If Hype had a gravitational centre, Dork is currently sitting at a picnic bench right in the middle of it. In a busy suburban car park in South London, it is right here that Dirty Hit, the label of That Band, plus That Other Band (like you didn’t already know that, Dear Readers), is working hard with the next wave of superstars that will sweep us all away. Joining us for a quick smoke and water break during extensive recording sessions at the studio that lies within is Oscar Lang, the 19-year-old that has already broken through the buzz barrier with his bouncy bedroom pop bops.
Over a series of EPs, Oscar’s keen eye (or is it ear) for a beautiful melody and catchy hook has had us giddy from the beginning. From the lo-fi Elliott Smith-esque’ Teenage Hurt’, through the woozy ‘Silk’ to this year’s ‘Bops Etc.’, he’s shown that he is a master of marrying eccentricity and weirdness with irresistible bangers. What he’s got cooking up inside is one reason for his addition to 2020’s Hype List, but just as big a reason to be excited is his personality. Grinning throughout our chat, to say he laughs a lot is one of the understatements of the century. As warm and charming off-stage as he is on, it seems like he’s got it all. 2020 could be his for the taking.
“Sick! I made it on the list, I’m a finalist!” Just the reaction we hoped for to be honest, though his face changes when we point out some of 2019’s Hype List. “Sam Fender? Holy shit. No pressure then…” In truth though, Oscar doesn’t seem to be fazed by any pressure, however. Surrounded by friends both in his band and on the label, life seems good. Even The Boss treats him well. “I don’t get emails from Matty,” he giggles. “That would be far too formal. He does send me DMs though,” he teases. “But seriously, the Dirty Hit family is all really close. It’s crazy how much has happened just in the last year.”
That closeness and sense of chill have given Oscar time to produce the exact kind of music that he loves. And after a series of progressive leaps, he is shifting palettes again. “I’m going away from that lo-fi pop that I’ve been doing for a while, which is good because I’ve always wanted to do more, I just never really knew how to – but now finally I get to do it. The new stuff is WAY more interesting to me.”
Giving us a sneaky listen to one new track, it’s striking how different what we hear today is from his recent work. Influenced by the Beatles and guitar pop that followed, it is easy to hear similarities with its jangly guitar rhythm and chorus that, we kid you not, can’t be shaken from our ears after just one listen. It is quite frankly a huge leap forward. “My style has always just gone crazy from the start. I don’t like to be tied down to one style, I find it too boring, and it’s just not what I do” he elaborates, “I spend all my time just making different types of music. I’ve got a whole EP full of dance and grime tracks that I’ve done. It’s just the way I like to make music, that’s why it has changed so much over time.”
Describing his latest work as “a mix of love songs and then some songs about myself”, it seems that Oscar is happier working more on his own this time around. Previously collaborating with the likes of Alfie Templeman, beabadoobee and Johnny Utah, this time it is more just about him and his own band. “I love collaborating with people, it’s how I started. It’s so much nicer to have someone because a lot of the time, I won’t know the next bit and be ready to give up.” This next release may not have the same sort of link-ups, but there is no doubt that those friendships are still driving on a fresh new wave of indie-pop talent. Today, Oscar is as passionate talking about what his friends are creating as he is about his own music. “The new bea EP is insane. I’m excited for more Alfie music, too. It’s weird because people always say, ‘oh yeah, they’re all part of this new wave’, but to me, it doesn’t seem like it. It’s just me and my friends making music, we didn’t try to start anything meaningful, but it’s happening. It’s crazy to be a part of it.”
With reverberations of Billie Eilish’s massive Reading crowd still shaking through the pop world, it’s another reminder that some of the best pop music today is being created in bedrooms. “It’s crazy how people who never had a voice before can suddenly find someone [for them]. A 17-year-old can make a track in their bedroom, it can blow up all over the internet, and suddenly their face is on a Times Square billboard.”
With his 2019 highlights including his Gus Dapperton support slot, (“Jumping from 30 people in the crowd to 1,000 was INSANE”) as well as opening for Pale Waves (“banging”) on the same bill as Sports Team at Kentish Town (“I just love them, I think they’re great”), progress is fast and keeping him on his toes. “I’m trying to work on my stage personality y’know, and just be more confident in myself. It’s so much easier when there are more people, and I just love playing live. It’s so much fun, especially because the boys in my band are my best mates. I thought the other day, I don’t actually have any friends except for my band…” That big laugh comes back again before he finishes: “But I’m happy with that because I love them!”
Talk turns to 2020, the reason we are here after all. Is an album on the horizon? “Not an album. Well, actually… I don’t know yet?” He smiles at this, and it’s clear we are wandering into spoiler territory – and nobody keeps secrets as well as the Dirty Hit gang. Well, sometimes, anyway.
“bea played me one of the new 1975 tracks when we were at Green Man. But she was so nervous, she was playing it out of her iPhone speakers and thought someone was gonna hear it and record it and upload it. Like, who the fuck is gonna hear it from fifty metres away on your iPhone? Hahahahaha.”
While That Band are probably in an industrial bunker three floors below ground level, Oscar is busying himself with that next EP. “I just love feeling free and being able to experiment, it’s the best fucking thing. I love weird gear, I’m in love with things that make weird noises.” Self-produced once more, he admits to wanting to re-do his older work once more. “All I ever do is over-think shit, I wish I could go back to those albums and just flesh them out again.” That ceaseless quest for perfection aside, his reluctance to sit on new music means we will probably hear it before long.
As our time winds to an end, Oscar reflects on what else he wants from next year, and it boils down to one thing. “I just want to play all over the world. I just want to go explore and play as much as I can. Because it’s what I fucking love doing!” With the sound of ringing in our ears as we finally take our leave, it’s pretty obvious that we are all gonna feel the same too. In a year that some of the more established Dirty Hitters will surely be revealing their new masterpieces, Oscar may just be bringing the sleeper hit that beats them all.
Taken from the December 2019 / January 2020 issue of Dork, out now – order your copy below.
Words: Jamie MacMillan