London-based electronic, synth-pop duo, Oh Wonder, are today thrilled to announce the details of their second album. Ultralife is set to be released on the 16th June, 2017 through Dew Process / UMA. They have also announced an exclusive run of Australian sideshows to their appearance at Splendour In the Grass 2017.
Ultralife was predominantly recorded at the band’s own home studio in London, and self-produced by the duo. The first single ‘Ultralife’ was released last week and has already racked up over 2 million streams online. The band is also today very pleased to share a second track from the record, ‘Lifetimes’.
In an era in which pop careers require careful planning, Oh Wonder are 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.
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 London-based Josephine Vander Gucht and Anthony West into reluctant pop stars. Now their first album is fast approaching half a billion streams – a happy accident indeed.
“We’ve never pushed this project,” says Josephine. “It has always felt like it’s pulling us along. We initially put our songs on Soundcloud hoping to pitch them to other artists. What happened next surprised us as much as anyone. Almost from the moment we began, we felt a connection with fans.”
Three months in to 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, ending up crossing the States several times, finding fans as far afield as South America, Australia, Russia and Asia. It culminated in 162 shows in 14 months across 112 cities, and a mighty 83,000 tickets sold. A connection.
The perennial underdog might just be about to become the odds-on favourite. 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.
Rather than rely on computers, Ultralife boasts lots of live instrumentation, including drums and bass, as well as Anthony’s collection of analogue synths, which are central to the songs’ warm, sensual sound. Some of the album, including the strings, was recorded at The Pool in Bermondsey, but most of it was made in the pair’s home studio, where they had to work around TFL’s bus timetable.
“Our studio is on a busy main road, on the corner of two bus routes,” explains Anthony. “Whenever we’d start recording, another bus would go by. We couldn’t do vocals before 10pm.”
“But some buses do sneak in,” reveals Josephine. “The album opens with a bus, an ode to the fact that the entire album was compromised by London transport. There’s also a police siren from New York, where we had the same problem with traffic.
“We could have made our lives easier by going to a studio with soundproofing, but that isn’t us. Our lives are in these songs and it didn’t feel fair to leave the night buses out.”
Oh Wonder return to Australia for the second time this July. They will be appearing at Splendour In The Grass for what is sure to be one of the standout sets of the festival, and then will play sideshows in Sydney and Melbourne. Their last Australian shows sold out in rapid time, so make sure you get in quick to get your tickets!
OH WONDER 2017 AUSTRALIAN TOUR
Visit secretsounds.com/sideshows/splendour for details
Sun 23 July – Splendour In The Grass
Mon 24 July – Metro Theatre, Sydney
Wed 26 July – 170 Russell, Melbourne
Pre-sale: 9am Tue 11 April – 8am Wed 12 April Local Time
General Public On-sale: 9am Wed 12 April Local Time