Josephine Vander Gucht, one half of Oh Wonder chats with Kevin Cooper about having to rapidly change the band’s name, her past experience at The Bodega here in Nottingham, the release of their self-titled debut album and their forthcoming tour of the UK.

Oh Wonder is a London-based pop duo, consisting of Josephine Vander Gucht and Anthony West. Both singer-songwriters, they initially released a song every month for a year on SoundCloud. Those songs now form their debut self-titled album, which was released earlier this year.

Whilst busy preparing for their tour of the UK later this year, Josephine found the time to have a chat with Kevin Cooper, and this is what she had to say.


Hi Josephine how are you?

I’m very well thank you Kevin, how are you?

I’m great thank you but more to the point how is life treating you?

Pretty exceptional to be honest with you Kevin. Anthony and I made the record in our house, in the studio at the end of our garden just over a year ago now. We were actually writing and releasing one song per month, and never did we ever anticipate that it would turn into live shows, and that it would culminate in a physical, tangible album which people all around the world are buying. It is simply phenomenal and we are both having the time of our lives. We started the project with absolutely no expectations whatsoever and we have just got back from playing four sell-out shows in Los Angeles and New York. So it is pretty marvellous and I cannot complain (laughter).

You have mentioned the fact that you were releasing a song per month, whose idea was that?

That was our idea; we just wanted to challenge ourselves. When we are recording and writing we don’t normally have a structure, time-lines or any routine unless you obviously work for someone else. We both really craved that sense of purpose I guess so for us we put these self-imposed deadlines into our creative schedule and wanted to see if we could write and record one song every four weeks and release it over the internet. It was simply a test of our own creativity I guess.

I have to ask you, where did the name Oh Wonder come from?

(Laughter) that was also our idea Kevin. We both love the word wonder. We are both very curious people; we feel that it is very important to be curious, and aspire to achieve things that are outside of your frame of reference.

I had heard that you actually started out as Wonder Wonder. What happened to that name?

(Laughter) just where do you get your information from Kevin (laughter). There is actually a funny story behind all of this. Yes you are right, we did actually start out as Wonder Wonder and a band with a similar sounding name who we didn’t know, didn’t like it and they tried to steal all of our money essentially (laughter). They issued us with a Cease and Desist letter for a quarter of a million dollars one night. So Anthony and I were dressed up as John Lennon and Yoko Ono for a Halloween party and we found ourselves with less than twelve hours in which to come up with a new name.

We were both just sitting in the car, still dressed as Lennon and Ono trying to come up with a new name. It was all very surreal (laughter). We came up with Wonder Wonder Wonder or Wonder Wonder Music, and then as is the case in all situations such as this, someone shouted out Oh Wonder and that was kind of it really. So that is how the name came about (laughter).

I have to tell you that I’ve been playing the album for a couple of days now and I think that it’s great. My favourite track at the minute is The Rain. I absolutely love it.

Really. That is such a curve ball Kevin as not many people like that track as much as they like the others on the album. I’m so glad that you like it. Thank you very much.

Are you pleased with how well the album has been received?

Hugely pleased Kevin. When we started out we didn’t even tell our family that we were embarking upon this project. We never thought that anybody would really listen to it or pick it up. So the fact that there are now millions of people around the world who are listening to it, buying it and enjoying it so much that we get a lot of emails informing us of just how much the people out there are enjoying it; well it is simply mind blowing. Also it is so nice that people are so connected to the music that they now want to come out and see us performing the songs live. It is just brilliant. We are hugely grateful and feel extremely blessed that so many people have connected with our album; it’s absolutely amazing.

And it is so nice to see that in this digital age you have also released the album on vinyl.

(Laughter) we sure did Kevin. Anthony and I are record collectors ourselves and that was one massive confirming moment for us when we held the vinyl album in our hands; an album that we had made, an album which we had done everything on, including designing the artwork. That was a really special moment for us which will last forever.

How does it feel knowing that your forthcoming tour is almost sold-out already?

Yes it is Kevin and the weird thing is that I don’t know how (laughter). The UK shows are all sold-out, as are the shows in the USA together with Australia; it is all very odd. I honestly can’t explain that, I have absolutely no idea as to the how and why, but it is and we are both very excited.

Are you looking forward to getting out on the road here in the UK?

We are so excited Kevin because obviously we have only played a couple of shows here in London because Anthony and I have also been working on individual projects where we have toured the UK relentlessly playing in pubs and crappy venues where there are around seven people in the audience (laughter) two of which are your parents (laughter). So we are well accustomed to the UK tour circuit (laughter). So for us to be playing cities that we absolutely love and these being cities that we have played in before, we are so excited to be going out there to do it properly. It will be so good to be playing to people who are actually in the room (laughter). It will be really nice.

So how did you and Anthony meet?

We met about four years ago through mutual friends and Anthony started producing my solo project. We slowly started working and writing together as we realised that we both had the same taste in bands together with the same outlook about music and song writing. We both fully respected the craft of song writing. We both fully appreciated just how difficult it is to write a really good song and that is really where Oh Wonder came from; a challenge of us both thinking can we write a song that is half decent.

I have read that your music can be described as electro-pop, electronic and R & B. How would you describe your music?

(Hysterical laughter) I guess we are fans of the purist song-writers; interesting melodies, catchy pop tunes, lyrics that have meaning and tell a story of some kind together with interesting arrangements I guess. To be honest Kevin it is hard to describe it. I would love to say that it aspires to be song-writing in its purist sense.

Who do you listen to?

Both Anthony and I love Joni Mitchell, Everything Everything and Billy Martin who is phenomenal. There is so much music that we both love to listen to Kevin.

Who would you say has been your biggest inspiration?

For both of us that would have to be Ben Gibbard from Death Cab For Cutie. Throughout his career he has only made good stuff which is not easy to do actually (laughter). You tend to get teased into other directions and as soon as other people get involved everybody wants to put their stamp onto what you are doing. However in our eyes Ben Gibbard has managed to stay pure and put out amazing music which spans decades. He is still doing his thing and doing it brilliantly.

What was the first record that you ever bought?

Oh no (laughter). Anthony has got the best one for this as mine is terrible (laughter). I am not even going to tell you mine as it is so terrible but Anthony’s is Gina G’s Ooh Aah… Just a Little Bit which he bought on a cassette tape (laughter). In fact we still have it, it’s up on a shelf in the studio (laughter).

Who did you first see performing live in concert?

Mine was Hard-Fi Kevin, who I saw at the London Astoria when I was about fourteen (laughter). I had never been to a gig and I went along to the Astoria and it was amazing. As a fourteen year old the whole experience felt insane; everyone was standing on my feet and I didn’t know what to do (laughter). I totally loved it Kevin, it was a real buzz.

What would you say has been the highlight of your career so far?

Playing these songs from the album live has been pretty special. We have been living with these songs for the past year and to be able to translate them into a live show is pretty much unparalleled I think. So I would have to say playing these songs live for sure.

I know that it is early days but are you looking forward to releasing a second album?

Hugely Kevin, hugely. Having said that we are going to be touring so much with the first album that we haven’t set aside the time for the two of us to begin writing, not as yet anyway. But we are both extremely excited by the thought of writing for the second album; we are itching to get started writing. Remember we have both been writing solidly for a year so the second album will be coming soon.

Where would you like to see yourselves in five years’ time?

We would love to still be making music, writing songs and playing them live to an audience. That would be great.

A little bird tells me that you have a story to tell about a rather unsavoury experience here in Nottingham. Is that right?

Just who has been telling you these things Kevin (laughter)? I have played in Nottingham just the once before and it was at The Bodega. This girl suddenly started pouring water all over me and my boyfriend at the time. I turned around and asked her to stop pouring water all over the two of us. She didn’t take any notice and simply started swearing at me (laughter). My boyfriend who was quite short bless him, told this massive girl to stop pouring water on us and she simply hit him on the nose. I then had to call the police and the ambulance in order to get his nose fixed (laughter).

So I have got fond memories of playing Nottingham and hopefully it is not going to be like that this time around (laughter).

On that note I will thank you for taking the time to speak to me and wish you all the very best with your forthcoming tour.

It’s been an absolute pleasure Kevin and thank you for your time. I hope to catch you later and bye for now.