Vinilo Record Store Presents - Oscar Lang - Chew The Scenery Live Album Instore
*Guarantee entry with purchase
Date: 15 August 2021
Location: Vinilo Record Store, Pokesdown, Bournemouth.
Pre Order Released 13/08/21
Oscar Lang likes to think of his music as a series of diary entries covering landmark moments in his young life. Having first emerged in 2018 with a trio of EPs, To Whom It May Concern, Silk and Teenage Hurt, Lang showcased a mixture of giddy indie pop with lovestruck romanticism with a maturity belying his tender years. As both a producer and artist he was a driving force behind the nascent bedroom-pop sound, joining collaborators including Beabadoobee, Alfie Templeman and Girl In Red as part of a group of viral artists soundtracking teenage adventures across the globe while rarely travelling outside their home postcodes. This energy helped score Oscar a deal with Dirty Hit Records and 2019 brought with it a new EP titled Bops etc. His sound was growing and maturing in real time, taking in scuzzy indie rock dynamics, psychedelic flourishes, and even orchestral grandiosity along the way. Throughout his rapid rise Oscar remained in total control, a one-man band writing, recording, and producing everything himself.
Debut album Chew The Scenery is a step-up for an artist whose musical ambitions have always been bigger than his humble DIY beginnings. By synthesising his love of bedroom pop, lo-fi indie rock, and Beach Boys-esque orchestral harmonies into one package it’s both his most cohesive project to date and also his most ambitious. Lyrically, meanwhile, Oscar writes about growing pains, love, romance, best friends and the pitfalls of social media on our collective mental health. 21st Century Hobby opens the album and sees Oscar tackling “fake friends” “new trends” and the endless scroll head-on. Oscar wonders aloud if we ever really know what is going on behind the perfectly curated Instagram posts and videos amid a haze of psych-pop guitars. “You can spend two hours on Instagram and walk away and not have learned anything,” Oscar laughs now. “You know social media is bad for you but I used to think I was intelligent enough to not let it affect me. Now I know that no matter how conscious you are of that fact, it will always get you eventually.” Elsewhere on the album, songs including Stuck and Final Call also touch on the period Oscar was feeling unsure of himself while Take Time Out and Yeah carry that same reflective mindset and apply it to his relationship with his partner of two years. “I think part of growing up is learning to accept my own faults more and be more willing to admit when I fucked up,” he says. “The whole point of Take Time Out is, like, ‘tell me I'm wrong so I can be better for you.’”
Elsewhere on the album Oscar stretches his storytelling muscles, creating characters for songs like Quarter Past Nine, Could Swear and Headphones. Stuck, meanwhile, brings things back to the personal. “Stuck is all about the voices in my head. Just me expressing what it’s like when all those thoughts and feelings come rushing at you.” The song, a stomping garage rock banger, culminates with Oscar’s screamed vocals layered up into a texture designed to feel like an overwhelming rush of emotions.
For such a confident debut it’s perhaps surprising to discover that Oscar found himself struggling for the first time as he prepared to make it. “All my music had been about these big moments in my life like finishing my GCSEs or getting my first girlfriend,” Oscar explains of a period in which his ambition was outrunning his experience. As time progressed he wanted to marry his slice of life storytelling with bolder and more ambitious sounds but, as a self-taught musician and producer, he found his skillset only carried him so far. Add to this the daunting task of writing from an adult perspective with none of the life to back it up and Oscar was in a tough spot. “Initially, when you’re 17 and making all this music yourself there’s a novelty to it but all of a sudden that was over and I was just one of the billions of artists out there,” he says of this existential crisis.
Oscar says he has long used music as a form of therapy, often becoming more prolific when times have been tough. It was what made his early issues with the album such a unique experience for him. “It's actually kind of weird,” he says looking back. “I have a bit of a craving for it. Like, I'll be really sad and I'll just go quiet and need to go play music. It's kind of like a double edged sword. I'm not feeling great, but I'm also being so productive and making loads of music.” Mental health is a subject Oscar often writes about, whether directly or indirectly in his music. It’s a subject he feels deeply about, having lost his mother to suicide as a young child. “Watching people struggle with their mental health is a long-running thing in my family,” he explains, “but I always felt invincible to it. I had to grow up quickly and always felt like it was my job to look after those around me.”
This embrace of feelings above all else is Oscar’s guiding light. Though he lost his mother when he was just seven, Oscar’s love of music comes in no small part due to her. A musician herself who embarked on a short-lived pop career in the 1980s, she was the one who gifted Oscar his first piano - the same one that can be heard on his earliest recordings, including debut single She Likes Another Boy. “Thinking about her always spurred me on with music,” he says. “She always really encouraged me and made me take piano lessons. I like to think you let your parents live through you. And that the best thing to do is not grieve them, but give them a good life. I’m living the life she wanted for us both, and that’s really cool.”
Isolated and working alone on new music that wasn’t coming together, however, showed Oscar that he wasn’t as untouchable as he once thought. “That's when it really hit me hard and I thought, ‘OK I can see where this has come from. This is in my genes and it’s an undeniable part of me.”
Fighting for inspiration in his music for the first time, Oscar took the big decision to loosen his grip a little and begin working with a co-producer for his album sessions. It wasn’t an easy decision for a young auteurist but one he felt necessary in order to move forwards. “I wanted to impress people,” he says of his early interest in doing it all. “I was inspired by people like Mac DeMarco and Kevin Parker, so to me it was strange to not be making everything myself.” Enter Rich Turvey, a Liverpool-based producer whose work includes indie mainstays The Coral, Courteeners, and Blossoms. He and Oscar first worked together on 2020 EPs Hand Over Your Head and Antidote before reuniting to craft a full-length album together. Oscar traveled to Liverpool for the sessions, playing the same piano Coldplay once used at Parr Street Studio and hunkering down at the nearby Elevator Studios to craft his debut album. “I always count my blessings when I'm in a studio,” Oscar explains. “If you told 16-year-old Oscar he'd be sitting in a huge studio and playing the piano Coldplay wrote Fix You on he'd flip his shit. I always have to remember that every time i'm going through shit that this is my job and the thing I love most in the world.”