Q&A: Oh Wonder Cool Down Bonnaroo
We chatted with the U.K. duo after their inspired DJ set for Kohler and SPIN’s Shower Out Loud Sessions
You never know what you are going to see while wandering the Bonnaroo grounds, but if you were around on Saturday you may have seen the indie-pop duo Oh Wonder — a.k.a. Josephine Vander Gucht and Anthony West — spinning everything from LCD Soundsytem to the Postal Service for freshly cleaned fans during an inspired DJ set at Kohler and SPIN’s Shower Out Loud DJ Sessions. We sat down with this rising U.K. act immediately afterward to discuss their unique approach to releasing music, where they see their sound heading, and how they lucked into having an Oh Wonder fan as a neighbor… a big plus when you record at home.
Have you ever done an interview at a shower before?
Josephine: I can’t say I have. I don’t think we’ve done anything at a shower other than shower.
Anthony: Yeah cleanliness is a priority with us.
What was your DJ set like?
Anthony: It was a lot of fun. We’ve never had a DJ set with two dancers in the blistering heat of the morning. It was cool, it was a great experience. We picked a lot of the songs from playlists we’ve made on the road.
Josephine: Also songs that aren’t too intense for first thing in the morning. [Laughs.] I wanted to do a rain-based DJ set and play stuff like “It’s Raining Men” but Anthony didn’t agree.
Your debut album was originally released as one single a month for a year. What was the inspiration behind that decision?
Josephine: Well, it’s a totally reverse and backwards way to release music, and I’m sure that if we had a label at the time and suggested that to them they would like, “Absolutely not, are you nuts? Everyone is going to have heard your album by the time you release it.” But because we were just hanging out in our house we didn’t have any constraints or rules.
Anthony: It was like, “Let’s release 13 songs” and there was nothing beyond that… and it’s just opened us up to where we are now, playing shows and getting ready to make another album.
Josephine: We just loved writing and we loved the process of being able to release music fresh off the back of writing it. That’s such a rare thing these days: To be able to make art and share it within the same breath. As an artist you’ve got so much energy and excitement and love for this thing you made and normally you have to wait for release schedules and press campaigns so were like, “Let’s just write, record and release these songs and build some momentum for ourselves creatively” and inadvertently it built momentum for an audience, too.
So are you planning on releasing the new album all at once or trying something more unorthodox once again?
Anthony: We’re still trying to decide. We’ve got freedom because our label was like, “That worked last time so you proved everyone wrong.” So they are pretty much leaving it up to us.
Josephine: We’ll see what the album’s like I guess and work off that.
Are your neighbors generally cool with you recording at home again?
Josephine: Really hilariously we just moved into a new place and that day we met one of our neighbors upstairs and we were really like paranoid that he was going to hate music. He was like, “So what do you guys do?” And we were like, “Oh, we’re in a band,” and when we told him Oh Wonder he pulled his phone out and he was listening to our album as he walked into our flat! He was like, “I just downloaded it today. My girlfriend loves you, I had no idea you were from London.”
Anthony: So we were like, “Tick, we can make an album here.” [Laughs.]
What’s it like having so many expectations for this next album unlike the first one?
Anthony: I find it exciting like you’ve got a chance to embrace those people again but at the same time you can challenge them a little in the process.
Josephine: It’s different though. Before we were making music for ourselves and now I feel an obligation to all of the people who listen to our music to make a good album so they can get that same feeling again.
Plus you don’t want to disappoint your neighbor.
Anthony: [Laughs.] Yeah, poor guy.
You formed in 2014 and you’re already playing festivals like Bonnaroo. Does it feel like things have moved really quickly for the band?
Josephine: Yeah, we played our first show eight months ago and now we’re here which is odd but also we’ve been in music for 10 years before this over various disguises and projects, so in a way it feels like a long time coming. Time just goes by so quickly especially when you’re in a different city every day. It’s a weird thing but it’s amazing.