Link to our Facebook
Link to our Instagram

100,000 SoundCloud Plays, Portfolios And A Cup Of Tea

8 September 2015 | 1:28 pm | Carley Hall

"We put the song out and by the time I had finished my tea I think we'd had, like, 50 plays."

More Oh Wonder More Oh Wonder

The slow reveal. It works on the most basic human psychological level - give a little, and you'll get a lot in return. The teasing way Oh Wonder, aka Josephine Vander Gucht and Anthony West, released singles off their debut self-titled album implies a sense of conviction to be admired.

The London pop duo made the curious decision to send their labour of loves out into the world, one by one. One song, once a month, over the course of the past year reeled fans in hook, line and sinker, with the pair watching their play count climb with each release. With only a handful of singles from their self-proclaimed "creative project" released prior to this, the almost immediate response from lovers of their emotion-charged, piano-driven ballads was a happy outcome neither was expecting.

"Not at all, particularly because this was intended to be an artist project, we never had the idea of playing live for example, it was all about the songs. That people are listening and have bought tickets for our forthcoming shows is just crazy and such a surprise," Vander Gucht says. "And we were a bit anxious because you can have a million Soundcloud plays, but that translating to people wanting to come see you live and buy your record is not necessarily a given.

"We always celebrated the first of every month and always went to a different cafe in London and curled up on a sofa with our laptop and pressed the release button. And I vividly remember the first time we ever did it, we were in this lovely place on the high street sipping peppermint tea and we'd put the song out, and by the time it had finished I think we'd had like 50 plays. We were both sitting there with our mouths wide open going 'Who are these people, how have they found us?' We were so shocked, and now the last one we put up had 100,000 plays at the end of the day and we were like, 'What?' It was so odd but each day was a celebration, undoubtedly; it's been such a joy."

What started as a mission merely to craft a portfolio of songs - having been signed to sleek label Island Records after only a year or two on the scene, with Vander Gucht and West each bringing their respective classical piano and rock chops to their new project - soon became a seemingly naff idea to tantalise fans with songs once a month.

Far from wanting to tease their newfound fans however, Vander Gucht says the release was the ideal way to feed the duo's creative urges, although she admits there was some pressure to create and publish a new song each month of the project, with only an intuitive sense of where the album was headed, not a decided direction.

"It came from wanting and craving structure and routine, and as a musician you don't really get structure when you're writing, you know?" she explains. "You have a release campaign but the actual writing process is really kind of 'Write an album and [we'll] see you when it's done' kind of thing.

"Releasing them each month and having people responding and enjoying it takes off the pressure off creatively because you think 'Oh people do like it, that's cool, I'm doing something right.' But equally I think it actually builds pressure because we were writing and recording each song each month. It started out and we had no idea of what the album was or what we were aspiring to, and I think it was halfway in and we were anticipating anyone actually listening to our songs but seeing they'd had like millions of plays we were kind of a bit bemused. So it kind of does put a little bit of pressure on you because you realise that there are actually people waiting to hear our songs, and that's something we never thought would happen!"

All that time writing songs, producing them, releasing them one by one, has left the duo a tad bereft. While the highs of touring are coming at them thick and fast with shows pegged internationally and for us  Down Under for Falls and Southbound festivals, there's still a sense that their baby is going out into the world and time is slipping by as it grows and grows.

"It's definitely bittersweet because obviously I'm excited about releasing the album and the fruition of the last year's work is nearing, but definitely there's a sense of sadness there," she explains. "What are we going to do on October the first, you know, we're not going to be able to release a new song!

"Releasing music is one of the most brilliant natural highs I think a musician can ever experience, or anybody who's a creative person, putting art into the world. It's a phenomenally amazing feeling, you know. We've been really lucky and kind of selfish, really, because one of the reasons we set out to do this was so that every month we got to feel that. So from September onwards we're going to be touring and we're going to be performing these songs live and in a whole new space, so that's going to really exciting, but it is bittersweet."

Indulging in that sense of freedom was also further played upon in terms of the album's structure; cohesion in any album is often, to many artists, key to a satisfying writing and recording process, and therefore listening experience as well. Doing things their own way in this regard could have proved the self-titled debut's undoing, but Vander Gucht says the resulting internal story was luckily a subconscious effort.

"We never saw the album as a song each month, we saw all the songs in isolation because we were working on them in isolation," she explains. "We never worked on two songs at once. It's only in hindsight when we were writing our press release - it was the only thing we'd done apart from writing the album - and they asked us is there an overarching theme of the album, is there some kind of global narrative? And it was only when we sat back and looked at these songs as a collection that we started to see narrative themes emerging.

"It's really odd because we didn't write it as such, but now I look back and see conversations throughout the album between people that are suffering from loneliness and fear and isolation and depression, and then there's ideas of being there for someone and comforting someone, the importance of human relationships, I guess. It's only when you sit back that you see those little stories and it's really weird, that over a year they all had the same little stories that were pouring out of us, that have manifested themselves in totally different songs."

Those songs are coming more and more to life as the duo jet sets from city to city on their first ever tour. Artists rarely get a chance to delve into an album's bookends live on stage, instead fuelling a tendency to pander to fussy crowds by favouring the singles over the less showy gems. But things are different with Oh Wonder. The merits of releasing each and every track as a headlining single are not lost on Vander Gucht, who believes every artist should be so lucky.

"I mean what a position to be in, where the people at your gig will know most of your songs and be really into them," she laughs. "It's a rare thing, normally you just have a couple of singles people know and you can pad out the set with whatever you want.

"So that's actually been really tricky to work our way around what songs we're going to play. We can't play all of them because obviously we'd be there for hours. But we've handpicked 12 out of the 15 that are on the album and have got a couple of the singles we'd released earlier. But we'll definitely be rotating them around. We're really excited because hopefully everyone will know every song."