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Oxford Drama interview: “Someone once said that we make music for shy people”

Oxford Drama produce the kind of music that is so well-rounded that it wouldn’t be possible to make without owning big record collections.

Self-professed music fans first and artists second, the Polish two-piece consisting of Matgorzata Dryjańska and Marcin Mrowka arrived with their 2015 debut, In Awe.

Since, the duo have refined their songcraft, releasing 2018’s Songs which leads us to their latest, What’s the Deal with Time? – their finest outing yet.

What’s the Deal With Time? oozes with an unpretentious aloofness that wraps around the listener, fitting like a well-worn sweater.

The pop hooks are spacious, the melodies simply beautiful. From the splendour of opening cut, Not My Friend and Too Busy to the shimmering You Only See What You Like, What’s the Deal With Time? is one of the finest pop records to meet the ear so in 2021.

We caught up with Dryjańska just after the release of What’s the Deal With Time? last month.

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Sun 13: First of all, can you tell us about the history of Oxford Drama?

Matgorzata Dryjańska: “We started in the beginning of 2014 because we had some free time after the exams at our university. At that point, we had known each other for two years and Marcin had been persuading me into forming a band from the moment we met, as we were both big music nerds and had similar taste in music.”

S13: What was the process of writing and recording What’s The Deal With Time?

MD: “The process of writing What’s The Deal With Time? was very quick, as we had some sketches of songs, sometimes with and sometimes without lyrics, and then out of the blue an idea came along about writing a concept album.

“We wrote down some ideas of themes we wanted to include and all the compositions that needed lyrics got them very fast. The production phase of working on the album was where the honeymoon ended. We really wanted to make every second on the album matter, which is why Marcin spent a lot of time working on the perfect sound for What’s The Deal With Time?

“Perfectionism can sometimes be helpful.”

S13: It doesn’t feel like a departure from your last two albums but I don’t think it needed to be. The songs feel like the strongest you’ve written and I’d say it’s the best album you’ve released so far. When you finished recording did it feel this way?

MD: “Kind of yes, to be honest. We felt that everything we made brought us to the place we are today with our third album. We love our previous albums obviously, but this one is special in a sense that we spent more time working on it, and we wanted it to be a story with a beginning and an ending. We also felt that we are more comfortable with what we want to say and how we want to say it.”

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S13: Like all of your albums, there’s an honesty with sharp observations. I get the feeling that you are both extremely humble people which reflects in your music. Do you see this mentality as an important facet of Oxford Drama’s music?

MD: “Someone once said that we make music for shy people and maybe that is true. I guess you can see our personality in our music, maybe not every part of it but a lot, so you can get a lot of bizarreness and social awkwardness with a bit of shyness. As the observers on the album, we also wanted a lot of truth and humour on it, so it’s not just a serious talk about serious topics.”

Oxford Drama - What's the Deal With Time?

S13: The line, “The world only stops when you tell it to go away” on Too Busy is probably one of the most important lyrics you’ve written, I think. What was the inspiration behind this song?

MD: “Life! (laughs) But it’s true, life and the familiar feeling of being overwhelmed by everything around you was an inspiration of this funny image I had in my head of saying to the world ‘you gotta stop man, it’s just too much’. So I had to write a song about it.”

S13: Bachelor of Arts and You Only See What You Like are quintessential pop songs. With songs like this, do you think you could have written them earlier in your career or are they something that can only be produced by refining your songcraft?

MD: “We absolutely loooove pop songs and it was just meant for us to write such songs sooner or later. There is a story behind You Only See What You Like – we struggled to find the right instruments for the song for a year and a half, as it started as a more cosmic-synth-escapade and ended with this guitary feeling just a few months before sending the tracks for mixing, so I guess you work on your songcraft all the time and you can always be surprised how things end up.”

S13: This Is The Internet feels like a song that can be interpreted in different ways. What was the thinking beyond this song?

MD: “It’s an ode to the telephone that helps you from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to bed. But the song definitely is a humorous look at how our phones, on the one hand, can be considered useful tools, but also make us addicted to things we don’t even need or don’t even care about. The chorus part, ‘thank you for being with me, thank you for keeping track/social media understand what is what and all that’ is a wink to the audience about how we are all in this crazy thing together.”

Oxford Drama

S13: I read that you both identify firstly as music fans then artists. Not many artists say that, but I think this shines through in your music. What would you say about that?

MD: “We want to make music because we’re deeply fascinated by every aspect of making it. We gather music anecdotes in our heads, we listen to our favourite albums on repeat looking for parts we haven’t heard before, and go to the concerts of the bands we praise. It’s just natural for us to think that what came first, that is our love of music, must have contributed (and still contributes) to whom we are today as musicians.”

S13: How would you describe the music scene in Wrocław?

MD: “Built on friendship and very warm relations. Our best friends have their own music projects, so when we think about the music scene in Wrocław, we instantaneously think about the bands our friends formed, with whom we used to rent spaces to play in, played in bands with or spent hours and hours talking about new or newly discovered records.”

S13: Who are the bands we should be listening out to from Poland?

MD: “Some bands we highly recommend are from Wrocław, as Bluszcz for example, but also from other cities like Julia Marcell, Enchanted Hunters or Rycerzyki. Check them out!”

S13: With touring looking more likely with each, do you expect to get out on the road in 2021 in support of the new album?

MD: “We’ve actually just played two concerts in radio halls in Poland. They were supposed to be with a limited audience but due to new COVID-19 restrictions in our country they were only streamed online and on the very radio stations. Unfortunately it’s hard to plan anything right now, but we would love to be on the road with this album.”

What’s the Deal with Time? is out now. Purchase via Bandcamp.

By Simon Kirk

Product from the happy generation. Proud purple bin owner surviving on music, books and LFC. New book, Welcome To Charmsville, available from all major vendors.

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