London-based pop duo Oh Wonder have been tantalising our ear-tastebuds for yonks now, drip-feeding us a new tune every month in the run up to their debut self-titled record.
It's out today (4 September), and to celebrate its long-awaited release, Oh Wonder - Josephine Vander Gucht and Anthony West - have delved into the innards of their album, explaining the influences and its creation. It's an album of pertinent issues wrapping in top-pop gloss. Topics like gambling addiction, youthful ambition, traumatic heartache, battles with cancer, and more are explored within their hooky singles, and despite the heavy subject matter, Oh Wonder don't wallow - they seek hope. They find strength.
"Livewire" is one of our favourite songs on the album. It examines the importance of being someone's 'livewire', their strength and energy. Everyone goes through dark days, and we all occasionally need a helping hand from someone to pull us back into the beauty of life. Human relationships are more important than ever in today's society where more and more people are experiencing depression and isolation. We've gotta be there for each other.
This was the first track we wrote and produced together. Neither of us had had any experience with electronic production, and we made this tune in a day on a laptop in Josephine's living room, cutting up drum samples and experimenting. We waited a year and a half before we decided to actually release it, because neither of us had the headspace to entertain embarking on another project. We're so glad we finally found the time to put it out!
A couple of years ago we went to Melbourne, Australia to hang out with Anthony's brother. On our last night he took us to his friend's 24-hour house party, replete with hotel slippers, sunglasses chains and fresh coconuts. It was insane. "Technicolour Beat" was inspired by the 6a.m. sunrise when we were all gloriously happy and free and lying on the floor staring at the ceilings, feeling blessed to be alive.
"Drive" is the classic break-up song but is written about the drive home after you've done the deed. It's a deeply sad song that is trying to justify why you've left someone, but we disguised it in uplifting pop production and glorious strings to balance out the sorrow.
The aforementioned Melbourne house party also inspired "Lose It", which is about wildly dancing on your own. In the early hours of the morning, when the party was starting to simmer down, Josephine locked herself in the DJ room and put on Destiny's Child, took all her clothes off and danced on her own for an hour. "Lose It" is about that untethering of yourself from life, and being totally immersed in a single moment rather than the wider landscape of reality. Sometimes you've gotta"'give yourself a moment and let your body be".
This song poured out of us in minutes after we heard that Josephine's brother had broken up with his girlfriend. We ran down to the studio and wrote this song as a way of comforting him - and indeed for anyone that has gone through something difficult. After 10 minutes we ran back in to show him what we had written for him, and it was a deeply moving moment for us all.
Cancer is something that sadly affects all of us in some way - we all know someone that has gone through it. We used white blood as a metaphor for protection, in reference to our bodies' white blood cells which fight off infection. This song reasserts the importance of being there for someone, and being someone's positive force. Rather serendipitously, just before we released "White Blood" we met up with Steven and Wendi, our two fans from the U.S.. Steven was undergoing treatment for a brain tumour that he had discovered himself, and our music had been helping him through his journey. It was a beautiful moment to connect with two amazing people from the other side of the world through our music, and we actually used a slice of his brain tumour that he had photographed himself through a microscope as the artwork for this song.
"Without You" was the last song we wrote on the album when we realised we wanted to make it fifteen tracks, and we gave ourselves three days to write and record a song. What came out was this Frank Ocean-inspired tune that examines the listless waiting around for your lover to come home. We love that Josephine's brother is playing saxophone on it!
Love is a dangerously exciting emotion. You have to give over all of yourself to someone to truly love them; love is something you can't do half-heartedly. "The Rain" is a song about the realisation that you've given everything over to someone, and now they are no longer in your life. It's a crazy prospect that another human can be the cause of your downfall and emptiness, but taking those risks and loving with every inch of your being can be worth it.
We adore the sarcastic and subtly intrusive nature of journalist Louis Theroux's interview style, and love watching his documentaries. We watched Louis Theroux: Gambling in Las Vegas and were saddened to see portraits of locals who are totally consumed by the slot machines, and have lost millions of dollars. "Dazzle" was inspired by their gambling addictions, and examines the idea that those who gamble aren't actually in it for the money, they just want the thrill of winning.
It was the eve of New Year's Eve and we were in Anthony's parents house ruminating on the idea of New Year's resolutions and the yearly opportunity to examine your life and re-define your goals and aspirations... and the inevitable human tendency to often ignore those goals and settle back into the comfort of monotony and daily routine, never reaching above and beyond your perceived limits. "All We Do" is about refusing to play it safe, hide away and live inside and self-built cage, and instead looking at things the wrong way round and living life differently.
This is the only song on the album that we didn't write in its total and complete form. Usually we write at a piano, and compose the whole song with just basic chords so we know that it translates emotionally in its barest and simplest state. "Midnight Moon" is the amalgamation of a few different songs - a musical patchwork of sorts. We love the lyric "we're all animals out in the dark". Ultimately we are all under the same stars, and all in a state of unknowing, but we can help each other get to where we want to be.
"Shark" is a dark love song, and explores the idea of destructive love - of someone being the demon in the dark that's quietly teasing out the 'shark' in you. It was the second song we ever wrote, and was the impetus behind deciding to actually pursue Oh Wonder and release the few songs we had.
This track encapsulates what this record is about at its core. We live in a relentlessly and rapidly expanding capitalist society, where the focus is on money, technology, gentrification, social media and self-progression. What is actually more important than all of this, is building communities, creating an environment of love and support and looking at the bigger picture beyond our own limited views - what we termed 'heart hope'. Believing in yourself, whilst also working towards something bigger than yourself, is one answer to solving the world's problems.
We both live in London, and are used to the majority of our friends living in dingy, basement flats with no natural light and paying through the nose for the privilege. "Plans" tells a little story of someone who lives in a basement flat, but has plans to get out, build a paper plane where they'll be "scraping the skies with our fingertips, screaming "'this is the life, we were born for this!'" It's about believing in yourself no matter what, and understanding that everything is transient, and everything will pass. You just gotta dream big and have faith.
The duo's self-titled record is out today, and you can stream it below. Keep an eye on our Twitter account over the next week or so for an exciting Oh Wonder-shaped opportunity...