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Oh Wonder with guest Astronomyy
May 15, 2018 @ 8:00 pm$32
In an era in which pop careers require careful planning, Oh Wonder is an anomaly. They’re a band formed by accident not design, a duo who didn’t intend to play live but spent more than a year touring the world, and a major label act who never saw this being anything other than a DIY project.
Classically trained pianist and violinist Josephine Vander Gucht was about to begin a career in law when she met Anthony West, a producer and former member of a rock band, in a south London studio. He offered to produce some of her songs, but the moment they started working together, something clicked. Or as Anthony recalls it, “stars collided.” Anthony’s background in arranging and production – no less than the legendary Gil Norton had advised him to become a producer – complimented Josephine’s classical training and songwriting skills. Their voices in unison were spellbinding. They were better at writing lyrics together than they had been apart.
Ultralife is both Oh Wonder’s extraordinary second album and their debut proper. Its eponymously-titled predecessor, released in late 2015, was a collection of songs they had posted online at the rate of one a month, which millions of listeners fell in love with, turning the London-based duo into reluctant pop stars.
Three months into their song-a-month challenge, they had established an international audience who were attentively awaiting new music on the first of each month. As their success snowballed, labels came calling, but they refused to sign. By the time some of their songs had racked up tens of millions of plays, the pair finally conceded that they were a band. After self-releasing 15 of their songs as an album, Oh Wonder bowed to pressure to play live, booking just four shows – in London, Paris, New York and L.A. – planning to head straight back to the studio they’d built in a room at the bottom of Josephine’s parents’ garden. When all four gigs sold out within a week they were inspired to tour. It culminated in 162 shows in 14 months across 112 cities. Along the way, Oh Wonder’s songs became soundtrack staples, featuring everywhere from Scream, Elementary and Made in Chelsea to Catfish, Collide and Coronation Street. The dreamy “Drive” was used in the pilot for the BBC’s hit show Doctor Foster. “All We Do” was the spectral theme tune for Unforgotten, ITV’s acclaimed detective series.
The perennial underdog might just be about to become the odds-on favorite. Written in New York and London and entirely composed, produced and mixed by the duo, Ultralife takes the hallmarks of the band’s experimental debut – its hypnotic dual vocals, its exposed, emotional lyrics, its bewitching, ethereal beauty – and adds the weight of experience, the confidence of success and the coherence that comes from forward planning.
Presented in partnership with JaxLive.