Oh Wonder are pleased to announce new details of their second album,Ultralife, set to release on June 16 through Island Records/Universal Music Canada. Watch here
The album was predominantly recorded at the band’s home studio in London, England and self-produced by the duo. Last week Oh Wonder released the second track from the record ‘Lifetimes’ and this week they unveiled the video for the lead single ‘Ultralife’. The video was shot on location in LA with director Daniel Uribe. Uribe previously worked alongside the band on the video for ‘Without You’ from their debut record.
Ultralife is both Oh Wonder’s extraordinary second album and their debut proper. Its self-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.”
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.
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 homestudio, where they had to work around Transport For London 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 head to the US in April to play a series of West Coast shows around their two slots at Coachella.