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article imageLondon duo Oh Wonder attracted big buzz thanks to online smarts Special

By David Silverberg     Oct 29, 2015 in Music
Few musicians attracted as intense attention as Oh Wonder, a London duo who were earning rave reviews a year before their first EP was released. How? By teasing fans with posting one song a month for a year on Soundcloud.
I first heard about Oh Wonder in November 2014 when the music blog Pigeons & Planes reported on two London musicians, Anthony West and Josephine Vander Gucht, making major moves online. On their Soundcloud page, they were releasing one song a month, and there was little anyone else knew about them. No press, a sparse social media presence, no photos or video.
Without ever setting foot on a stage or going public beyond the Soundcloud tunes, their tracks accumulated more than 13 million plays.
Other artists have gone this route before, but the attraction still comes down to talent. Oh Wonder songs are simply gorgeous. They harmonize like they were born to sing together, the music is gentle but catchy. When I first heard "Dazzle", a November 2014 release, I knew I had to check out more of what Oh Wonder was bringing to the musical soundscape
Last month, Oh Wonder released their first full album, available on Spotify and in record stores across the world. I wanted to learn more about Oh Wonder's unintentional plan to conquer the Net with their music, their first tour and why Josephine would love a dream collab with The Weeknd.
I interviewed Josephine Vander Gucht, a longtime musician who has been working with West for years, while she was relaxing in her London home between concerts.
Digital Journal: First, share with us your reaction to how the album has been received.
JVG: A magical whirlwind is the best way to describe it. Anthony and I made this record in our house, no one got involved and we never thought about taking it out of those parameters. It's been quite phenomenal. And when we first played several shows they have all been spectacular and sold out months ago.
Digital Journal: Since your songs were available before the album came out, was it strange to see everyone singing your songs?
JVG: At the Troubador in L.A. I could see everyone’s faces, and I could see every single person in that room, that they were seeing and dancing to our songs and when that is happening in front of you it is so cool! And I cried, I couldn't help it.
Digital Journal: What inspired you to bring your songs to Soundcloud, giving them away for free essentially? We have seen artists release songs on iTunes for a fee, or on subscription services like Spotify.
JVG: The whole thing was set up with no marketing approach, in fact. It was a self-imposed project to be creative and put music out, and to set hard deadlines for us on releasing each song at the end of the month.
In hindsight it was a brilliant way to establish ourselves and create momentum and build an excited and eager following .
Digital Journal: And you both kept to yourself then, I noticed, by ignoring press requests, not engaging too much on social media.
JVG: Right, we didn't speak to anyone and ignored all emails, and were not interested in record deals and not even thinking of releasing the album properly. We wanted record companies to focus on the music as opposed to jump on board right away.
Digital Journal: Some musicians might be wondering, "This sounds great, but I'm struggling to make a living, why would I give away my music free?" What would you say to them?
JVG: If we never made a penny with Oh Wonder, we'd still do it. So the monetary aspect was never a motivation for us which is why we released songs for free and then the business came along. And now, well, we're losing 150,000 pounds with our tours, since we have to pay for accommodation, equipment, etc. And more than ever I feel it's important for people working with us to make a living, since they've helped us so much during this ride.
The London duo Oh Wonder
The London duo Oh Wonder
Via Oh Wonder
Digital Journal: How would you describe the thematic thread running through your lyrics?
JVG: These songs explore London and how it's a pinnacle of today’s world where poverty and extreme wealth live side by side, and how we blindly exist seeing these two extremes. The songs touch on relationships and trying to make music and I write what I know; amidst all the dubiousness, what we need is love and support for each other in the smallest or biggest ways. We need to focus on relationships and helping each other, and if we focus on money and oil and technology...that's not the way to be.
Digital Journal: Are there any plans to explore other types of music, other genres? I read that you are a classically trained pianist.
JVG: I'm a massive fan of scoring strings, and I was excited to do it for "Livewire." I want to do more strings! I'm also a big fan of R&B and jazz piano and I like that kind of feel. I'm up for anything, to experiment and try a few different things.
Digital Journal: What's your dream collaboration? Now that you're making a name for yourself in the music scene, you might have the opportunity to collab with your favourite artists.
JVG: I would love to work The Weeknd! At university I loved his first Trilogy releases, and thought it was really great production and songwriting.
Digital Journal: What's something your fans might know about Josephine?
JVG: Anthony and I are avid marathon runners. I also just started a new hobby...pottery! Even though I'm not a very good visual artist, I'd rather create something with my hands than get into drawing.
Oh Wonder's tour dates can be found here. They'll be touring Canada and the U.S. in early 2016.
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