“I seem to remember my mom telling me that I came to her crying when I was probably about 5 or 6, saying that I was ‘sad that I would never be able to see out of anyone else’s eyes.’ That was my first kind of existential crisis,” laughs Oscar Scheller, aka singularly named rising British bedroom songsmith Oscar – who seems fairly well-adjusted now, as he sits with Yahoo Music at South by Southwest after performing in our Austin living room.
Some parents, hearing such deep thoughts, would panic and enroll their seemingly troubled child in intensive therapy. But Oscar’s understanding parents, both musicians themselves, just let Oscar be Oscar. Years later, his sensitive, earnest indie-pop is proof that they did the right thing.
Oscar’s mother, whom Oscar describes as a “punk,” and his “hippie” father, who used to produce techno music, also once served in the footnote new wave band the Regents. (Their minor hit “7Teen” earned them a performance slot on Britain’s Top of the Pops; check it out here.) So it seemed inevitable that Oscar would follow in their Chelsea-booted footsteps.
“They were always making music, playing music around the house. My mom would have singing lessons even when I was in the womb… Music was the most immediate and the most honest expression for me, and felt the most natural,” Oscar recalls. When he decided to pursue music himself, his mother told him, “’I’m going to guide you and support you and help make this happen, because this is what you’re here to do. This is why you’re here on Earth.’ It’s always been like that,” Oscar says.
From an early age, Oscar was encouraged to express himself in multiple ways, even when he wanted to wear girls’ clothing in public. “The kids at school didn’t know what to make of me at first,” Oscar chuckles. “I was called ‘boy-girl’ at one point, because I had my hair in bunches [pigtails], a little cardigan, a kilt, and Dr. Martens boots. I had a very distinct style. I knew how I wanted to dress. No one dressed me. I was obsessed with dressing myself. I wouldn’t take these shoes off when I got them. I would sleep in them, and my mom would have to take them off of me in my sleep! So that was quite extreme.
“I used to wear dresses and skirts and do what I wanted. But my mum and dad were very bohemian and relaxed about the whole thing – like, ‘Well, if he wants to do that, he’s expressing himself.’ So I was lucky enough to have very cool parents.”
Oscar’s grandfather wasn’t as easygoing, and probably had a harder time with Oscar’s gender-bending fashion sense than Oscar’s classmates even did. “He was a very old-fashioned East Ender, quite traditional, and the idea of a boy wearing a dress was just too much for him,” Oscar says. “So he paid me a pound each time I would wear trousers – or he offered to pay me, and I refused! And then eventually I kind of gave in and thought, ‘I’ll make some money. I’ll please him and just wear them when I’m at his house.’”
Now, at age 23, Oscar is still sticking to his own quirky, unique vision, dropping out of art school to release his Pitchfork-approved “gangsta melancholy” music on tastemaker label Wichita Recordings. Surely his parents, and even his grandpa, must be proud.