Oh Wonder is a simply classic indie group, comprised of musicians Josephine Vander Gucht and Anthony West. The duo took two years away from the music world, but have now returned with their album, “No One Else Can Wear Your Crown.” I caught up with the group to discuss their time away, their relationship and their new music!
How do you think your music has grown and changed over the past few years?
We’ve become a lot more personal and vulnerable in our writing. Our first album was all character-based, whereas this new album has quite a few songs about our own experiences and feelings. Sonically, we have probably widened the boundaries and experimented a little more freely with our sound. Our new album has Bon Iver-y autotuned guitar swells, aggressive pop songs, piano ballads and jazzy raps.
On “I Wish I Never Met You,” you talk about wishing you could go back and stop a relationship from taking place, because of the way it left you. If you could go back and change something in your lives, what would it be?
I (Josephine) would have spent the last 15 years loving myself more. It’s only recently that I have learned to have compassion for myself, and consequently have a lot more patience and understanding for other people. I wasted so much time wishing I looked different, and I wish I’d placed that energy somewhere else. It’s a waste of time putting yourself down. It reaps no rewards.
“Hallelujah” seems to be about continuing to defy and fight on for your passion. Could you elaborate about what inspired the track?
Both of us have experienced naysayers in our life – people who made off-hand comments that we’d never be stars, or recommended we have a safety blanket to fall back on because the whole “music thing” wasn’t likely to work. “Hallelujah” is basically an F you to doubt – either from others or yourself. You are the ruler of your own life, you wear your own crown, so you are in charge.
How did your relationship influence “Dust”?
“Dust” is like a weird stream of consciousness song that reflects on being there for each other, and the fact that everyone is basically made up of the same thing. How can you strive for more when you have something so wonderful next to you in plain sight?
What is your plan for this tour? How do you prepare? Do you have a favorite ritual? Do you have a favorite or most meaningful night or city?
Our plan is to go big and not go home! We are currently devising some mad visuals for this tour, to accompany what is a pretty exciting setlist! We have three albums to choose from now, so it’s super fun being able to create a variety of moods from our songs. Our ritual is to kiss the top of Josephine’s head, like the lucky egg from the film Cool Runnings. Playing our hometown of London is always pretty rad, as we have all our family and friends in the audience rooting for us, and we get to drink margaritas with everyone afterwards. It feels like a wedding!
Why did you opt to take a break from releasing music? What did this break do for you two personally and musically?
We spent the first year and a half after releasing our second album on the road, touring around the world to 43 countries and having an absolute blast. After that, we were ready to go home and rest (!), so we took a few months off, got a dog, built a house and a studio, and then we have spent the last year making an album! It’s been so wonderful having space to be creative, it’s literally the biggest privilege. That’s probably why these new songs are so personal because we’ve actually had time to reflect and understand how we are feeling.
How do you work with being a couple and a duo? What was the transition like, if any? How did this impact your songwriting process?
t’s a pretty crazy set up! We basically spend every hour of every day together, and somehow we still choose to sit next to each other on the plane haha. When we are in Oh Wonder mode it becomes very respectful and pragmatic; there isn’t any space for ego when we make decisions or write. It’s all about the band. Then we have to be conscious to have couple time and make sure we go out for dinner every so often to slot back into couple mode again. Our songwriting process has probably stayed the same throughout; it’s just got a lot quicker and more efficient because there is so much more love and respect there.
A lot of “No One Can Wear Your Crown” is about falling in love and finding security. What inspired this album? What do you want it to say to listeners and fans?
I guess we were finally ready to acknowledge that we were ready to spend our lives together. We’d come from dating and starting a chilled side project, to find ourselves thrust into a world tour and second album without much time for reflection, and now we are out the other side and like, woah, we’ve spent seven years together, made three albums, toured the world a few times, built a home, got a dog, understood how we each behave in pretty much every scenario and realized that this was all meant to be. There is no other option. As the last track on the album says, “you’re still home.” Cheesy, but hella true.
Feature image courtesy of Oh Wonder’s team at Republic Records.