Back Row Left-Right: Tyson Mcvey, Sarah Bonito, Oscar, Tyson, Alice D, Mae Muller Front Row Left-Right: GIRLI, Ashnikko

london musician oscar scheller is making feelings a priority

He's making big sounds with cool friends and challenging the status quo about mental health while he’s at it.

by Russell Dean Stone; photos by Alessandro Merlo
27 June 2018, 2:13pm

Back Row Left-Right: Tyson Mcvey, Sarah Bonito, Oscar, Tyson, Alice D, Mae Muller Front Row Left-Right: GIRLI, Ashnikko

The sun is shining hard on London’s Portobello Road and, as is British tradition, everyone’s complaining about it being too hot. It genuinely looks like the hyper-colour, all good version of London from Lily Allen’s LDN video, at least until I see Oscar heading towards me chucking a banana peel under a white van. Excessively tall and with a voice that is way too deep for its own good -- he gives the best hugs this side of Bond Street.

One-man-band Oscar arrived in 2016 with his debut album Cut and Paste (Wichita Recordings), making a name for himself as a purveyor of millennial Britpop with a taste for sporting Disney merch. Two years down the line and he’s grown into a different artist. “I’m more grown up, more self-assured in what I’m doing now. It feels good. It feels like the right time to release music again,” says the 27-year-old.

After heavily touring Cut and Paste and with a lot of “personal shit going down”, Oscar felt disillusioned with the music business and was struggling with self-doubt. “I was thinking maybe I’m not supposed to do this music thing, I should just be writing songs for people because that’s what I really enjoy and seem to do naturally,” says Oscar, “I really fell out of love with and lost a lot of confidence with being an artist, if I’m honest. There’s so much against you. The industry doesn’t really know what’s going to happen next, so everyone’s just hedging their bets on nothing really. So I was like, okay, I’m gonna take some time out and deal with my own stuff; practice self-love and confidence. I found a really good therapist. I’ve grown up a lot.”

Ashnikko, Sarah Bonito and Oscar

Mental health, and men’s mental health issues in particular, are topics Oscar is keen to talk about, having personally been affected by both depression and suicide. “It’s really important to be talking about real shit,” he says. “Put it in a nice tuneful song, sure, but at the end of the day, this is what we’re talking about.” Oscar says he’s hyped to see things changing culturally, with openly queer artists being celebrated and, as a Towie fan, he loves the way Mark and Arg are always talking about how they feel and crying in front of each other on the show. ”I’m like that with my guy friends,” Oscar offers. “We’re all very, very open with each other about how we’re feeling.”

It was through opening up and collaborating with other artists, songwriters and producers that Oscar got his musical mojo back. Although he’d always invested a lot of time working with other artists across genres on their music (he was Mabel’s first ever collaborator), Oscar had never worked with other people in writing sessions for his own work. So he headed to Berlin, New York and LA to work on songs with people, before winding up in Margate with Michael Lovett (who plays with both Metronomy and Christine and the Queens).

Mae Muller and Oscar

Oscar’s new music is definitely not coming at you in the form of a typical second album, instead he’s throwing conventional expectations out the window (something his label initially freaked out about but now support) to do things his own way. “I don’t think of myself as an album artist, I never have. I made an album because that’s what I was asked to do,” explains Oscar. “It didn’t really represent my own process. It’s not how music happens now. Fuck that, I’m doing it on my own terms.” So, you can expect random singles, mixtapes, EPs and Oscar leaking his own material.

This time around he’s switching from singleplayer to multiplayer mode and enlisting the help of his mates, who are basically a roll call of new school Brit talent, including Tyson McVey, Alice D, Mae Muller, GIRLI, Ashnikko, Shura and Sarah Bonito of Kero Kero Bonito on 1UP, the project’s bombastic video game-referencing first track about self-love. You know Oscar is a top notch human being by the company he keeps. “It’s not like I said I want to make a crazy collaborative record,” laughs Oscar. “It just kind of happened. I’m trying to surround myself and work with people who are really real and who know how to express themselves. Every song has someone on it. It’s just nice not being alone. It’s a very lonely world and if you can do it with someone else, why wouldn’t you?”

Where Cut and Paste hinted at Oscar’s pic ’n’ mix approach to music making, dropping hints at dancehall and calypso among the prevalent indie guitar sounds, now he’s ditching the guitars completely in favour of synths and drum machines. "I’ve moved on, I have different cells in my body, I’m not going to be making Britpop-tinged music for the rest of my life," he says. “I still love those songs, I stand by them. I’m not going to reject anything, it’s still me, it’s part of me, it would be weird to say that it isn’t.” Oscar describes his new sound as his own unique version of pop music. “There’s too much emphasis on style and genre of music. The first album was pretty much a collage approach to guitar music and a reflection of my teenage interests. That doesn’t mean I want to express myself like that now; artists don’t do the same thing over and over, they evolve. I’m slowly trying to introduce every side of myself through music.”

It’s less about this being a total Oscar reinvention than it is showing everyone the real Oscar that’s been there all along. “I want every song to be a hit, that’s how it is in my brain,” Oscar says, before professing that Mark Ronson is his idol and the blueprint for how he’d like to see his career unfold as a solo artist and songwriter. “That’s my MO. I want what I do to be idiosyncratic, that’s what I’ve been working towards. You have to be your own biggest fan and it took me a long time to realise that.”

Before we step back out into the blinding sunshine, Oscar says with all of his heart (and there’s a lot of it): “I’m not gonna ever be put in a box, that’s not gonna happen, I’m gonna do everything I can to stay boxless.” Tell the world he’s alright!

Cut and Paste
oscar scheller