THERE are so many different sides to London…
which is perfectly reflected in the musicians there. Woolwich’s Ooberfuse have been tipped by the likes of Boy George and have a sound unlike few others – warmth and iciness are mixed together in an exceptionally evocative blend. I talk to Hal and Cherie about their new tracks, On My Knees and Greater Love – and what their forthcoming album, The Odd Ones, holds. They reveal what it has been like playing venues like Bush Hall and Ministry of Sound and how they are promoting British music abroad – and the countries they will be visiting. Ooberfuse look ahead and what we can expect; the new artist they both agree we should all check out. They provide some helpful advice for any upcoming songwriters.
Hi guys, how are you? How have your weeks been?
We’ve been very busy this week preparing for our sets for later on this week – The Great Escape Festival Alt. Stage (18 May); One2 Arts Festival in Hackney (20 May) and a gig in The AlleyCat in Denmark Street (21 May).
For those new to your work, can you introduce yourself, please?
We are a songwriting duo – Hal St John and Cherrie Anderson – from Woolwich, London called Ooberfuse. We try to write songs and deliver them through powerful, emotional and heartfelt vocals combined with East-meets-West Electronic music.
The Odd Ones is your upcoming album. What can you tell me about it and the kind of themes explored?
We are often described as ‘quirky’, ‘eccentric’; ‘unusual’, ‘original’ and ‘odd’ – so we thought we’d highlight these aspects of our music. It’s about not quite fitting in and being ok with that. It’s about being true to who you really are even if that sometimes means being misunderstood, ridiculed or isolated.
On My Knees is a single from the album but Greater Love has just been shared online. What is the inspiration behind each single and will you be releasing further cuts from the album?
On My Knees is a song about times in life when you feel like you have nowhere to go; nothing to say except to (just) fall on your knees.
The music video was shot in the slums of Metro Manila and depicts he emotional impact of a brutal war on the poor – as experienced by a vulnerable and impressionable child.
After a police operation on illegal drugs (leaves suspected drug users and/or dealers dead), families and communities are left to pick up the pieces and deal with their trauma. The video shows a young girl haunted by happy memories of time spent with her father; days before he was gunned down during one of these police operations. Filled with a sense of loss and turmoil that her young heart cannot articulate; she attempts to recreate her last happy memory with her father the only way she knows how.
Greater Love describes that one, last moment of intimacy before a final parting; yet hopefully hints of a future, better love. It seeks to encapsulate that feeling of loss and resignation; coupled with hope and a bit of anticipation for the future.
Yes, we are planning to release further cuts from the album later this year!
I know you have said you colour-up drab sides of life. Do you think more artists should take this approach? Is there too little vibrancy in modern music?
Well, there seems to be a tendency for many artists to adopt a formulaic approach and process to writing music.
Sometimes that produces good stuff, but more often, we end up hearing pretty bland songs that are full of clichés.
Having said that, there are a lot of great artists and bands out there doing their own unique thing now more than ever.
The likes of Boy George and (‘6 Music’s) Tom Robinson have celebrated your music. What is it like getting attention from those people?
It’s very nice when acclaimed artists and music critics nod in our direction but our primary target is for our music to connect with ‘The Odd Ones’ – the forgotten ones; the voices in society not often heard. Whenever anyone connects with our music in a real way, we feel encouraged to continue our musical journey.
Hal and Cherie. How did you guys get together in the first place and what was it about one another that led to the musical partnership?
It’s very rare to find anyone who shares your musical vision and understanding of the power and potential of music. When we met in Woolwich, a few years ago, it was clear we both had the same hopes and expectations from the creation of music. We haven’t looked back since!
Ooberfuse is based out of Woolwich. What is the music like there compared with other parts of London?
We like to think it’s representative of the community in Woolwich – celebrating diversity; full of passion and energy!
You have played some fantastic venues around London – including Bush Hall and Ministry of Sound. Which ranks as the most memorable and how important is the capital to you?
London’s home to some of the world’s best music venues and also to many incredible artists – so playing in London and being part of the music community means a lot to us.
Bush Hall was particularly memorable because of the amazing reaction from the audience that night!
Indeed, you guys have played all around the world. Are there any international tour dates confirmed for this year and is there a city/country you have always wanted to play?
Earlier this year we did some concerts in Manila, Philippines and we also went to Mumbai, India – as part of an official U.K. mission to promote British music there. Later this year, we will be going to Japan, Taiwan and South Korea. We hope to be able to play in Bhutan, Mongolia and Iceland one day!
Talk to me about your sound. It has an eeriness, beauty and ice-chill. It is very rare to hear such a blend. Is that combination enforced by your music tastes at all? Who are the artists you grew up listening to?
Thank you for your kind words about our music!
Yes, our music is influenced by all the artists we like. WE dig deep for inspiration for every song and that journey takes us to places rarely visited. So we are connecting with forgotten feelings and vanishing worlds. We always respected songwriters like Ed Sheeran, Eminem and M.I.A.
I know Ooberfuse are an ambitious duo. Do you think as far ahead as next year? What are you hoping to achieve in the coming year-or-so?
Our plans for the future are determined by our inspirations and musical creations.
We have an idea of the next twelve months because we have just done our album.
So, this involves getting our album, The Odd Ones, out there as much as possible. Beyond that, we have not sketched out a plan yet.
Can you each reveal the one album that means the most to you and why?
U2 – The Joshua Tree
It’s a rare moment when we agree on something but we both love this album – there’s an integrity, a sincerity and a deep spirituality in that album – every song connects you with things that are real.
Who are the new/upcoming artists you advise we keep an eye out for this year at all?
The Japanese House – we’re a big fan of her music.
What advice would you give to any new artists starting out right now?
Cherrie: Never ever give up!
Hal: Sometimes the hardest thing is being true to your sound.
The temptation is to sound like the latest thing on the radio or to copy the ‘coolest’ sound of the moment. Don’t be afraid of staying true to your own sound.
Finally, and for being good sports, you can name a song and I’ll play it here (not one of yours as I’ll do that)
The Japanese House – Face Like Thunder