What do you love the most about being part of Oh Wonder?
Josephine: We feel so privileged to be performing our songs around the world; travelling and experiencing a multitude of cultures and social climates is a blessing in itself, let alone being able to perform our own art at the same time.
UO: What are you looking forward to most in 2016?
Anthony: Writing a second album! We’re itching to be creative!
I’m currently listening to… Max Richter’s ‘Sleep’ to soothe us on long flights – Josephine
My favourite film is… ‘Into The Wild’ – Anthony
The first record I bought was… ‘Oh So Quiet’ by Bjork – Anthony
My ultimate on-the-road snack has to be… lemon and ginger juice and coffee – Josephine
My favourite book of all time… ‘A Fine Balance’ – Rohinton Mistry – Josephine
Josephine wears: Urban Renewal Vintage MA1 Black Bomber Anthony wears: Worland Caleb Grey Poplin Sweatshirt