Photography: Bella Howard
Since dropping a series of lo-fi crackly singles in 2015, twenty-five-year-old Oscar Scheller has been watched eagerly by fans and critics alike. Going simply by his first name, Oscar, the Londoner has frequented many a “ones to watch” and “hot new sounds” list. However, he’s also delivered the goods to back up the hype.
Last year, the singer released his debut album, Cut and Paste. The record is a vibrant mixture of both previously released and new recordings. With simple beats and upbeat hooks, it is only the offsetting of the tracks by Oscar’s brooding baritone that prevents them from being categorised as pop. It is this contrast that has seen Oscar’s work be compared to Morrissey's, and other similarly 'miserablist' artists. Yet, however you want to describe his music, Oscar’s breakthrough album succeeded not just in retaining the loyalty of those who had followed him since his unsigned laptop music producing days. Cut and Paste also brought Oscar to the attention of new fans. A hugely successful tour kicked off in the latter part of 2016, which is only now drawing to a close.
While taking a break from his hectic schedule in Berlin, we chat to Oscar about his debut album, his future plans and the whole experience of touring.
Paige Tracey: So, you’re currently staying in Berlin. How is it, and what are you doing there?
Oscar: Berlin is wicked! My best friend moved out here around a year ago and he’s got a studio. He’s got loads of really cool equipment over here, so we’ve both been producing tracks for my next record. So, really, I’ve come over to Berlin to begin working on my next album – though I’ll also be flying over to LA soon to do some more recording.
PT: When can we hope to hear this new record?
Oscar: I’ll be dropping a track in the next two months or so, and I’m hoping that I’ll be releasing the full album towards the end of this year.
PT: How does it compare to your first album, Cut and Paste?
Oscar: All I’d say is that it’s a lot more direct. I feel like it’s a lot more connected with the real world than Cut and Paste was. Believe it or not, I wrote a lot of the songs on Cut and Paste when I was a teenager. I’ve lived with those songs for a long time! Some songs remained the same from when I first wrote them; I didn’t want to change them too much from their original composition. I wrote 'Fifteen' when I was fifteen and now I’m twenty-five. A lot happens in that space of time. Therefore, many songs on Cut and Paste come from a time when I was a lot more naïve and idealistic. So, this new record is one that I really want to make in the context of what I’m doing now.
PT: Wow, fifteen-years-old! So, in a sense, Cut and Paste was ten years in the making...
Oscar: Sort of! [The new album] is definitely going to be different from my first; it’s from a whole different energy and mindset. That being said, I think that there are some philosophical elements from the first album that are retained, such as my use of sampling, which is a medium that I have always been playing around with. I would say that while the sound is different to Cut and Paste, the sentiment is similar. I would never ever want to make the same thing twice – I think, as an artist, that’s the biggest insult to yourself. I get really frustrated with artists that don’t try new things and don’t move on; it's lazy! I want to be an artist that constantly finds out more about themselves in every new record, and is constantly challenging themselves.
PT: Can we expect the new record to be darker, considering this new energy and mindset?
Oscar: [Laughing] No, I wouldn’t say that. I guess you could say the themes will be less romantic than Cut and Paste, but it's still very early days for me to say too much about such details. Rather than 'darker,' I think it will just be far more grown up.
"I would never ever want to make the same thing twice – I think, as an artist, that’s the biggest insult to yourself"
PT: Any idea on a name for the record yet?
Oscar: No, I haven’t got that far! To be honest, I always choose the name pretty close to the end of the production. It doesn’t feel right to name it at the start; I feel it doesn’t do the record justice. I prefer to wait for that moment to come.
PT: What experiences have you picked up from releasing your first album and touring?
Oscar: Well, it’s all been so much fun. Touring has been my favourite part, in being able to watch all of my fans come together. Sometimes it gets harder than you expect; you can be having a bad day, but you still have to go out there and perform to the audience. However, that’s what it takes to be a true artist – to, above all, deliver to your fans. I kind of took on a responsibility to give them the performance that they deserve and to hopefully make their day brighter. Once on stage, I love every second of every show. Touring can make you up and down emotionally, but music heals.
PT: Your fans can get pretty feral during your gigs too, can't they? You've got some devoted fans out there!
Oscar: I guess it’s a cliché to say how amazing it is to hear your fans singing your lyrics back to you... However, it really is such a surreal and brilliant experience. With so much technology these days, you can stream live music, so people don't have to go to my shows – yet they still do! It’s because of that shared, almost tribal experience we all get from music. My music connects me with people I don’t even know, and brings people who don’t know each other together too. That’s my favourite part. And it's all down to the way I can make certain molecules sound when they come out of a speaker. It’s so chemical and innate, when you think about it. To be able to make a connection in that way is such a special thing.
PT: Girli supported you on tour, didn't she! Can you tell us more about her?
Oscar: Girli is one of my best friends. We always have the best time together. She’s a really powerful artist, and I think she will go on to be a real voice for her generation. She’s very politically engaged, incredibly intelligent and she has such a way with words, almost like Mike Skinner. The idiosyncrasies of adolescence are spoken about in such a poignant and fresh way in her music. I’d love to tour with her again.
PT: Did Girli's more hip-hop orientated tunes affect the flow of your shows at all?
Oscar: Even though our music is different, me and Girli are so similar as people that we worked really well together when touring. We are both from the same area and school and, as a result, we’re both cut from the same cloth. We have a real 'don’t give a fuck' attitude to life, so we are really not as different as people think – even though her music may be more political and cynical. Our energies work really well together.
"My music connects me with people I don’t even know, and brings people who don’t know each other together too – and it's all down to the way I can make certain molecules sound when they come out of a speaker. It’s so chemical and innate. It's such a special thing."
PT: You recently did some promotional work with the clothing brand, Lazy Oaf. How did the opportunity come about?
Oscar: I’ve always been interested in style and fashion since I was a young boy. Therefore, it was a dream come true to be recognised by a clothing label whom I so greatly admire. Both of our visions met in the middle, on their Disney range of clothing. I’m hoping to do some more work with them in the future, actually. I make my own clothes, and always have done. So, a collaboration is possibly on the cards!
PT: You’ve said previously that you like to have visual control over your albums, in terms of artwork and promotion. Is that still the case?
Oscar: Yes, absolutely. Visual and musical art both come from the same place for me. I’m an 'artist' in many senses of the word. At the end of an album, I see the full work of art as being the music and the visuals combined. I take it all incredibly seriously. I should definitely be designing the album artwork for my next record, just like I did with Cut and Paste – though this time around, I’m hoping to be doing something more interesting.
PT: Has there been anything, in your experience of fame so far that you haven’t enjoyed as much?
Oscar: I feel like my voice has been really misinterpreted by some aspects of the industry – in particular by music journalists. I’ve been called 'deadpan' and 'monotone' – a lot of things which I feel are very negative. The baritone voice which I have isn’t very common in the music industry right now, so it’s my mission to get my voice represented and heard in the way I want to be heard. I feel like some commentators have thought that because I have a lower voice, that my music must be depressing; they’ve been too lazy to dig any deeper into my music. Music is just an academic appraisal for them, despite the fact that they’ve never made any themselves. The lesson, for me, is to care less about what music journalists say, and to focus more on what my fans and I like!
Follow Oscar on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter
Follow Cool Brother on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter