ATYPICAL SOUNDS sat down with the extremely well-dressed and exceedingly well-spoken musician, had a nice chat, and enjoyed 20 short minutes of relaxation before having to get up and continue being awesome.
OS: We’ve got some nice salsa music going on.
This is actually infinitely better than the music they usually play in this front area. You just came from SXSW. Did you fly in yesterday?
OS: Yeah, we left Austin at about 5:00 in the morning, and we got in to New York at about 2 in the afternoon.
That was me this morning.
OS: Did you just come from there?
OS: How do you feel?
How do you feel? Probably about the same.
OS: Yesterday was tough. I’m glad we didn’t play a show yesterday.
I don’t know how bands tour. How do you do it?
OS: With a lot of passion.
You did two official SXSW shows, did you do any others?
OS: We did one at the college dorm we were staying at on Pearl St., and then we did one for Culture Collide at Container Bar, which was really fun. We did one for Urban Outfitters, and we did one for Music for Listeners, which is a blog run by a radio station. We did six altogether.
Did you have any interesting experiences?
OS: There were a few people who knew the words for a lot of the songs, which is always really cool to see. At the last show we did, which was for Urban Outfitters, my pedalboard just stopped working, one of my guitar leads just died on me. It was really sad, but then I was like, “I can’t freak out, I’ve just got to keep playing.”, and eventually I just had to go straight in to the amp with the lead and it was ok.
I know the pedals are what make the guitar sound, you know, good.
OS: I know, otherwise it’s so dry.
What did you think of the weather in Austin? First it was oppressively hot, and then it was cold and nasty the rest of the week.
OS: It kind of reminded me of being home in London. Although London’s not ever that hot, the weather is so changeable. So it felt a bit more like home, but with more barbecued food and craziness.
You’re touring with Bloc Party in May and June throughout the U.S. That’s going to be fun, right?
OS: It’ll be really fun. We did three shows with them in Europe, and they went really well. They’re great guys and girls, and I think it’s going to be great. It’s great playing for a big audience like that because it’s such a thrill.
And your album will be out by then as well. I have it now, because I know people…like your PR manager…who sent me your album.
OS: Hey, check you.
One thing that stood out to me about your SXSW profile is it makes a point of mentioning how you “studied sculpture at Saint Martin’s”. Other musicians from London I’ve spoken to sort of roll their eyes at Britpop because it’s not really cool there anymore, which is sad because I’m a big Pulp fan.
OS: Yeah, me too.
Is Britpop something that has influenced you at all?
OS: I think part of the background to my upbringing was all kicking off when I was a young ‘un. So it definitely would’ve soaked in somewhere and I listened equally to Oasis and to Blur as a kid. And then I got really into Britpop, and rediscovered it when I had more of an idea of what music was. Britpop was such a great moment for British culture and music, it was really exciting to see independently made music in the charts, I don’t think that would happen again. It was music made by people who had real character and a real message.
What led you to study sculpture?
OS: I went to like, 7 or 8 different schools. I ended up at a school which focused on art a lot, the arts really. So I was trained in a way to think about creation and education like that. And so I ended up applying for art school because it was the next logical step for me. I didn’t want to do music school because I was worried that it would kill the mystery and the romance of making music, and so I wanted to stay a little bit naïve. Which I think I did. So then I went to art school and I studied everything. It was a degree, so it was sculpture, drawing, painting. I tried it all out to see what was going on and what would work for me. I actually ended up doing lots of sound art; installation and sound sculpting if you had to give it a name. It just brought me straight back to music, which I had been studying and playing since I was six years old.
Is there anything you’d like people to know about your debut album before it’s released in May?
OS: I guess just to expect a variety of music that’s not all one style. It’s kind of like looking inside my head and seeing how many different things are going on, and how many different moods and cultures and genres there are going on inside my head.
Which song do you like performing the best?
OS: I love to perform “Sometimes”, because I get to jump around and be stupid. I also equally love to perform “Stay”, which was on the EP, because that one is the most emotional in the set.
Was it your idea to do a music video for “Sometimes”? So few musicians are doing music videos anymore.
OS: It kind of throws it back to the Britpop thing, because the 90’s promo was pretty fun and exciting. It really put the focus on something that wasn’t all about the audio. I think it’s nice to give someone something to look at as well as listen to. It wasn’t my idea to do the music video, but it was kind of a given since we had a single coming out.
[gestures to Oscar’s Yankees jacket]
Do you follow baseball?
OS: No. I do not, but I do love the iconography, and I like the fashion of it.
I also noticed you wear a lot of Mickey Mouse stuff. Is that something that has significance to you?
OS: I just like playing around with pop culture iconography. I think it’s like pop art; it’s fun, and it’s instant, it’s a good time. The first video game I played (which I wasn’t supposed to play, I wasn’t allowed video games growing up), but when my mom and dad split up, my dad had a Playstation, so I would secretly play that. And I played Steamboat Willie, so maybe there’s some deep connection there. There are some things you need to remember and hold dear.
What are your favorite places in London to listen to music?
OS: That’s a good question. I think on the bus and the train are really good places to listen to music. Often, if I’m halfway between finishing a track or making a demo, I’ll stop and go for a walk or go see a friend, and use that journey to passively listen to something, because it does change the context of everything and makes you realize, “Oh, maybe I should change the key of it, or it needs to be faster”. So I think transport is good, public transport. I also think listening to music in the park is really nice, because it’s sunny (it never is). And at home in my bedroom is probably my favorite place, because you can listen to it loud. And maybe dance around a bit. Or a lot.
Are there any venues or club nights you like? Where should I go when I’m in London?
OS: Village Underground is great. It’s quite a big one, it’s like 800-900 capacity, that’s really good. If you’re looking for a dive bar vibe, then somewhere like Moth Club or the 100 Club is pretty good. The Lexington is a nice one too, if you want to drink and they have really good gigs upstairs.
Do you have any last words before going onstage tonight?
OS: Blimey. I don’t think so.
Don’t trip when you go up the stairs to get onto the stage.
OS: Don’t do that, enjoy yourself, not that I have to tell myself that because it’s always so much fun.