Oscar Lang Harnesses the Power of Solitude on New LP

by | Jan 20, 2021 | Interviews and Features

Oscar Lang is no stranger to solitude. A haunting sense of ennui and a gripping feeling of loneliness feature prominently in his work, particularly in his early albums.

Even so, going through his prolific catalog, one quickly notices a ubiquitous spirit of perseverance and self-reliance, and the emerging portrait of a young artist possessed of a keen ability for introspection. Raised in the southwest London neighborhood of Hackney, the twenty-year-old songwriter has been recording music since the age of sixteen, releasing six albums in the last two years. His seventh EP, Antidote to Being Bored, is out December 4th on Dirty Hit Records.

The son of a successful TV-show writer, Lange grew up in a household with a strong musical background. As a young man, his father shared a band with Fatboy Slim, and from an early age, his mother instilled in him a deep appreciation for genres as varied as pop and disco. “I think that my earliest musical memory must be from around 4 or 5. I used to sing little jingles about eating pasta,” he tells me over the phone. Affected much like the rest of us by the global pandemic, Lang nevertheless remains hopeful, his optimism driven by a natural tendency to get lost in his work and an ability to abundantly produce content no matter the circumstances.

Racking up almost 950,000 monthly listeners on Spotify and counting the likes of Beabadoobee and JAWNY as collaborators, Lang’s career appears to be on a steady upwards trajectory. We spoke with Lang about his songwriting process, the way his music has developed over the last two years, his plans for when touring resumes, and any tips for young and aspiring musicians.

You self-released your first two EPs. Both share a DIY lo-fi quality, and feature lush vocals, warm instrumentation, and twangy guitars. They also showcase a commendable degree of introspection, as they differ in sound and approach. Teenage Hurt is grounded in folk-isms and is mostly acoustic, while Silk follows traditional rock aesthetics and features a fuller sound. How far apart did you write and record these albums? And what was your guiding principle in terms of songwriting?

Well, they were actually written quite a decent amount of time apart. Teenage Hurt was written in the latter half of 2017 while I was quite unhappy at my secondary school. I went to an all-boys Catholic school, and at that time there was this sort of amalgamation of all that I had been feeling for the past five or six years, and I was at quite a low point, which is why it sounds kind of soft and hurt. That’s why I called the album Teenage Hurt.  I knew that these were not problems that I was going to have for the rest of my life.

I actually ended up leaving that school, and that’s around the time that I started working on Silk, and I think that you can kind of see it. There’s a change in my mood. To be fair, that was never meant to be an album. It started off as an EP but I just kept working on all these songs and eventually said, ‘Alright, let’s do an album.’

How much does your hometown influence the music that you write?

I think it’s fair to say that it really does influence it. In the winter, you’re walking home from school at 3:30 and it’s dark already. You go to school and it’s dark, and you come back from school and it’s dark, and that’s not a pleasant environment to be in, especially when you’re not feeling well. It can spiral you down, so it does influence me. Also, a lot of the earlier stuff was written in my room, and there’s a vulnerability to that, and I think that’s why Teenage Hurt sounds so vulnerable and honest, it’s kind of like writing a diary.

Beabadoobee makes a cameo in Silk on “Speed Dial.” How did you come to work together, and what was that process like?

It’s actually really weird because B was actually a fan of my music originally. Someone I went to school with told B about me, and at the time B had no music out. She was kind of famous on Instagram. She had around 15,000 followers so I followed her back. You gotta think at the time I had 300 followers so 15,000 was insane. We started talking, she was into Mac Demarco and started talking about how she wanted to record music, and so the same mixer that Teenage Hurt was recorded on we recorded “Coffee” on. We recorded “Coffee” and her first EP live. We did her next EP Patched Up together and started this little partnership.

Is producing other artists something you’re interested in?

Yeah, so I took a little break from it this year cause I really wanted to concentrate on my music. There was a big gap between some of my EPs, and I didn’t wanna have big gaps in music anymore. Producing other people was stressing me out and felt like a lot of pressure so I took a break. But now that I’ve finished my album, I’ve started working with other people again.

To Whom It May Concern is the third EP you released in 2018. How do you view this album in relation to the first two? Was this your last self-produced album?

That album came about in a similar way as Teenage Hurt, where it felt like my life was getting bad again. At the same time, leading up to it I had met my girlfriend. So I was writing all these songs about falling in love. I’ve always liked pop and orchestral music, and music that uses Mellotron, so that helped too.

That was my last self-released album. I was working with Dirty Hit because we were doing Patched Up with B. A couple of months later, B tells me that they might be thinking about signing me. Because I was partly her manager, I’d gotten to know the Dirty Hit team and was really friendly with them. So that was the last thing I self-released, but I continue to self-produce.

Bops, etc, released last year, marks a departure from that contemplative early sound and pivots towards a rock-forward retro-conscious style. What prompted that change?

It was kind of a weird and confusing time. I was getting a lot of flak from my dad because I was set to take the biggest exam you’re supposed to take here, the A-levels. I recorded in May and my A-levels were at the end of May. I had lost all interest in education once I got signed. I saw this as the one thing I always wanted to do. I spent a lot of time and nights with my mates working on the record in this little room in the Dirty Hit Studios till 3 am. That was a lot of fun.

Can you tell me a bit about the music scene where you’re from? Is it a friendly or competitive environment?

I think it is quite competitive in the U.K., just because there’s so much music that comes out of this little island. We went on a tour, The Dirty Hit Tour in December [2019] that was 22 dates, which was something insane. And that was kinda like my dream to go on a big tour. It was great. It’s weird thinking about early gigs, cause we’d play gigs when we’d go onstage and have backing tracks on my phone, and I’d have to pause it between songs so I could change it.

How much have you learned in the last year since you’ve been on Dirty Hit not only about writing but also about recording?

I’ve learned so much. Having access to a big studio…it’s shaped the way my songs have evolved. I’ve always wanted to make music like the music I make now, I just didn’t know how to do it and didn’t have the resources. Now, having access to these studios and working with producers, it’s helped me visualize the ideas I have and I can go, ‘Yeah, that’s what I wanna do, let’s do it.’

This brings us to your newest EP, Antidote to Being Bored. How long were you working on it, and how much did the pandemic influence the writing process?

[It] was written in quarantine, so that definitely had an effect on how I wrote. I’ve been trying to concentrate more on my lyrical ability. I wanted to sit down with this EP and tell some interesting stories and continue the sound and evolve it further. I wanted to push through each sentence no matter how long it takes me until I got something where I’m like, ‘Wow, that’s actually really nice.’


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Do you feel more at home with yourself in this album?

Oh, 100 percent. I really feel like I found a sound I’m happy with and that feels both original but also inspired by all the things that I loved growing up. I really feel that I’ve found my voice and progressed as a songwriter.

What was it like recording during lockdown?

After so long not seeing my band, just to get in a room with them and also with my producer and engineer, it really felt like a break from lockdown. This was necessary work that we had to do as a band cause it wasn’t something that we could do anywhere else, so we were allowed to get into a room together being Covid-safe and stuff. So it was a huge relief after sitting at home for so long. Especially because we’ve been recording in Liverpool, and that’s one of my favorite cities in the U.K. I got to be away for about 22 days and we were recording stuff every day, so it was really fun.

The pandemic has obviously thrown a wrench into everyone’s plans, and for artists like yourself, that means having to put touring on pause. What are your plans for when touring resumes?

I think we might be looking at a couple of things for April and May [2021]. We’ve got a couple of festivals booked in for May, but of course, we’ve gotta keep our fingers crossed that everything goes alright and this really goes away. We just wanna play shows. We missed out so much on playing shows, and we’re just excited to play all of this music live.


Do you have any advice for any aspiring artists?

I know so many people that struggle to release stuff because they build up this anticipation of ‘I want my first release to be perfect’. Just release it. Even if it’s shit, at least people know they’re doing stuff. Get your music out there. Don’t think too much about it, and just have fun with it. Don’t just upload music cause you’re trying to achieve something, upload music because you love it.

**Photos by Lewis Evans