Oscar Lang: “I didn’t want to go full whiny, tortured artist”

OSCAR LANG’s new album ‘Look Now’ takes listeners on a heartfelt journey of self-discovery, embracing simplicity and vulnerability.

Words: Steven Loftin.
Photos: Jono White.

Oscar Lang has arrived. The indie bop master has been finding his feet over the course of his career. And for a while, he thought he’d found them. From his start on his early bedroom-recorded EPs to the gleaming studio-session-rife debut ‘Chew The Scenery’, it all felt like he was heading where he needed to be. But, as he soon found out, sometimes looking back is the only way forward.

Resorting to a singular room in a Liverpool studio, Oscar’s second album, ‘Look Now’, is a return to those bedroom beginnings, with the distinct understanding that sometimes less is more. 

“After my last record was finished, I found it difficult,” he starts. “I was trying to do indie rock music for a while because I was really into it. And then I realised – and I had this feeling with my last album – that we had almost done too much.”

That’s not to say his soiree into being a studio musician wasn’t worth it. Specifically mentioning Liverpool’s Parr Street Studios, “That’s where Coldplay did their first few records,” he says. “So I was sitting there playing the first song I ever learned on piano, which was ‘Clocks’, on the piano where they played it. So doing cool shit like that was just the best, but I did it for a few years and then realised that while I love that side of music, that’s not truly the side of music that I love.”

But before he could make the realisation that, as he puts it, “a certain je ne c’est quoi” was missing, he had a different vision in mind. The initial plan for ‘Look Now’ was something more disco-focused. With his eye on a synth-laden, indie-pop prize, Oscar assumed it was all in hand, and his new chapter was ready to be written. And then he went through that timeless muse – a breakup. 

Swiftly changing lanes, the day after the breakup with his childhood sweetheart, Oscar was scheduled for a songwriting session. Thus an outpouring began. With all the emotions and feelings hot on his heels, he threw himself into the only thing he could – writing music. 

“This record was the thing that matured me, to be honest, and the year surrounding it was the first time in my life that I have truly been on my own,” he recalls. “That’s why I touched upon it on ‘When You Were A Child’. Since I was a kid, I’ve always been surrounded by family, and then I was in this relationship. And then I was finally on my own – a full-on adult in my own place. I’d never been alone like that. So I had to learn to be comfortable with being alone, being an adult, and being by myself. This record was the thing that would distract me or move me forward.”

That’s not to say he’s a one-trick pony; in fact, he also mentions another form of reckoning with this alone time – cooking. “I make incredible tacos,” he beams. “I’m all about getting properly authentic with it. I buy the dried chillies, and pressure cook them for like four hours. I do dinner parties for my mates because I just love to cook for people. I’ve always thought it’s kind of like building a song – but at the end, you get to eat it, which is even better.” 

But that authenticity he pours into his Mexican food is the same he wants to have in his music. Admitting that for years he was “putting on a persona”, mostly influenced by the likes of Mac DeMarco, Oscar nods that he too was “trying to be the silly, goofy, guy because it’s easier to make a joke out yourself before somebody else.” Though he readily admits, “I can be a silly goofy guy sometimes, but most of the time, I’m pretty normal, [just] going through the motions.”

“I had to learn to be comfortable with being alone, being an adult”

Oscar Lang

Most important for Oscar this time around was delivering these diaristic entries with enough vigour to not be depressing. It’s something distinctly noticeable about ‘Look Now’. There’s no sense of marding around in the mire. Instead, there’s an uplift that hooks itself behind the ever-weighty notions. “I didn’t want to go full, whiny, tortured artist,” he explains. “I wanted people to relate to it. I didn’t want it to bring people down; I wanted to hopefully lift people up and process emotions that they’re going through and not bring them down and put them in horrible headspace.”

It also meant that as he was penning the tracks, he wound up unpacking his innermost feelings. “A few of the tracks on this album, when I used to listen to them, they sometimes would make me cry.” Specifically mentioning ‘Crawl’, he says, “I’ve gotten to a place where I’ve sat with it for a year, so it doesn’t quite make me go to the same place, but definitely when I first listened, it was hugely therapeutic to get out the emotions that I was feeling.” 

The breakup also has a cheeky hand in ‘Look Now’’s first single. ‘A Song About Me’ was inspired by Oscar’s ex asking him to, erm, not write a song about her. “A day after I spoke to my ex-girlfriend, and I was going through this thing, she said, ‘Don’t write a song about me’.” So, obviously, “I was in the studio, and it just fell into place,” he says with a sheepish grin. 

Another part of this new chapter for Oscar is his openness. He’s now more forward in what he wants to discuss, particularly in chats and interviews. “There were things I didn’t talk about for two or three years, [including] the fact that my mum had passed when I was seven,” he says. “It took a while for me to open up to saying these things. I don’t know why… [maybe] I didn’t want any sort of sympathy or anything. I didn’t want to throw out some X-Factor sob story.”

All of this openness and vulnerability is in the name of maturation. Oscar now knows he’s able to “recognise patterns when I’m falling into these lows. I’ve been able to talk to my family a lot more, and my friends, in this last year to open up because I couldn’t avoid the fact that I was so miserable.”

This is why this new album is an important step for Oscar. “That’s why I called it ‘Look Now’,” he explains. “It was very much a declaration of this is the first time I truly felt a record was wholly me.” From the subject matter to the sounds in particular, “I’ve always wanted to evolve my sound. You can hear it in my other stuff – I’m trying to sound like someone else,” he admits.

The good thing about all this ripping of hearts from his sleeves and scribbling them down on paper is that it’s given Oscar a chance to reflect on how far he has come. 

“I don’t know if this is good, but I feel emotionally hardened.” He chews on the words for a beat. “If that makes sense? I’m just intrigued to see where the next writing cycle takes me because this breakup and how I felt was so instrumental in the writing. And I think throughout my music, there’s been constant waves and cycles. You can almost see my mental health, it dips and goes, and you can hear it in the music. Hopefully, the next one is going to be on an up, and I might return to the fun disco and be in the mood for a little boogie!” Just don’t forget to invite us for tacos, yeah? ■

Taken from the August 2023 edition of Dork. Oscar Lang’s album ‘Look Now’ is out 21st July.


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