RENDEZVOUS: A Quick Catch Up With Betty & Oswald
"We have lots of friends producing completely different things as artists and musicians but we all come together at a point of unity in our pursuit of expression. We have one life, we may as well fiercely pursue something that we love, and treat others with love and respect."
Sydney band Betty & Oswald create charming pop-rock that quite often finds itself drenched in fuzz. We had a mini catch up with lead singers Pete Sotiropoulos and Claudia Schmidt to chat about their infectious live shows, making music in Sydney's Inner West and the release of their brilliant new single, 'Figure It Out'.
As always, please press play below to enrich your reading experience.
At what point did you realise that your voices worked so well together?
Pete: I think the first time we ever sang together we were mucking around with an old Sufjan Stevens song. I remember us both thinking our voices sounded strange together. Yet there was something alluring about it. Something hard to pin down. So we kept doing it. Starting out as a duo we learned pretty quickly how to use our voices together. Without the intricacy and depth of other instruments there was nowhere for us to hide. For me it was nerve racking as I was never trained in singing. Claudia however is a classically trained singer so that definitely helped me with fine tuning my voice. Along with the help of a couple ‘backseat’ lessons every now and then I think we’ve managed to end up in a place balanced between imperfection and bliss.
Do you think your sound has changed since shifting the dynamic from two to four band members?
Pete: Most definitely. Ultimately it's helped us as songwriters, learning to embrace simplicity and letting every part have its own purpose. Less is more for us. We are very fortunate to have Sammy and Harry as part of the band. Sammy plays bass with the perfect amount of attitude and ease, while Harry is rock solid and a killer multi-tasker behind the drums. Increasingly we are coming to explore the idea that as a band we can create a sonic backdrop which can be used to enhance the world evoked by the vocals – whether it's a cloud to float on or a big old motorcar racing down the highway.
For the most part your sound is quite dreamy and chilled, but there's also some real psychedelic moments where you get to jam out. Do you have a preference of pace?
Claudia: For us it’s really about honouring the song we are working on. We’ve been writing a bit recently and have just been open to embracing whatever the song needs. Whether that be a fat fuzzy bassline or crushed drum machine sounds. It’s great to have that freedom as a band to just allow the song to come out in the way that it wants.
Your latest single 'Figure It Out' is a really beautiful take on some of the complexities or anxieties of getting older, and life in general. Can you tell us a bit about the recording process for that particular track?
Pete: We recorded with Burke Reid, who we absolutely love. The whole thing was quite a surreal experience. It began in our old house in Dulwich Hill at the time, which was a seedy 70s ex-brothel–come 10 bedroom mansion. We spent a bunch of time working on the song in the garage with Burke and then went to The Grove Studios to record the track. Mangrove Mountain is such a mysterious and beautiful place, and I think some of that feeling became subconsciously embedded in ‘Figure It Out’ and the rest of the songs that we recorded there.
It feels like location has quite a strong influence on your sound eg. Sydney's Inner West. How does it compare writing in the city as compared to the coast?
Pete: There's always something going on in the Inner West. It's a place that forces you to think. People are up for anything from a chat to a heated discussion – ultimately, people are always open. That is very influential to us and our sound. We are inspired by people who embrace the authentic, the challenging and the surreal. We have lots of friends producing completely different things as artists and musicians but we all come together at a point of unity in our pursuit of expression. We have one life, we may as well fiercely pursue something that we love, and treat others with love and respect.
Your live shows have a real sense of charm about them. How important is having a unique live show? What do you want the audience to feel when they walk away from a Betty & Oswald performance?
Claudia: Thanks, I'm glad that comes through! Our live show is something that's pretty important to us. The pressures of playing can get pretty high sometimes, but those niggling anxieties always seem to fade away once we get up there on the stage and just play to the crowd. I think we all strive to create a world that is immersive and allows the audience to understand the music in some further, indescribable way. Playing live is the thing that we all enjoy the most – the process of translating what we’ve been giving so much of ourselves to. Watching people as they experience that music is a feeling to which nothing else compares.
Who are some local musicians that you are loving at the moment?
Mezko, Brightness, I Know Leopard, Spike Vincent, City Rose, 100.
2017 is nearly over. What's on the cards for Betty & Oswald in 2018?
Pete: We’re going to take a couple of weeks off and I’m heading to India for a bit. Then we’ll be releasing our EP To Be Hungry, followed by a tour, and then maybe start thinking about a second EP.
Finally, you obviously have an ear for music, how do you go on the dance floor?
Pete: You’re just going to have to wait until that fateful time you mistakenly stumble into the wrong club and catch us throwing it down in sweat-dripping glory. We go pretty hard. Why not I guess?