“Cancer is a horrible thing and we wanted to eject a little hope and light into it.”
Oh Wonder’s Josephine Vander Gucht passionately explains the idea behind White Blood. Inspired by a couple of fans she and partner-in-crime Anthony West met, they decided to pen a song that would embody the relationship these people had while one of them suffered from a deadly brain tumour.
“[Steven and Wendi] just represent everything that is good about the world and kind of the epiphany of what we are trying to achieve with our music, which is to bring people closer together and make people realise how important other people are and how we need other people’s support.”
Josephine and Anthony come together to form Oh Wonder, a duo based in the UK. I was able to have a quick chat with them just as they finished up their tour in England. Even though they were exhausted from the jam-packed day, they were just as warm and lovely as I hoped they’d be.
Josephine explains on behalf of the pair each of their roles in the band. “I come from a more classical background. I started playing classical piano. The piano is kind of my other arm, another limb where I have a way to express myself, writing chords.”
“Anthony conversely is an amazing producer, who grew up recording bands, being in his own bands. So he’s kind of a production wizard.”
Together, with their songwriting skills, they became an unstoppable duo.
These two people who describe themselves as “procrastinators by nature” came to attention after they began uploading their music to the Internet. “The Internet is the reason that people far and wide have shared our music and discovered our music. We are hugely in debt to it, we’re really grateful that we saw it come that way,“ Anthony says.
As they continued to upload their music, fans from all over the world shared their tracks with others. It got to the point when they started getting millions of listens on Soundcloud. This concept still blows them away.
I’ve been a fan since May after hearing about them from social media. As I’ve learnt, the laid-back, calming nature of their songs can be quite helpful in times of distress. In fact, I mentioned that one of their songs Landslide had been getting me through something recently. If you’re nursing a broken heart, I highly recommend you check that one out. Anthony commented that it was “amazing that one of their song could do that for [me]” because there are so many songs that have done the same thing for them.
“The joy about being musicians is we get to help lots of people without even knowing it,” he adds.
Josephine lists artists such as Joni Mitchell, Chilly Gonzales, Angus and Julia Stone, Patrick Watson and Max Richter, saying that she listens to sad music when she is feeling down.
In September last year, they began a song writing project where they wrote one song per month. “At the start we were really blasé about it, ‘Oh, we’ll just do this every month, it will be kind of easy’. Turns out it wasn’t the easiest thing, but it wasn’t as hard as we thought.”
“The first song we wrote was a song called Body Gold. We’d never tried that kind of production before and we were really just experimenting and then once we decided we were going to do 12 more of them, we had to think of more ways to produce the tracks.”
This project turned into a full length album, which was released in September this year. Anthony eagerly tells me which song from the album means the most to him.
“Early on, we did a song called All We Do. It was one of those songs that just came out remarkably quickly. We just sung it through and the lyrics came. Every time we start, we play a little bit of piano, we start recording just in case something pops out. This song sort of just fell from the sky, landed on our lap and it just played itself. We looked at the recording and it went for five minutes and we’d written it. That song’s really special to me because it didn’t feel like we wrote it.”
Josephine agrees, adding: “If was as if we were channeling something. It was odd.”
So will they be doing another year-long project for their next album?
“Alas no. We have too many commitments now,” Josephine explains, while assuring me that while they will not be releasing the tracks as regularly as before, they will be writing and recording on the road.
Josephine and Anthony will be coming down to Australia for our Falls and Southbound Festivals. Although they have travelled to our lovely country before (Anthony’s brother lives in Melbourne), this will be the first time Anthony and Josephine have actually performed here. “[It’s] totally a dream come true. We were there a couple of years ago and we never thought we’d be in a band, let alone playing on the other side of the world. So it’s all very new and exciting for us,” Anthony said.
Remarkably, their side shows sold out in 48 hours and needed to be upgraded to new venues. Josephine said they were astounded by the idea that they had made this big of an impact on the other side of the world. “We’re so grateful for the opportunity to take our music around the world and perform it. It’s a dream. We are living the dream, if you like, because we are able to perform our art. It’s amazing.”
Australia isn’t the only country on their schedule in 2016 with their European and American tours also on the horizon. The knowledge of this has allowed them to set three goals for the new year.
“Survive, would be the first one,” Anthony quips. “We’re touring a huge amount and it excites us a lot. There will be a lot of times when we are just in a tour bus for 30 hour drives across America. It’s going to be great.”
He continues: “I want to start running more. I used to run a lot, but since being on tour it’s been kind of a challenge to get up and run.”
Josephine interjects, confirming their final two goals for 2016: “So we want to run more and write more songs.”
I thought it sounded like a great plan and can’t wait to see what 2016 has in store for the duo. If you liked the embedded tracks, you might want to check out more of their music on Soundcloud and follow them on Twitter. To see these song writing geniuses live in action, tag along to their Aussie shows in January.
Oh Wonder side shows: