Oscar, photography by Sean Carpenter
Meet Oscar Scheller, shortened to Oscar. The surname Scheller originally derives from the German word ‘schel’, meaning ‘noisy’ or ‘loud’. It’s an apt name considering Oscar’s incredibly rich baritone voice which seizes your attention from the get-go. However, the words ‘loud’ and ‘noisy’ are somewhat crass, which Oscar’s music definitely isn’t. Instead it’s subtle and refined, melodic and endearing.
London born and bred, Oscar succeeds an infallible canon of songwriting social commentators who sought inspiration from the capital’s mazed streets, from Damon Albarn to M.I.A., T.V. Smith to Elvis Costello. The young musician’s London charm forms the framework of his sound – it’s a sharp amalgamation of the city’s music culture, where quirky Britpop lyrics sit beside jangly lo-fi guitars, production veering from South London’s sparse specialists The XX to breakbeats borrowed from East End rap. It may sound like an odd recipe, but Oscar skilfully handpicks genre characterises and blends them together with charming panache.
A lazy Morrissey comparison frequently rears its head in articles about Oscar. It all boils down to the mordancy in his tone and the melancholy in his words. However, this guy’s music differs from the Morrissey framework in that it has a much lighter, summery feel and a right-now edge. It was once said that Morrissey provided the voice to Manchester’s rain. In this case, Oscar is the voiceover for those hazy post-night out London night bus journeys which inevitably end in a recent calls list exclusive to your ex’s name.
Oscar’s debut single, Never Told You sees Oscar at his romantic best, pining for a lost love. ‘I never told you, how much i want you / But you can take if you try / If you ask me to’, he croons with longing swoon. However this melancholy subject matter isn’t played out over the stereotypical accompanying acoustic guitar, or 808s. Instead, the ballad is played over a dance break beat, (sampled from Eric B. & Rakim’s 1987 Paid In Full) all bouncy hi-hats and quick paced beat. The potentially disparate genres collimate to form a perfectly modernist ode to unrequited love.
Alex James Taylor: For some reason, from listening to your music I imagine your pretty impressive dancer. Am I right?
Oscar Scheller: Haha, well if you must know when I was 8 years old i choreographed a whole dance routine to B’Witched C’est La Vie with five girl backing dancers so I do have a history in dance! I used to do it at every school show. There’s nothing better than just dancing the night away either.
AT: I’m also guessing that you have quite an eclectic music taste – partially due to looking through the videos on your Tumblr…
OS: Yeah, very eclectic. I think if you collect records then that’s sort of the whole point. Coming from a classical background gives you a solid appreciation of elements within all genres and so the more the merrier. I’m always saddened by a closed mind.
AT: You record and produce all your own music right? How have you learnt those skills?
OS: That’s right. I had a few good mentors along the way who saw something through the chaos and shambolic state of the demos. I had all these ideas and didn’t know how to properly document them, so like any hobby, I just kept at it. I often think the magic and alchemy is in the recording process. Seeing the song come to life is really cool.
AT: You’re into a lot of 70s Punk; Buzzcocks, Dentists, Johnny Thunders etc. Is this partially where your DIY ethos comes from?
OS: I do have a huge soft spot for punk, and I suppose my mum was a punk and still is, so that seeped through to me in ways. I just love the can-do attitude and the freedom that the DIY ethos obtains. Also, the fact we live in the digital age makes a DIY attitude inevitable. If it’s there, use it.
AT: Where’s the mohawk, leather jacket and safety pinned clothes? Is that still to come…
OS: Haha! Don’t think I’ll rock that look anytime soon. Haven’t been out in Camden for a good few years.
Oscar, photographer Sean Carpenter
AT: I read that you went to Central Saint Martins, what did you study there?
OS: I studied Fine Art. It was very conceptual. I had a love-hate relationship with it and ultimately it was great because it was the catalyst for my late night recording sessions. I spent three years honing the craft of music and so it motivated me to be a different kind of artist.
AT: And you’re a London boy, is the city a big influence for you?
OS: Huge! I do think London is the greatest city. There is so much to make me inspired here. Just walking down the street you see twenty things that you could muse on, or that spark an interesting thought. This city has a certain magic that no other does. A rich history too.
AT: How do you translate your songs live? Do you have a band?
OS: Live, it’s noisier, and more fun. I do have a band and they’re like my brothers!!
AT: You’ve just released your debut single, Never Told You, the subject matter is quite self explanatory. Are you an old romantic at heart?
OS: I am such a hopeless romantic. I used to be very nostalgic and I suppose in some ways I always will be. I think of my self as an old soul, y’know?
AT: Is the video for Never Told You filmed in your flat? If so, you have quite an impressive vinyl collection on show.
OS: It is my humble abode. Thank you! My shelves are literally caving in.
AT: Do you have an absolute favourite record?
OS: An absolute favourite. That’s such a difficult question. My go to record would have to be The Velvet Underground and Nico. It’s timeless and it’s a journey.
AT: So what’s on Oscar’s calendar?
OS: Plans are to play more fun shows, make people smile and dance, hopefully release an album next year, and just keep on doing it until I’m the best!
Oscar plays tonight, Friday 3rd October, with Fake Laugh and Soph Nathan at KPH, 139 Ladbroke Grove, London W10 6HJ