FAULT catches up with Oh Wonder upon the release of their sophomore album

In just three years, songwriting duo Oh Wonder – made up of Josephine Vander Gucht and Anthony West – have gone from a self-releasing online sensation to an internationally-touring band signed to Island Records with over 4.5million monthly listeners on Spotify. Now, they’re back two years later with their bedazzling 12-track sophomore album, ‘Ultralife’. We caught up with the duo to talk about their evolution since their self-titled first album, staying grounded, emotional music, and weird fan experiences.

 

What was the inspiration behind your new album, ‘Ultralife’?

Josephine: We’ve been touring constantly for the best part of two years, which has been incredible because when we started with this band, we just conceived it as a writing project, it was never going to be an internationally touring thing! ‘Ultralife’ is totally inspired by that shift in living and the new routine we have, which is just bizarre. You’re away from everything you know all the time. A constant adventure.

 

How do you feel you have evolved musically since your self-titled last album was released?

Anthony: Being on the road, we’ve played with musicians on stage and it made us feel we really needed to convey that on the record track.

Josephine: We brought our live band into the studio – our bassist and our drummer – and they’re all over the record. So much of the record is live takes of the four of us jamming. We hope that we’ve injected a lot more of the raw, live energy that really comes to life at things like festivals.

Anthony: The first record was very mellow so this time we wanted to give it more life.

 

 

What is your creative process when writing songs?

Josephine: It’s totally equal and collaborative. Typically we do write at a piano and we both come forward with ideas. We never go into a space where it’s like: “I’ve written this song, what do you reckon?” We would never do that because we want to conceive everything completely together.

 

How do you stay grounded with your increasing international fame?

Anthony: Trying to have a sense of normality about your life is the hardest bit.

Josephine:  Our friends are really good at that. None of them really care that we make music. You get home and they’re like, ‘You’ve been away? Cool’ [laughs].

Anthony: We take our friends on tour as well to keep us grounded.

Josephine: Fame as a concept is not something that really appeals to us. I’d hate to be famous. You have to just constantly remind yourself that five years ago when we were playing to like six people a night in Birmingham – that in itself is amazing. To have six people come out to watch you in Birmingham is as amazing as having 3,000 people come out to watch you in San Francisco. You lose perspective really easily when in Kuala Lumpur you’re like, ‘We’ve only sold 3,000 tickets; it’s a 4,000 cap room!’ You just have to stop yourself and be like: this is amazing. Whatever level you’re at in life, it’s just about gratitude.

 

What is your favourite song to play live?

Anthony: Our song Heavy – we’ve only played it live once – we put it together last week to put on stage. We don’t really have to do anything as on the record, that song is literally just a live take of us playing.

Josephine: It’s just got such a groove! I’m just really annoyed that I have to play an instrument when I just wanna dance!

 

What was the first song you played live together?

Both: Livewire!

Anthony: It was at our first show in London in 2015. It was the first song we played and we were so nervous!

Josephine: We’d been practising for ages, trying to sing completely in unison. It wasn’t natural; it was all very robotic.

Anthony: Probably the best show we’ve played! We’ve let it slip a bit since then [laughs].

 

What song makes you cry?

Josephine: So many!

Anthony: Probably Still – The Cinematic Orchestra. Brothers on a Hotel Bed by Death Cab [For Cutie].

Josephine: I got a text from my brother the other day, who’s in Madrid currently, saying that Castle on a Hill by Ed Sheeran is his new favourite jam and when I hear it to think of him. I heard it on the radio and just because my brother has sent me this note and he was so far away, I found myself welling up in the car!

 

What song always make you feel happy?

Anthony: Mine would be Joni Mitchell – Big Yellow Taxi. It’s the morning tune isn’t it? Perfect to make pancakes to.

Josephine: Mine would be Phoenix – Listomania. Big tune. Great driving tune.

 

 

What is the weirdest fan experience you’ve had?

Josephine: There’s so many! We get a lot of people asking us to write our names on a piece of paper, then the next morning we’ll check Instagram and it’s been tattooed on them! We’ve been given loads of weird gifts like shark’s teeth that someone found at the bottom of the ocean. We’ve been given little figurines that someone’s made of us.

Anthony: Lots of paintings. Fans are like, ‘Take them home!’ and we’re like, ‘We’re getting on a flight!’ [laughs]

Josephine: We get a lot of proposals. The weirdest fan proposal we’ve had was in Brighton –

Anthony: Not proposals to us – between fans.

Josephine: He [the fan] wanted us to be there in this room whilst he proposed to his girlfriend. It was a bit odd because we came down and she was like: “Oh hello!” and he was like: “I’ve got a question to ask you,” and then she kind of said yes and then they were like, “Ok, well bye!” We just thought, why are we here? Do they want a photo? They were like, “No” [laughs].

 

What is your FAULT?

Anthony: Mine would be tanning [he reveals his burnt arms from a recent holiday and laughs]. Practice would be mine. I would be a lot better at stuff if I practised more. I always do things to a level and then I’m like, let’s move on to something else. Attention span. That’s why I’ve signed up to marathons.

Josephine: You’re trying to do the Great Wall of China. It’s hard to walk, let alone run!

Anthony: There’s a chunk of it – 26.2 miles – but there’s 15,000 steps involved. And I’ve got terrible knees.

Josephine: I am very stubborn. If things don’t go my way I don’t like it very much. I’m a bit of a control freak. Everything that you see that is Oh Wonder related has come from us.

Anthony: That’s also the secret to your success as well.

 

Oh Wonder’s sophomore album ‘Ultralife’ is out now. Find it on Spotify, Apple Music and iTunes.

Words Aimee Phillips

Photography Annick Wolfers 

FAULT Favourite Flo Morrissey releases debut album ‘Tomorrow Will Be Beautiful’

 

FAULT Favourite Flo Morrissey, who we featured for FAULT Online in March, will be releasing her debut album ‘Tomorrow Will Be Beautiful‘ next week, on Monday 15th June (Glassnote Records.)

Tomorrow Will Be Beautiful, (Glassnote Records), released June 15th

Tomorrow Will Be Beautiful, (Glassnote Records), released June 15th

We were able to have a listen to the record before Flo releases it into the world and it is a remarkably strong statement for a debuting artist (especially one who is only 20 years old.) Her voice is haunting and unique, richly retro-inspired, and hallmarked with the influence of Kate Bush, Devendra Banhart, Bjork, and Jeff Buckley. Her lyrics have a child-like fragility, and we see her exploring the journey into adulthood (especially pertinent given that she herself is on the cusp of a similar leap into the spotlight.) ‘Pages of Gold‘ and ‘Show Me‘ are statement tracks, with pop-power and surging melodies, whilst ‘Wildflower‘ and title-track ‘Tomorrow Will Be Beautiful‘ are somehow both ghostly and anthemic- an unexpected and beautiful balancing act. ‘Why’ almost teeters too far into fairytale-territory, with it’s lilting melody reminiscent of the Disney score for Sleeping Beauty (perhaps this particular reference says more about me than Morrissey), but its searching vocals are intriguing and anchor the track in emotion and experience. It is impossible to ignore the force of Morrissey’s artistry, and just how enchanting her voice truly is. Full of range, story-telling character, and effortless stylistic variations, we have no doubt she will continue to captivate as this album finally reaches its eagerly-awaiting public.

Revisit our exclusive feature with Flo here, with photographs by Kurtiss Lloyd.

Flo Morrissey, photographed exclusively for FAULT Online by Kurtiss Lloyd in March 2015.

Flo Morrissey, photographed exclusively for FAULT Online by Kurtiss Lloyd in March 2015.

FAULT Focus: Marie Naffah returns with #Blindfold – a special collaboration to raise awareness of visual impairment

 

FAULT Favourite Marie Naffah, MTV’s Unsigned Artist for 2014 and a star of FAULT 18 (The RAW Issue), has returned with a special project.

In a not-for-profit project to raise awareness and understanding of the issues surrounding visual impairment and sight loss, Marie has teamed up with a group of six blind and visually-impaired musicians to record and release for free her song ‘Blindfold’: as a documentary-style video exploring the disability and the importance of music to those who suffer from it.

Photography: Constance Meath Baker

Photography: Constance Meath Baker

The song itself was written by Marie, who is 22, as a response to her grandmother’s experience with blindness and the implications it had had on her life and the lives around her. Having performed the song to senior BBC broadcast journalist Tony Shearman, who is also blind, Marie was invited to play and be interviewed on Insight Radio – the official radio station of the Royal National Institute of Blindness (RNIB).

Steve Plowman, a blind drummer living just outside of London, heard Marie on Insight Radio and impressed by the poignancy of the lyrics, as well as the tuneful song itself, he asked Marie whether there would be an opportunity for him to perform it with her.

With help from the RNIB, five more blind and partially sighted musicians expressed interest in the project, and so it was decided that a documentary/recording of the track would be made: to emphasise the importance of music in the lives of visually-impaired people and to show how, contrary to public opinion, a disability such as blindness does not automatically prevent a person from being able to perform music.

The 12 minute documentary, made by filmmaker Constance Meath Baker, consists of a series of interviews with the musicians followed by the track itself, recorded at a studio in High Wycombe with help from producer David Lane.

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