London-based multi-instrumentalist Oscar Lang’s creativity knows no bounds.
Aged just 20, the emerging talent has just dropped his third EP, collaborated with a host of breakthrough indie acts, and evolved from a DIY, bedroom pop dreamer to recording with producer Rich Turvey and a full band at Liverpool’s historic Parr Street Studios.
His new EP Hand Over Your Head, out now, is a tour de force of styles ranging from lo-fi slacker pop to scuzzy psychedelia as Oscar channels influences ranging from Mac DeMarco to Tame Impala.
It’s already his third EP release, following on from Overthunk, released earlier this year, and his 2019 debut bops etc.
He’s also signed to Dirty Hit, the forward-thinking label that’s home to The 1975 and 2020 breakthrough artist Beabadoobee, who is also Oscar’s friend and collaborator.
On Dirty Hit, Oscar told Daily Star Online: “They’re like a family. A collective group of creatives. They’re so supportive with ideas.”
Oscar’s interest in music started early. He would immerse himself in a CD of his mum’s favourite songs shortly after she passed away before falling in love with digital music creating programs GarageBand and Logic.
He evolved from uploading covers on YouTube to the thrilling new artist he is today, with praise from the likes of Annie Mac and Huw Stephens behind him.
And in his own words: “I’m living the dream at the minute, straight out of school and into a full-time music career.”
Oscar Lang is your new pop rock hero in the making.
Daily Star Online’s Rory McKeown caught up with him to talk about his career so far, his influences, being signed to Dirty Hit, and what we can expect next.
Hi Oscar. How have the past few months been for you? How’ve you navigated lockdown?
“It’s been alright for me. I’ve always been writing songs in my bedroom since the start. When they said you’re going to be locked in your bedroom for the next few months, I was like ‘oh well, I’ve been doing that for years’. It was fine at the start.
“Now the main thing is I just really miss playing live. Especially as the new stuff we recorded after being inspired by live shows, it’s so live-centric and ready to be played to an audience. It’s a bit sad that we can’t. I’ve been writing a lot at home.”
You’ve released your EP Hand Over Your Head. What was its recording and writing process like compared to you previous releases?
“All my previous releases were entirely self produced. It got to the point where I did my last EP and I didn’t know how to create stuff that had the live sound because I’ve been creating bedroom music for so many years.
“Bedroom music has so many limitations because of the fact it’s recorded in the bedroom and most of the instruments are going to be recorded through a little interface into my laptop. This was legit studio, recording everything through amps.
“I worked with Rich Turvey, who produced the Blossoms record. We went in for a session and I was unsure because I didn’t know what it was like to work with a producer. On the first session, we recorded Apple Juice in three or four hours. The demo sounds exactly the same as the final cut. All we did was re-record a vocal of the final.
“It was really good to be working with a producer and jump ideas back and forth, and to co-produce, and to not worry about the sound like I normally was trying to make it sound nice.”
Will you take what you’ve learned from these sessions going forward? Is this something you want to do looking ahead?
“100%. For me, producing, I love all aspects of music and I want to get good at all of them. To watch a producer who’s been doing it for 10 years, and learn different things has been really useful. Hopefully in the future I want to be going back to completely produce my own stuff but for now the relationship between me and Rich, we just absolutely fire out songs and bangers.”
There are a lot of influences in there. You have the grungy Apple Juice while Drinking Wine evokes memories of rousing Brit pop, then there’s the scuzzy psychedelia of I Feel Good. Do you enjoy dipping into these different styles?
“If you look at the different styles of my music, it’s changed so much. I just love so much music and there are so many different things that I enjoy and create. It’s really hard to tell myself I have to stick to one exact sound.
“A lot of the stuff has been influenced sub-consciously. I didn’t set out to record a grungy, 90s sort of thing. It ended up being that way. It’s really weird. There was Beck, a band called The Babe Rainbow, a little bit of Tame Impala in there, some psychedelic stuff. There’s all sorts in there.”
You worked with Rich Turvey on co-production duties. What did he bring to the table? Did he allow you to just go for it?
“Luckily in my career so far, all the people I’ve worked with have been very accommodating to what I do creatively.
“My label, Dirty Hit, are just so hands off. Deliver us the music and we’re happy, as long as it’s there. On my first session with Rich, I was quite concerned with using a producer – I wasn’t sure how it was going to go.
“I spoke to my manager and said ‘Rich is amazing. He’s like me in 10-15 years.’ We’ve got the same personality. My manager told me that Rich had rung him and said ‘he was like a younger version of me!’. We think in the same way so it’s really useful to have a second brain there that’s basically mine.
“I went through quite a lot of stress making the last EP, that’s why I called it Overthunk. The whole thing took a while and it was stressful. To go in with this project and be so relieved, there are so many ideas and creativity. It was really exciting.”
You mentioned you’re signed to Dirty Hit. They’re really at the heart of new music and talent right now. What’s the partnership like and how supportive are they?
“I met Dirty Hit way back in the day with Bea (Beabadoobe). I worked with her on all of her old stuff. At the time I was her temporary manager. I went into the meetings with Bea. I met them for the first time. They knew me for a while.
“After a while I heard from Bea that they wanted to sign me. The next minute I’m signed to them. It’s weird because I don’t know the experience from other labels but what I’ve been told from different people that it’s a totally different environment.
“Dirty Hit just works differently. They’re like a family. A collective group of creatives. They’re so supportive with ideas.
“Rich was telling me about people he’s worked with there A&R guys come into the sessions and say ‘you should change that guitar or vocal’, which to me sounds ridiculous. With Dirty Hit they’re like ‘give us the music and we’re happy’.
“It’s the reason why I signed to them. I did Patched Up with Bea. I got that experience that they’re supportive back then. It was good.”
Music has been a big part of your life since you were young. How did you progress to the artist you are today?
“It’s a weird progression. Music has always been a huge part of my life. My mum, she was a huge music fan. The stereo was always playing while she was cooking.
“One of the first bands I really remember listening to was The Feeling. That’s weirdly, self-consciously influenced by music taste. It’s given me a love for Beatles-y, singer-songwriter stuff. She passed away in 2007 and after that my dad gave me a CD of all of her favourite songs. I used to listen to that all the time. It meant as a kid I didn’t just listen to Capital Radio, which I did love.
“I loved pop music and Capital. But it meant I was listening to these obscure songs from the 70s and 80s that I wouldn’t listen to normally through my mum’s old songs.
“It’s been a weird journey. I’ve been playing piano since I was eight or nine. Some of the instruments I learned I would do some lessons but then teach myself. I’d teach myself with covers then I’d have a YouTube channel where I’d upload covers, which didn’t make me very popular at my secondary school. It’s all experience.
“That was a key part to understanding how to record. I fell in love with GarageBand and Logic, the software I use. I started to use them to record. All those years of experience of YouTube videos and covering Coldplay influenced me that in 2015 I used that to start a I project. I started off as Pig and now I’m Oscar Lang.”
What’s it been like evolving to a bedroom producer to working with a live band? Was it a strange feeling at the beginning or did it just feel right?
“In my mind it feels right. I’ve always wanted to do music as my career and it’s always been my goal. I’m living the dream at the minute, straight out of school and into a full-time music career.
“Sometimes I have to pinch myself when I’m in studios and I think ‘if you’d told Oscar three years ago that he’d be recording in a studio’, just the concept of being in a studio was amazing to me at the time. I have to let myself know to appreciate it.
“We’ve been recording in Parr Street studios in Liverpool. It’s where Coldplay recorded Fix You and Clocks. When I’m in that big room I just pinch myself that I’m recording here for a week. It’s crazy. I’m living the dream, baby!”
It’s an exciting period for new music and you’ve collaborated with the likes of Sports Team, Girl in Red and Alfie Templeman. What’s it like being a part of such a movement? Are there any other contemporaries impressing you?
“It’s a weird one because when we first got started, when me and Bea started to get recognise, and people sending emails saying ‘can we get in there?’, people would say they’d loved this movement we’d started. What movement? It was me and my mate making music and somehow this has become a movement.
“It’s weird how I’ve managed to collaborate with so many exciting artists, and artists I’m excited about. There’s loads of potential there. I’ve been really lucky that I’ve worked with these people. They don’t feel like musicians, they’re just my mates!”
Who were you main influences – either musically or personally?
“If you look at my playlist, I listen to music in a weird way. I’d add music to a playlist where I’d get to 3,000 songs and just shuffle it. I have such a wide range of music that I listen to.
“I listen to a lot of indie. What really got me into making music as a project was Mac DeMarco and Tame Impala and Connan Mockasin, they’re all huge influences in getting me into indie music, and that’s why I started recording.
“In my live performance I think Mac DeMarco is a heavy inspiration. I went to see him live when I was 15-16. I thought this guy was so hilarious and it was just so fun going to see him. He inspires me a lot.
“I have so many different phases of music. When I was younger I was into the stuff my mum gave me and Capital FM on a Saturday morning.
“As I grew up I had my edgy 14-year-old Nirvana stage where I love grunge and was angry all the time. I got into indie music.
“It’s a weird eclectic bunch of music I listen to. Indie music is where my heart lies.”
What’s next for Oscar Lang? Looking ahead, what do you want to do?
“I want to continue to evolve my sound and to keep it moving. I don’t want to stand in one place too long. My music changes so much, especially this new EP. It’s a big change.
“I want to make more live-sounding things more upbeat things. The real key for me is getting as much music as possible out there.”
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Oscar Lang’s Hand Over Your Head EP is out now via Dirty Hit