This time last weekend, Oh Wonder—the London-based alt-pop duo behind hits like "Drive" and "Technicolour Beat"—hyped the crowd last Friday during their very first solo show in the Philippines held at The Samsung Hall in SM Aura Premier. They sang songs from their self-titled debut album and their newest album Ultralife, and we're sure that even non-fans were converted after that night of great music that would make just about anyone sing and dance. With the most energetic crowd, how can we not get high on humans?
Chalk sat down with the Oh Wonder duo, Josephine Vander Gucht and Anthony West, hours before their sold out show to talk about how they started, the stories behind their favorite songs from their sophomore album Ultralife, and, of course, their message to their Filipino fans! Keep reading to know more about them and other OW goodness!
How was Oh Wonder formed and what is the story behind the name?
Anthony: We started the band three years ago, but we met each other six or seven years ago. We started writing songs quite quickly when we realized that we had very similar musical taste and shared a love for songwriting.
Josephine: We love the word wonder. We were actually called Wonder Wonder in the beginning, but we had to change our name for some reason then we had this amazing evening where we’re like, "What can we do?" We wanted the band name to have the word wonder so we tried different things like Wonder Wonder Music, Wonder Wonder, then someone just went “Oh!” Then we said that that’s it, Oh Wonder.
Who are your musical influences?
Josephine: So many! We grew up listening to Elton John, James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, and Carol King. Now, we listen to people like Feist, Frank Ocean, Death Cab for Cutie, Sylvan Esso, James Blake, Bon Iver, Beyonce, and Drake—very diverse, really.
What's your songwriting process? Which comes first, the lyrics or the music?
Anthony: The music always comes first. We figure out the chords then we sing some kind of melody to the chords. We always write with just our piano—never in the studio. Lyrics come after we have the melodies.
What is the story and the overall theme of Ultralife?
Josephine: It starts with a song called “Solo,” which is about the need for freedom, being on your own, finding your own independence, and working out who you are as a person; then it closes with a song called “Waste,” which is about—the refrain says that “what a waste to be solo”—the realization that we need people, that you and I need to work together, the world needs to work together, that we need to work in packs because we are humans and that’s how we operate.
What are your favorite tracks from Ultralife and what are the stories behind them?
Josephine: One of my favorites is “High on Humans,” which is written about this amazing experience I had in a tube. There were two girls talking about hot sauce and then one of the girls said, “Oh, I don’t like hot sauce,” then I leaned in then said “What do you mean you don’t like hot sauce?” and they just looked at me like, "Who is this weirdo?" Then we just started having this chat for like half an hour about food that I got so hyped talking to strangers. I called Anthony I said, “Anthony! I’m high on humans!” then we wrote the song. So that song came from a really weird place.
Anthony: “Lifetimes” is probably my favorite song. We wrote it when we got back from America, it was during the presidential election and we kind of saw what was going on in the States and the climate change and how people are almost denying it. It’s kind of our ode to the world and how we should look after it.
Finally, what is your message to your Filipino fans?
Thank you so much for all your support and for giving us the most amazing experience here in the Philippines. What a wonderful country this is and we feel so incredibly lucky to come and play here!
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Banner photograph from Oh Wonder. Photographs by Ken Koo via Malaya Productions.