Last month, Universal Music hosted a one-night invite-only show, Music is Universal, in conjunction with Music Matters Live 2019 at Zouk in Clarke Quay. Besides local singer songwriter Charlie Lim and Filipino alt-rock band juan karlos, the company brought London-based alternative pop duo Oh Wonder, who wowed the world with their relatable music, back to Singapore.
Welcome back to Singapore, Anthony and Josephine! This is your second time performing in Singapore; what did you look forward to the most?
EATING! Obviously, the show too and seeing our amazing Singaporean fans again, but we were so excited to find some good laksa…we found an awesome vegetarian restaurant in Chinatown that did an incredibly spicy laksa!
For those unfamiliar with you, tell us the origin story of Oh Wonder.
Before Oh Wonder was born in September 2014, we were two friends that met up every few weeks to write songs. One day we wrote ‘Body Gold’ and we were so excited by it the we decided to release it ourselves. We conceived Oh Wonder as a songwriting project and wanted to write for other artists, which is why we both sing on our songs, so we could pitch the songs to both male and female artists! Fast forward 5 years and we’ve released two albums, made a third, and toured the world a few times over.
The work up to the release of your first album was unorthodox in that one song was released on Soundcloud every month for a year. Was that a deliberate slow tease?
It wasn’t deliberate at all! More a happy accident. We just wanted to set ourselves a random challenge to be creative every month, and it worked out pretty well! We never would have dreamed we’d end up here.
People have defined your music as anything from alt-pop and synth-pop to indie electronic. Pigeon-holing doesn’t seem to be your style, but how would you describe your work?
We get asked this question a lot and we have no idea how to explain it. Someone once called us a musical comfort blanket which is cool. It’s boy/girl vocals set to piano-based nostalgic soft-pop?!
Who were your musical influences when you were growing up versus now?
We both grew up listening to Death Cab for Cutie, Feist, Elton John, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor. At the moment we are listening to James Blake, Bon Iver, Loyle Carner, Kanye, Daniel Caesar, Ariana, Francis and the Lights, Jacob Collier, Tove Styrke and Kacey Musgraves!
Obviously, the both of you have been making music for longer than Oh Wonder has been around. How has creative process changed for the both of you from back then compared to now?
Working as a duo makes you a lot less judgmental of your own work because your ideas have been vetted by someone else that you trust, so the outcome feels bigger, or deeper somehow. The process remains the same though – we write sat at the piano, sing ideas at each other and follow them until one takes shape.
The emotional spectrum of your music is immense and your songs are relatable, having explored everything from gambling addictions and New Year’s resolutions to being dumped and owning one’s own self-worth. How much more difficult is it to be relatable now that you’ve found fame?
Being relatable is a funny thing, because no matter where a person comes from or what they have achieved, they are still affected by the universal human feelings of self-empowerment, loneliness, failure, rejection, loss, love. These emotions are what we have tapped into for our new album, as they are felt by everyone, us included.
You’re based in South London, tell us more about the area and where to find some of the best eats!
South London is the best. Zaibatsu in Greenwich is our favourite restaurant ever, they do great sushi and Malaysian Fusion (including an unreal laksa!). In Peckham, we love The Coal Rooms and Levan for dinner, Kudu for brunch, and Brickhouse Bakery for breakfast. The Old Nun’s Head is the best pub for a pub quiz and a burger. And Marcella in Deptford does stupidly good pasta.
Is there a festival or country where you’d like to perform but haven’t yet got the chance?
Yes! We’d love to play in Iceland one day, and we have about 6 states of the US to go to until we have been to them all! We’ve actually written a song that’s on our third album which is called ‘Nebraska’ in the hope that they will one day invite us to perform there!
We have to ask – what’s next for Oh Wonder?
A lot more music! We’re so excited to share new songs, release our third album and ultimately get back on the road and tour! We are so so so excited to come back to Singapore and perform a proper big show for you guys!