London alt-pop duo, Oh Wonder are back with their third studio album ‘No One Else Can Wear Your Crown’ (out now) which is a confident collection of emotional reflections and driven sonical experimentation.
Stepping into this next chapter of their musical journey, the collaborative couple Josephine Vander Gucht and Anthony West who make up Oh Wonder had an open vision of what this celebratory and reflective record would sound and feel like from the very beginning.
“The challenge for us is that we don’t want to be just a pop band and I don’t think we really fit into just pop production very well either as we really enjoy experimenting” West explains to ThomasBleach.com
“Weirdly when we wrote ‘Drunk On You’ it originally had insanely chill production and was just a piano ballad at heart. But I felt like the album really needed a song that was pounding, relentless and had bit of a drunk soul inhabited. So we started playing with the production of that song as it felt the most appropriate and it ended up working so well and genuinely reminds me of being intoxicated” he laughs.
Throughout the explorative journey of this record they’ve taken a moment to sit in the silence and take in everything that has happened over the past couple of years and accept some of their own emotional baggage and insecurities that they’ve previously shoved to the sidelines.
“‘Hallelujah’ is quite a personal song to me as it references my mum and dad who are lovely, wonderful and very supportive but were always very nervous about me going into music. So I kinda spent the year we had off unpacking their fears that they put on me” Vander Gucht explains.
“I remember being fifteen and going to see my career advisor at school and I had this random woman I had never met before sit across from me for five minutes and tell me that I would be a great journalist. And it was so confusing because how were they supposed to know what I would be good at, when they didn’t even know me?”.
“And how are you meant to know what you want to do at the age of fifteen? Life is so long and you can have multiple careers and pursuits. There shouldn’t be this one overarching thing that we should be striving for in our careers just to make someone else happy. But if you do have a passion then that is the biggest blessing ever and you should follow it.” she elaborates.
“I think everyone has had that happen in a big way or small way whether it’s career based or they are not allowed to be themselves or they have to dress a certain way because of their family or friends. The essence of ‘Hallelujah’ is quite a powerful message and I think it’s so special that people can relate to it in different ways” West adds .
Luckily their paths ended up crossing and they were able to inspire each other to follow their dreams and manifest a career as a plausible action. But as Vander Gucht explains, it took West to bluntly spell it out to her that she needed to actually follow her dreams to take control of her narrative.
“Anthony and I first met when I was in University and trying to be a Lawyer for some weird reason as I thought it would make someone else happy. And Anthony told me quite bluntly to not be a lawyer and to follow my passion for music, and realise that it’s a gift that I should follow. But it was quite terrifying to actually say I’m going to put to bed my whole vision for my life between the ages of 15 and 22”.
Honing that empowering sentiment, they’ve titled the record ‘No One Else Can Wear Your Crown’ because the ideology of a crown perfectly sums up the empowering, hopeful and strong attributes that the songs capture.
“I think everyone has this metaphorical crown which is on your head, therefore you’re the king, queen or ruler of your life. You’re in charge and you don’t have to listen to anyone’s opinion as it’s your crown, your life, your views, your brain and your heart. You do what you want with it”.
“But then we realised when designing the artwork for this era that a crown has peaks that go up and down. And the album is also a reflection of the ups and downs of life. There is a song called ‘How It Goes’ which kinda summarises that. Sometimes you wake up feeling absolutely terrible and there is no explanation for it and you don’t need a justification for it, it’s just how life goes, and that’s fine. So I guess the crown is an empowering metaphor but also acknowledges vulnerability as well” Vander Gucht explains.
The album has a positive alt-pop spin while still managing to capture different empowering sides and vulnerable emotions. It also marks the first time that they’ve explicitly talked about their own relationship through music.
‘In And Out Of Love’ is a song that they wrote completely in their living room in about an hour at the piano about that warm feeling you get when you meet “the one”.
“We were trying to come up with an alternative way to say that someone is the one. Certainly with Anthony I believe that I was meant to be with him. But I’m also very aware of the number of people that I was with before him that were a important part of that journey and process. So for us, that song is just about just knowing. And if I hadn’t met Anthony then I would be basically dating other people trying to find him and waiting for this feeling” Vander Gucht reflects.
The song is a stripped back moment that gradually grows with strings and vocoder layering the sonical depth of the song.
“We always knew that it was going to have strings but the vocoder and sparse choruses were quite a late addition. We tried so many different versions of that song but it went back to the demo vocal as we recorded the vocals ten times but they didn’t sound as good or as powerful as the demo recording” West explains.
Another song that dives into their own relationship is the album closer ‘Nebraska’ which Josephine admits is a little more vulnerable as the lyrics effortlessly came out like a stream of consciousness.
“We have been together seven years and this job is insanely amazing but it’s also incredibly difficult to do with the same person day in and day out. So sometimes we do doubt if this is the right thing to be doing. So in ‘Nebraska’ we reflect on those thoughts quite candidly before resolving it by realising that we are still each other’s home and that will never change, which is really vulnerable”.
In contrast, you then have ‘I Wish I Never Met You’ which is a fiery anthem dedicated to Josephine’s exes who cheated on her. But instead of holding a grudge, the song has a really mature twist that hears her saying that she wishes she had never met them but has deep down accepted that she has and has learnt to grow from it.
“My favourite part of that song is the middle eight section. I just love the lyrics; ‘it takes time to get bigger, it’s like having patience for yourself’, because it’s all about having patience not only for yourself but also for other people. Everyone is on their own journey and trying to be better, learn and develop”.
Leading up to the album’s release they decided to do something a little different for their single ‘Happy’ and got a little creative with their music video concept which saw them pretending to break up as a couple and a band. But apparently they got a little too creative with the video and the social media posts because some of their fans actually believe they’ve broken up.
“Obviously our British sarcasm isn’t translated around the world effectively as we received messages from people asking how they could get their refunds for their tickets to the tour and people who had pre-ordered the album questioning if it was still going to be released” Vander Gucht explains with a confused tone.
“To us it was so obvious as it’s kinda like, why would we break up three weeks before our album is out. Like, you would just pretend for three weeks and release the album. So I guess it backfired on us a little bit as I don’t know how more obvious we need to make it that we aren’t broken up”.
With fans still commenting on the video over their distraught feelings of them breaking up, even West’s sister called him in the wake of the video release to ask him if they had split up even thought she had seen them the day before.
“I feel like we are going to have to spend the next three year convincing people that we are still a band” West laughs.
But hopefully the release of the album will settle nerves of fans that don’t believe they are together, because this record certifies that they are the strongest and most ambitious that they’ve ever been.
‘No One Else Can Wear Your Crown’ is out now