Performance Date: Saturday July 21
In an era in which pop careers require careful planning, Oh Wonder are an anomaly. They're a band formed by accident not design, a duo who didn't intend to play live but spent more than a year touring the world, and a major label act who never saw this being anything other than a DIY project.
Ultralife is both Oh Wonder's extraordinary second album and their debut proper. Its eponymously-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.
"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. We had both put out music before, but never had such a rapid response. We were anonymous at the time. Not even our friends knew what we were doing."
Classically-trained pianist and violinist Josephine was about to begin a career in law when she met Anthony, a producer and former member of a rock band, in a south London studio. He offered to produce some of her songs, but the moment they started working together, something clicked. Or as Anthony recalls it, "stars collided."
His background in arranging and production -- no less than the legendary Gil Norton had advised him to become a producer -- complimented her classical training and songwriting skills. Their voices in unison were spellbinding. They were better at writing lyrics together than they had been apart.
Three months in to their song-a-month challenge, they had established an international audience who were attentively awaiting new music on the first of each month. As their success snowballed, labels came calling, but they refused to sign. By the time some of their songs had racked up tens of millions of plays, the pair finally conceded that they were a band.