Maxim Meyer-Horn

10 Mar
Music

Interview Oh Wonder: “We’d Like to Work on Our Own Stuff”

Wondering which music we love to hear when we’re in a romantic and happy mood? It has got to be the British duo Oh Wonder. Josephine and Anthony crossed paths at a concert in a pub, became friends and eventually a couple. After some hectic years, they slowed it down for a bit to gather some energy to make their third record ‘No One Can Wear Your Crown’. We met the charming duo in a hotel in Brussels and drank a coffee together.

Time flies when you’re having fun, because it’s been almost five years since you released your debut album. How are you looking back at it?

Anthony: It’s crazy. It’s like you blink and suddenly we’re on our third album. When I think of bands that are on their third album, suddenly we’re a career band.

Josephine: Yeah! It feels like a year and that we’re a new band, but I guess we’re not. It’s been incredible, because we’ve done so much more than we’ve thought we would. We’ve been to so many amazing places and countries than I would have ever dreamed. I never really played a gig outside of England before Oh Wonder and now it becomes a bit normal. We were in Sydney last week and now we’re here. It becomes casual, but it’s actually insane and you have to pinch yourself to realize it all.

You’ve written and recorded your new album No One Can Wear Your Crown at your home studio. In what way did being home influence the outcome of the album?

Anthony: I think because we had so much time to wait since we were on tour for two-three years, we basically moved back to England and built up the home studio. For us, it was sort of nestling in a way and we had to burrow down.

Josephine: It’s like a tree. You can’t grow taller unless you have firmly embedded somewhere, so I think it meant that. We made an album that was a lot more personal and courageous. I felt like we could take way more risks lyrically and sonically, because we’ve been so comfortable at home and also had the space physically and mentally. We weren’t touring and were just chilling, so we had time to think about how we were feeling and what we wanted to write about.

Anthony: You don’t really get to do this on tour. When you travel, you’re tired and have a lot of adrenaline because of the shows, so there’s no space for reflection on what you’re actually experiencing or how you feel. It was a year of digesting and then writing music.

You took some time off from music before starting the new album. How important were these three months of slowing down after such hectic years?

Josephine: So important because life isn’t enjoyable until you’re grateful. The moments we’re experiencing are just insane, you can’t even imagine it. It would feel like a movie when I told my ten-year-old self what my life would be like, so I think you have to take a pause and be grateful for it in order to give it meaning. Otherwhise, it becomes like you’re on a treadmill and you’re just staying alive while thinking you just need to get to the end. That’s not a life.

Anthony: I think transitioning back into being songwriters is quite strange. We’ve basically been performers for about three years. Getting home and thinking: “Oh, that’s how we started as a band.” was a bit weird, but you can’t be on stage without having a song. It felt like we were learning a new art again and when we get back on tour, we have to learn how to be performers again. We’re trying to find a balance now.

The overall message of the album is self-acceptance and empowerment. Why do you think it’s important to make positive music?

Josephine: I think, we live in a climate where it’s really easy to be mean to people. The internet is brilliant, but it also facilitates unkindness, judgement and just critiquing people you don’t even know. For me, I listen to music to feel comfortable and enhance my highs or is there for me in the lows. It’s like a comfort blanket and I think that people are more isolated than ever before.

We’re all just on our phones and I think music is the one thing that actually brings people together, because it’s a shared thing. If music has the power and is capable to make someone feel better, surely you should do that. Sometimes you want to go out and don’t need to be told that you’re great through the medium of songs. I enjoy making music, I know helps people.

Anthony: We know we make positive music, but we don’t always realize it has such an impact on people. Sometimes, we write sad songs but make it happy through the production, and it’s great to meet people that are applying your lyrics in their life.

When writing songs do you have in mind that people relate to your music?

Josephine: Maybe, but it’s not a conscious thing. However, I do think that humans are all the same. What I realized when travelling around the world and meeting people, we speak a different language. But I’m sure we wake up one day feeling the same feelings and we all want the same things for ourselves or our friends and family. Travelling has taught me that, so it’s actually quite easy to write music that is relatable. There are just so many universal feelings.

Anthony: I don’t think it’s conscious when we’re writing and it just happens to have an effect on people. One thing we never do, is put “he” or “she” in the lyrics, so we never write about a specific person and that’s why it applies to many people.

It’s the first album where you worked with co-writers. What have you learned out of those sessions?

Josephine: I’ve learned that it’s okay to open up your world towards other people, because it creates more exciting art. I think it’s really easy to be just like: “I know what I’m doing and don’t need anyone.”

Anthony: I think everyone is influenced by other people, but all songwriters have their own language. If you don’t learn someone else’s language, you can’t redevelop and you’re tied within your own vocabulary. It’s funny to be in a room with someone that writes different melodies and you don’t know how they did that. There’s only twelve notes, but it’s crazy to see that everyone has their own way of singing them.

Fast forward to 2060. What’s the first thing you’d tell your grandchildren about your career?

Anthony: I think I would tell them that we used to be on a lot of airplanes. (laughs)

Josephine: I would tell them about the first time we went to Brazil, because it was my first time in South America. We played the Lollapalooza Festival, and when you’re in a dressing room, you don’t really think about the show. So the moment you walk out, is the first time you see the festival site and you don’t have expectations. We came on stage and there were people as far as you can see and we were like: “Why are all these 50,000 people here?” We didn’t know that they would know us and they literally knew every word! It shocked me and I was so surprised.

Do you get used to big crowds or is it still overwhelming?

Anthony: I guess it stays special, even for someone like Ed Sheeran who plays in a stadium every night. Perhaps, it’s even more special for him to play an intimate gig.

Josephine: I’m not used to it anyway. The day you get used to it, you should give up.

The magic of music is incredible, because you’ve met each other at a concert in a pub. Do you know similar stories of fans that met at one of your concerts?

Josephine: There’s lots of people that meet.

Anthony: Often before our shows, there are kids that stay in front of the venue for many hours and often, they form amazing friendships.

Josephine: There’s also a guy from Brussels called Robin. He’s amazing and travels to many of our shows with a group of people. It’s nice to see that we’re facilitating people meeting. We also have a lot of proposals at our gigs, which is really sweet.

Do you think you could ever make music separate from each other in new projects?

Josephine: I think we will, but we just don’t have time. We’d like to work on our own stuff with other people, but we really enjoy working together for now.

Anthony: Yeah, we have a lot of fun together!

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