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