How the Internet vaulted Oh Wonder to worldwide stardom without a single concert

oh wonder band interview internet stardom tours ohwonder27
Sarah Midkiff/Digital Trends

The Internet has forever changed how the music business works.

Time was, a band’s first tour consisted mostly of gigs in dive bars and niche venues in small-time cities. You had to pay your dues if you wanted to go big-time, building up a fan base and a mailing list along the way.

But today, the Internet can make a band a global sensation from the comfort of their garage, and in a mere matter of days. Just ask London-based electro-pop outfit, Oh Wonder, who had never played a single live show in its history when they sold out venues in London, Paris, Amsterdam, Los Angeles, and New York.

Co-fronted by lifelong musicians and newly viral sensations, Anthony West and Josephine Vander Gucht, Oh Wonder started out as a fun side project. The goal? To record and self-produce one song each month and share it via SoundCloud. That side project quickly transformed into a rocket-powered ride fueled by the combustibility of the Internet. The duo began booking tour dates just one year after their first single, Body Gold, was released online, and then, one single after another, an album was born.

Vander Gucht explained how the process of recording a debut album was unlike any of their previous pursuits, “It’s so different. Our album is effectively 15 singles because each was written and recorded independent of the others. Which is great because you get to focus on each individual song, you form a connection with it. Same with our audience, they have such close connections to a song because it reminds them of that month or they were waiting for 11 months to hear that song in particular.”

With an ever-growing fanbase hanging on every new song, Oh Wonder discovered their slow-grooving, R&B-influenced sound with each subsequent single. “That was the part that definitely changed. The production side of it,” West observes. “We started the project with no sound and thought, ‘OK, let’s see what comes out of the first song.’ Then every month we honed the sound and we figured out what it was. So that was the most experimental part for me. The writing part has always been the same for us.”

Digital Trends: How has technology guided your development as musicians?

Anthony West: It’s amazing because you can basically find everything now in one place. You have all these analog, synth, and drum sounds on your computer. I can pull up a folder of kick drum sounds I have, and we can just listen to 80 kick drum sounds instead of going to 50 machines. They’re all there. It’s easy, and it’s all in front of you, and it’s amazing.

I still say that analog instruments that their place. We bought this keyboard this Teenage Engineering OP-1, we used it on every track in the album. It’s beautiful. It’s a really powerful little machine. It made us think about using more analog sounds on the album.

What are your thoughts on how social media and being able to self-publish music online?

Josephine Vander Gucht: It’s wonderful. It gives the power to the musicians. We did our album without the backing of a record label, a team, or anybody. We started just the two of us. Without platforms like SoundCloud, which is what we started putting our music on, or Spotify which we use a lot, Apple Music obviously, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, we would not have reached nearly as many people as we have. We certainly wouldn’t be playing here in Portland to 1,000 or so people, because they would never have heard of us without the Internet.

AW: We would have never been here. Normally, we would have had to have played here five or more times before we would have played for this many people. It’s the power of the Internet.

JVG: So we are huge supporters of the Internet. We think it’s important to put the power into the musicians hands. If you’re building a universe that is about your art, you want to be in charge of that. You want to represent your art correctly. I think if you can do that well online, you are sorted really.

“If it’s good, people will find it and listen to it. It costs next to nothing to make music nowadays.”

AW: The main thing, is people who might have been too scared to share their music before. They have a platform to do it. There will be people who really love what you’re doing. Record it in your bedroom, put it up, and if it’s good, people will find it and listen to it. It costs next to nothing to make music nowadays.

JVG: Yeah, our album probably cost about 100 pounds to make. You don’t need a lot of money.

Do you agree with the statement that “less is more” with the electro-pop genre? Why or why not?

JVG: Yeah, we do. Just the nature of how we record is a testament to that. We will write a song on the piano, take it into the studio, and then layer it up with as many as 200 sounds, strip it back to maybe 10 and that’s the finished album. I think it’s very easy nowadays, because it is so easy produce a song very quickly and build up loads of layers, to shroud a song and to disguise it and not to let it sing out in it’s pure form.

AW: It’s almost more important to know what not to put into a track. Anyone can put anything in a song, the real art is knowing what bits should go where and whether it even should be there. So I think you can make the best art with a tiny amount of tools.

What do your thoughts on technology allowing musicians to do more with less?

AW: You do have to have some things to start, but you can now record from home and it can sound like it was made in a studio. The amount of records that are now just made at home, massive pop records …

Sarah Midkiff/Digital Trends
Sarah Midkiff/Digital Trends

JVG: Lily Allen’s album, The Feel, I remember being fascinated by it. She recorded it solely with a microphone on a laptop. There were no compressors or anything, it was just that laptop. I find that amazing that technology is such that you can create a number one record on a laptop. It’s pretty phenomenal.

AW: Anyone can do it at home. You find your limits. You find what works for you. It can help develop your sound. It’s hard to hone in on a sound when you have all the options of a recording studio. A good example of that is Bon Iver’s first album. He recorded it in the woods on his own, or so the legend goes.

What’s on the horizon for Oh Wonder? According to the electro-pop pair, they will be hitting the road. West elaborates on their 2016 plans saying, “We have lots of touring to do. From now until December of this year. A whole year of touring. We are coming back to the States five or six times. We are really excited to play a lot more shows and festivals. Amidst that, hopefully think about writing the next record.”

Home Theater

Spotify Wrapped reveals rad facts about your musical tastes and habits

The website may be a bit tough to find at first, but Spotify Wrapped tells you awesome facts about your year in listening. From how many minutes you spent jamming out to your top artists, and beyond, there's a lot to dig into.
Social Media

#ThrowbackThursday is only the start: Instagram hashtags for every day of the week

Not getting your hashtag fill with #ThrowbackThursday or #ManCrushMonday? Here's a list of some of the more popular Instagram hashtags, so you can outfit your next post with the proper tag, regardless of what day it is.
Movies & TV

'Prime'-time TV: Here are the best shows on Amazon Prime right now

There's more to Amazon Prime than free two-day shipping, including access to a number of phenomenal shows at no extra cost. To make the sifting easier, here are our favorite shows currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
Smart Home

Apple Music hits the Amazon Echo. Is the cold war over?

It's about time. Amazon and Apple seem to have called a truce as Amazon agrees to add Apple Music to an ever-growing line of streaming music services on its Echo smart speakers that includes competitors like Spotify.

Enthusiast alert: Get up to 67% off Polk Audio speakers at Adorama

Any time is a good time to upgrade your home theater sound system, which makes Adorama's Polk LSI Blowout Weekend Sale particularly tempting. Adorama has discounts up to 67 percent on Polk Audio's top-of-the-line LSiM Series for…
Home Theater

An acclaimed Apple analyst says the new AirPods are coming in 2019

Apple plans to release new AirPods much the same as it does new iPhones, and a wireless charging case, water resistance, and better Siri integration are among the improvements we can expect in future models.

You may soon be able to listen to your own songs on Spotify’s Android app

If you love Spotify's streaming, but also have a large collection of niche music, then it can be hard to marry your two passions. Thankfully, Spotify appears to be testing the ability to import local songs to its Android app.

Apple Music vs. Spotify: Which service is the streaming king?

Apple Music is giving Spotify a run for its money, but which service is best for you? In our Apple Music vs. Spotify showdown, we compare and contrast all we know about the two streaming music services.

The best free music download sites that are totally legal

Finding music that is both free and legal to download can be difficult. We've handpicked a selection of the best free music download sites for you to legally download your next favorite album.

Block out the sun and drown out the haters with Bose’s new AR sunglasses

Bose has announced its quirkiest listening device yet, a pair of headphone-integrated sunglasses that allow you to meander the brightest places with your favorite tunes in tow. Called the Frames, the glasses will sport 3.5 hours of battery.
Social Media

What do yodeling and Kylie Jenner have in common? YouTube’s top 2018 videos

In a true nod to the variety found on YouTube, the platform's top 10 list of videos from 2018 range from celebrities to sports, from perfectly tossing a picture frame on the wall to a kid yodeling in aisle 12 at Walmart.

From Paul McCartney to Mariah Carey, this is the best holiday music

Whether you're a fan of classic jazz standards or modern R&B masterpieces, there's something for everyone on our playlist of the best holiday music. Pour some eggnog and curl up by the fire, this one is sure to get you in the holiday…
Emerging Tech

Feast your eyes on the wildest, most elaborate Rube Goldberg machines ever built

Want to see something totally mesmerizing? Check out several of the best Rube Goldberg machines from across the internet, including one that serves cake and other that do ... nothing particularly useful.

The best new music this week: Josh Homme, Domo Genesis, and more

Are you looking for the best new music? Each week, we scour the internet to find the most compelling new releases just for you. On tap this week: Josh Homme, Domo Genesis, Eddie Palmieri, and Jacob Collier.