UK native, Oscar Scheller (who goes simply by Oscar) delivered a fantastic performance at the Majestic in Detroit on Friday May 27th, 2016.
The vibrant 25 year old is the son of 1970’s band the Regents’ new wave front runners, and has embarked on a tour in support of his debut album, which premiered on May 13th. “Cut and Paste” is a solid reflection of a fellow influenced by many styles. Oscar combines creative riffs, catchy hooks, Brit-pop elements, synth layers, and hip hop beats (to name a few) into his wondrous collage of sound creation. Oscar’s deep baritone voice is a welcome change in the music world, a tone not heard too frequently these days. His upbeat pop sound seamlessly contrasts a melancholy hue, lyrics of longing, relationships, the smashing of phones (!), heartbreak, and happiness. “Cut and Paste” is a perfect soundtrack for a hazy summer, and is certain to keep listeners apt to dance!
Oscar started off the night at the Majestic with his opening half hour set. The evening also included MS MR and Bloc Party. He not only got the crowd dancing along to the beat, but his bandmates as well. The songwriter’s colorful presentation encompassed several tracks from his debut album. Oscar ended his stage stay with his single “Sometimes”, as the audience listened and clapped along intently.
Fresh off the stage from his performance, Oscar and I perused sidewalks outside of the venue, surrounded by the humid night air.
“It doesn’t get hot like this in the UK,” he told me. “Just a few times a year, and not this hot.”
His depth of compassion was evident as he stopped to engage in a conversation with a homeless man who had approached us, and even handed him a bit of cash. Oscar was lovely enough to explain some of his vast patch collection on his jacket (one that folks kept coming up and complimenting, I might add!).
After a stroll around the block, we sat down for a chat about his music-making progress, Andy Warhol, inspiration, and even his adorable dog.
Phoenixx Music Magazine (PMM): So you are from the UK. Welcome to Detroit city.
Oscar Scheller (OS): Thank you very much!
PMM: Have you noticed a difference in touring the states, versus touring abroad?
OS: Yes. The main difference is how well they treat artists here, and how enthusiastic audiences are. It’s not as enthusiastic in the UK. People still give it emotion and everything, but America’s just ready for a good time.
PMM: I happened upon some photos of your very cute dog, Jasper. Is he in good hands while you’re away, or did he tag along?
OS: You know what, he’s in very good hands. We share him, I’m pretty sure we were the first people to do a dog share. We share him with my mom’s hairdresser, and they love him to bits. They’re two gay guys, and they absolutely adore him, so he’s in very good hands. I miss him so much, and I WILL bring him on tour.
PMM: Do you find yourself constantly writing and creating music, or is it something that comes in waves?
OS: At the moment, it’s constant on the road. I guess because there are so many people that say that the second album is really difficult because they’re touring and they can’t work on the road and then they’re stuck, and when it comes to the second album they have to wait like two years, so I’m really aware of that. Also I just can’t stop doing stuff. I’m constantly creating. I’m always making stuff. But whether I use it or not…
PMM: It probably helps, too because you’re around other musicians and you just get inspired by them.
OS: Completely, yeah. Playing with Bloc Party has been amazing because I listened to them as a teenager, I went to their shows as a teenager, so that’s really inspiring.
PMM: Do you remember when you wrote your first song or composition?
OS: Yes. The first song that I wrote was when I was 13. It was on piano and it was a ballad. I’d listened to so much Alicia Keys, “Songs In A Minor”. I was obsessed with that album, so I started writing these piano ballads and really going for it with that. It think it was called “Suddenly” or something, and it was about finding a feeling that you’ve always wanted.
PMM: Your vibe reminds me a bit of Magnetic Fields, and I love it! An upbeat sound portraying sometimes sadness (though hopeful). Are there any artists that have predominantly impacted your style?
OS: Yeah. I love Magnetic Fields too. Radio Department, I don’t know if you know them, they’re a Swedish dream pop band. They’re really great, they’re really melancholic, but they have their own sound and it’s kind of lo-fi. I would say the Velvet Underground are one of my favorite bands because they have the bittersweet happy/sad contrast really well.
I think if music’s too sad it’s boring, if music’s too happy, it’s intolerable. You have to have the perfect middle ground. It’s being human. you can’t ever just be one thing.
PMM: Is that where your affinity for Andy Warhol came in, or was that separate?
OS: No. That was separate. That was totally visual, but then as I got older and went to art school, discovered more and more about Warhol. I realized how much of a genius he was, and just how much he predicted. The way the world is now is totally how he said it was.
PMM: He was such a master of the pop culture formula and giving people what they wanted.
OS: But in a very kind of cynical knowing way, but then also really naive as well. He was an amazing man.
PMM: I honestly don’t think I’ve ever heard a single artist meld so many different styles so wonderfully before – from some hip hop beats, incredible riffs, and great lyricism. You’ve created a mosaic all your own. Have you always had a clear direction of how you wanted your music to sound?
OS: Well thank you for saying all those things. You know it kind of started off being quite guitary and indie. That’s not me, and I couldn’t really stay to that. I was inspired by a lot of music. Growing up I was always listening to pop music and then R&B and hip hop before I listened to any guitar or indie music, so I’ve always had different inspirations. I studied classical music so that was in there as well. When it came to making my own music, it was very much I couldn’t just do one thing because I’d never listened to one thing. I guess I had an idea of what I didn’t want, and that was to be one thing.
PMM: Has your creative process changed since having access to a studio, and music-makers to collaborate with?
OS: No. Not at all. The writing process and the way that I think about producing music and making it by myself hasn’t changed. I’m still making demos, mostly just on the computer now, completely using software, just fleshing out songs, and it hasn’t changed. But I think what will change is going into the studio to record the songs.
PMM: I love the lyric, “I keep on breaking my phone after I’ve spoken to you”. I honestly think everyone can relate to that feeling. Is “Breaking My Phone” inspired by an actual mobile-demolishing event?
OS: Yes. I was about 16 and I remember I had a shiny Motorola flip phone. It was really cool actually, it was one of the ones where you could take a picture with the screen being closed, it was almost like one of the first selfie phones. I was speaking to my girlfriend at the time and she said something that really annoyed me and then I just shut the phone and threw it against the wall and smashed it, but I’m not a very aggressive person at all, I just had a moment.
PMM: This is a bit of an off the wall question, but you studied sculpture at St. Martin’s College. I can imagine it’s nice to get out of a contrived environment and able to do your own thing. Do you feel like fine arts and that background have in any way impacted the way you structure a song?
OS: Yes. It’s totally influenced the process of putting the music together because really I was inspired by appropriation, collages and the idea of creating a new context for something, giving it a new language, giving it a new image, and really that was kind of what made me want to be so experimental when it came to genres. Just being very brave about putting things together without being scared that it was going to be too much or whether it was going to work.
I think studying sculpture and studying fine art, a huge part of the discourse was creating new conversations with yourself and challenging yourself and that I’ll always be grateful for, because it made me fearless in a way to just be bold and make things.
PMM: It is very bold to be at that point and just present what you’ve created, and care less about what people think, or what people’s perception is going to be, and just more about getting it out there.
OS: I’m really led by sound. If I hear something and I like the sound of it, I don’t think about whether it’s cool or whether people are going to like that. That sound! I need to use that sound! Something in that sound, and it’s like a resonance, and it’s a really emotional thing. Sampling, the rawest version of sampling is just a reaction to a sound and a reaction to a specific point in music where you’re like, ‘I want to hear that again’, or ‘I want to use that’. I hear these hip hop beats, and I would just be like, ‘I need to do something with these. I need to write on some of them, or I need to use them somehow’. It’s a really basic, primitive feeling.
PMM: That actually makes me think of one of my favorite artists. Have you ever heard of a guy named BOOTS?
OS: Yeah, yeah!
PMM: He’s one of my heroes, and he has a collection of like 100,000 sounds and he goes back and uses them. There was a really interesting interview I saw…do you know who Run the Jewels are?
OS: Yes, they’re amazing.
PMM: I adore Run the Jewels. There’s a song of theirs called “Lie, Cheat, Steal”. EL-P was working on it and he said, ‘This chorus, it needs something more’. They were working with BOOTS, and he said, ‘I have something’, and he pulled out of his backpack this recording of these children in India, this children’s chorus in India. They cut it up and put it in the chorus.
OS: Oh my god, that’s so cool!
PMM: It made me think of that, just collecting sounds and getting inspired by specific sounds.
OS: Yeah, totally! I’ve done, not for this music, but I have side projects where I make ghetto house footwork and things like that. I was in New York one summer and I recorded these kids on the street in Harlem, and they were fighting with a guy in a corner shop and they had proper New York accents. I sampled it in a dance track. Field recording is amazing.
PMM: What are your goals for the future, and what’s next on the horizon?
OS: My goals for the future are just to keep building and becoming an artist that people trust that is a real person, has a real voice and spreads love and a good message.
And also be a cool popstar, be someone who matters in someone’s life. Just Have fun, make clothes.
The very talented Oscar’s tour has taken him overseas, with several stops in his homeland, as well as cities in Europe through October.
Find Oscar online:
Check out his catchy new video for “Sometimes: here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5B3gNCulbH0
Words/interview and photos by: Tiffany Cuthrell
BRONCHO will be opening for Cage The Elephant on May 7th At the masonic temple here in Detroit. The band will be previewing songs from their upcoming new album, “Double Vanity”, which will be released on May 27th. Their third LP has brought about winds of change for the Oklahoma natives.
BRONCHO, who have been rocking together since 2010, showcased their garage feeling pop/rock early punk jam (clearly inclusive) sound on their first two albums, “Can’t Get Past The Lips” and “Just Enough Hip To Be Woman”. Previous LPs earned them critical acclaim, while plays on HBO’s show “Girls” and some ads garnished attention. The raw feel of their debut has solidly transformed into a more layered, complex sound. Resonating vocals on tracks like 2013’s “Record Store” and the vastly popular catchy “Class Historian” seemed to foreshadow a sonic exploration to come.
It’s always a bold statement for a band to even slightly stray from the sound they are known for, possessing a fearlessness for expansion and experimentation. BRONCHO has taken their music in a new direction with this new album’s 11 song effort. The band recently released the album’s first single, “Fantasy Boys” in March.
While their rocking pop vibe is still solidly intact, the album finds the group sonically floating in more of a beautiful dream-like hypnotic haze (cue early Crocodiles and Crystal Stills throwback ambiance). Spacey far off fuzzy guitar effects pair wonderfully with reverberating vocals.
“Double Vanity” is lower-key, with a more relaxed feel than either of their previous releases. It touches on fun themes such as lady loving (cue “Jenny and Jenae”) with melodic choruses, while still ushering in a darker sonic shift.
Even with a slower feel, more uptempo tracks like “Speed Demon” and the very catchy “Señora Borealis” make for an appropriate balance that is easy to keep on repeat.
The album perfectly captures that mellow feel of a good time, as well as all of those high school 80’s cinematic classics. It feels like something out of that last slow dance scene, or that final confession of love us viewers have waited the entire movie to transpire.
The band will be embarking on their “Double Vanity” tour across the US from late May and all throughout June.
I caught up with BRONCHO’s Ryan Lindsey to ask some questions about the new album and upcoming tour:
Phoenixx Music Magazine (PMM): Let’s start at the beginning. Do you remember the point you got together and decided, let’s make music?
Ryan Lindsey (RL): We’d all been playing together in other bands for a while, so it was actually kind of just pretty natural. It just kind of happened.
PMM: It’s always wonderful when a band is unafraid to try new things, and veer in experimentative directions. Your sound has definitely evolved since your first two albums. Was there a specific instance or idea that prompted this change?
RL: No, not really. I think we all naturally like to keep moving in one way or another, whether it be actually physically or artistically so there was never really a conversation about what to do next after the last record. It was more like, let’s just make another record. That process is always one where it’s like everybody’s into seeing what happens, rather than having to necessarily have a specific plan or an idea of what to do. It’s just kind of let’s get together and see what happens.
PMM: They say life imitates art and vice versa. Is the album at all a reflection of a shift or growth in the way you’ve been living as a band, and as every day people?
RL: Yeah, I’m sure that that has something to do with it. I’m sure that our real lives creep into even the fantasy we’re trying to build around, the stuff that we create.
PMM: How have fans been reacting thus far to the new direction your music has taken?
RL: Usually pretty much everybody I’ve shown it to has either gotten mad or really gotten into it. I think it throws some people off. I think that it’s probably more different than we even realized ourselves from the last record, so I didn’t even ever think about somebody being thrown off that much by it.
PMM: Honestly, listening to the record right before this, there were a couple of songs that I was really able to hear a foreshadowing of this change. I wasn’t surprised when I revisited your whole catalog, but I’m sure so many people are just used to your older sound.
RL: Yeah. I’m glad that you see that because I kind of feel the same way. It’s been more of a gradual build to this place rather than just a complete left turn, but some people view it that way… and it kind of freaks them out, which is also kind of fun.
PMM: Of course, Speed Demon is one of those sort of cliche common terms… but I have to ask… Is it at all a nod to Michael Jackson’s “Bad” track?
RL: No it’s not, but I love Michael Jackson. We’re always trying to nod to him. It wasn’t specific to that track. We’d been talking about a song called “Speed Demon” for a while, and then it just came together. It’s kind of funny because we have several songs that are the same name as other more well-known songs like “Two Step” and “Soak Up The Sun”, so I think we’re open to anything.
PMM: Do you foresee sticking with this sound for a while, or just waiting to see which direction the music takes you?
RL: I guess I’m waiting to see what happens next. I like to be open-minded to any possibility in general and I definitely feel that way about music as well.
PMM: What can the crowd anticipate in terms of material on this upcoming tour? Are you planning to mainly spotlight tracks from “Double Vanity”, or will there be some older material as well?
RL: I think we’re gonna try to play everything. As long as people feel like hanging around, we’ll keep playing.
PMM: Is there anything that you have, or would like to have in the works? Basically, what can we expect next from BRONCHO?
RL: We’re really just working on playing these songs live, that’s what we have planned. And…we just wanna stay alive, you know?
Review and interview by: Tiffany Cuthrell
Legendary pre-punk rockers, Rocket From The Tombs are coming to Pontiac’s Pike Room on December 2nd! Rocket’s genesis came in 1974 in Cleveland, and the band subsequently disbanded after less than a year rocking with the classic lineup. Their mark on music was a profound one, despite their short existence – with members branching off down their own creative avenues, and coming back together in 2003 for a US tour. Their music has been covered by the likes of Pearl Jam and Guns ‘N Roses, with their song “Sonic Reducer” being widely hailed as a punk staple. Rocket From The Tombs released their latest LP, “Black Record” on November 13th, 2015, and will be subsequently hitting the road in support starting December 1st in Chicago.
Lead singer, David Thomas was kind enough to answer some questions about the band, new record, and what’s ahead:
Phoenixx Music Magazine (PMM): First and foremost, “Black Record” is incredible. Are you anxious to get back on the road and play this music for fans?
David Thomas (DM): I don’t have an anxious personality. I hope to look back on the tour with a sense of accomplishment. That’s about as far as it goes. I know I’m supposed to feed you the line about how great it is to play your town and how wonderful it will be to get in front of the fans, blah blah. The only thing I care about is being the most brutal and uncompromising rock band you’ve ever experienced. I will drive myself and my band mates mercilessly to achieve that. But I am frankly uninterested in the audience. They are there simply to observe us driving ourselves to achieve that experience. If that’s not worth the price of a ticket…
PMM: What can the crowd expect this tour in terms of material from you guys, or would you prefer for us to wait and see?
DT: I posted the set list on the RFTT Facebook page. Basically it covers the history of the band with an emphasis on the new album, a sample of the ‘Barfly’ album and a ‘hits’ package of things from 1975.
PMM: On “Black Record”, you released a new version of “Sonic Reducer”. A version, I must say, that absolutely slays and rocks harder than ever. What prompted a different recording of the song?
DT: Well, it’s MY first recording of it, if you think about it. I wrote the song with Cheetah, as you know, but I never got to record it the way I thought it should be recorded, how I intended it to be sung. I have a vague notion of doing the same with ‘So Cold’ because I love that song and I’d like to get it to tape as it should be. It might have been the first song I wrote, though I suspect maybe ‘Tokyo’ came first. It was certainly the first song that made me think maybe I had a grip on being able to write in a certain way.
PMM: The new record features contributions by members from fellow Cleveland band, This Moment In Black History. What sparked the collaboration? It sounds like it’s been a while in the making.
DT: TMIBH are fans of Pere Ubu. They even kicked around the idea of doing an Ubu covers project at one point, I’m told. So we’ve had a mutual admiration thing going for some time. As I considered the consequences of the globalization of Pere Ubu (2-3 members, depending, are British), I considered ways of ameliorating that effect. I had intended the experiment for Pere Ubu but the RFTT project was next in line so I went with it. The idea was to replicate the experience of the Cle scene of the 70s in which you felt the eyes of your rivals on you at all times. That feeling helps focus the mind. We gave them demo tapes all along the process as the songs were being composed and then on the last day of tracking we had them come in and told them to do what they wanted. It was intense. I wish we had filmed it.
PMM: I very much love the thought-provoking line, “Buy me a ticket to a sonic reduction, guitars gonna sound like a nuclear destruction”. It paints a very profound, yet abstract picture.
You’ve mentioned, in other words, that the resolution-seeking “Final Solution” is very much in the same vein as Blue Cheer’s version of “Summertime Blues”.
Are there any other songs or musicians that really stand out that have had an impact on you on an inspirational level?
DT: Everything I’ve heard – good, bad, indifferent. As simple as that sounds, that’s the truth. Rock music is a folk music, which means there is a continuum stretching back not just to Elvis (or whoever). I will often write songs in response to what someone else has done or as a continuation or correction, or re-evaluation. Sometimes it’s obvious, sometimes not.
PMM: Was there a distinctive moment you remember, and would care to share that you decided to make music?
DT: Some time in 1974, maybe late 1973, I was interviewing Jim Dandy of Black Oak Arkansas when I realized as an epiphany that I didn’t care what his answers might be, that I didn’t want or need to know anything he had to say. I thought to myself, ‘If I’m so smart, I oughta do this myself.’ [Please note this is no criticism of Jim Dandy. He was undoubtedly a fine fellow – he just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.]
PMM: There’s a lyric in “Butcherhouse 4” that says, “All is clean, and alles klar”. A German phrase I probably caught from taking the language from too long! Do you speak any other languages, and have there been any cultures that have inspired the way you make music?
DT: I took French for many years but was never any good at it because I never had a real chance to use it. I wrote a song once in French for the sheer hell of it. I’m no good on this business of what is an influence. Of course it’s an influence. It all is.
PMM: Also, could you say whether or not the title was even loosely Vonnegut derived?
DT: Of course.
PMM: Additionally, are there any novels or authors that have inspired your work?
PMM: Do you know what’s next for the band? Or are you just looking ahead to the upcoming tour?
DT: We will tour again later next year more extensively. At some point we will think about another album. I have shot some interview footage for a documentary someone wants to do. Usual procedures.
Be sure to catch Rocket From The Tombs at the Pike Room in Pontiac on December 2nd!
Review and interview by: Tiffany Cuthrell