Laptop pop virtuoso Oscar Scheller is laughing into the phone from a recording studio in North London’s Turnpike Lane. “That horse absolutely hated me, the one I was next to. Literally, I had a nightmare about that horse.”
Scheller, who records under the name Oscar, has just joined a call with Brooklyn-based director Bryan Schlam to discuss “Sometimes,” his latest video. “Initially I wanted Oscar to perform for a bunch of different subcultures, metalheads, greasers, a motorcycle gang,” Schlam explains. “But then the stakes weren’t high enough. So I started thinking, ‘What are the most obscure groups of people I can find?'”
Subtitled “A Fantastic Journey Through the West, Featuring the Finest Clubs and Organizations Our Great Nation Has to Offer,” and filmed in just two and a half days, “Sometimes” finds the lanky Brit inserted into a series of segments starring — among other groups — an equestrian vaulting club, model-train enthusiasts, a lawn-bowling league, a vape team, a rhythmic-gymnastics squad and a lowrider bicycle crew. It’s a cheerful celebration of Southern California’s constellation of underappreciated subcultures, set to bouncy baritone vocals, squealing synth and buzzing guitar.
“The hardest part,” Schlam reveals, “was coordination. Half the people didn’t have email, and I’d have to leave messages on their landline answering machine.” Los Angeles was a perfect setting for the shoot’s inspired juxtaposition, because as Scheller describes, “Everything is surreal, it’s so familiar and so different at the same time,” adding, “There’s a serendipitous atmosphere in L.A., like anything can happen.”
Given the script’s myriad locations, Schlam’s concept was already ambitious, and the drum-tight production schedule dictated that nothing was off the cuff. On this oddball odyssey, everything had to go according to plan, and amazingly, everything did. Most sections were wrapped in an hour, and even the Valley View Vaulters piece — which features both children and animals — was completed within two hours.
That alacrity would have been impossible without all participants being completely engaged, and the genuine affection Schlam and Scheller share for everyone involved is evident. As Schlam describes, “The Vaulters, they’re a source of inspiration. We wound up shooting with their A team, but they also work with kids with special needs. Rick and Virginia, the coaches, are the sweetest people.”
Reached later, Valley View Vaulters coach Rick Hawthorne says, “We felt important to them. It could have gone the other way, but they were very high-class professionals who we loved dealing with.” And while he and wife Virginia both described the finished video as “wonderful,” Hawthorne disagrees with Oscar’s assertion about the aforementioned horse. “That horse loves everybody, but I don’t think Oscar is used to horses, and if you’re worried, they worry, too.”
Shooting the Cloudy Knights vape team — yes, competitive vaping is a thing — also presented unique challenges. Every 10 minutes, fans were needed to combat the clouds, and repeated takes were almost too much for some members. Speaking from the group’s Riverside headquarters, the Vape Castle, team member Frances Guizano says, “A few of our guys got, I wouldn’t say nicotine poisoning, but ‘nic sick.’ We had one guy who felt like he was going to throw up.”
The video comes at an exciting point in Scheller’s career, as May 13 will see the release of Cut and Paste (Wichita), his first full-length album. The 23-year-old’s previous EPs have famously been crafted in his bedroom, and it’s his first effort produced in a proper studio. Obviously, he’s excited.
“I had to wait for the right moment to enter the studio,” he explains, describing the record as “a meeting in the middle of DIY, self-produced sound, and more of an expansive, immersive sound. I came at the production value as if it were a hip-hop record. I wanted it to sound good on big speakers, or even in a club.”
In previous interviews, Scheller has made no secret of his desire to write for chart-topping luminaries such as Rihanna, as he mostly finds modern pop melodies lacking, saying, “A lot of the time, they’re mediocre and don’t last very long.” When asked to name a recent pop song that’s captivated him, he replies, “You know what? There aren’t many.” After careful consideration, however, he cites Danny L. Harle’s effervescent “Broken Flowers” as a track he wishes he’d written.
The next months will find Scheller touring the United States and Europe to promote Cut and Paste, and director Schlam will be busy with commercial work. But the experience of shooting “Sometimes” was enough to convince the pair to tackle another video, though neither will provide further details. That said, a Western theme can likely be ruled out, because, as Scheller wryly admits, “I don’t know if I’d work with horses again in a total hurry. It was a lot to deal with.”
The clubs featured in the “Sometimes” video include (in order of appearance):
- The Lawn Bowling Club (www.losangeleslawnbowling.com)
- The Riverside Live Steamers (www.steamonly.org)
- The Valley View Vaulters (www.valleyviewvaulters.com)
- Cloudy Knights Vape Team (www.facebook.com/vape.castle13)
- 1st Impression Cheerleading Squad (www.1stimpressionddc.com)
- The Cowtown Singles Square Dance Club (cowtown-singles-square-dance.org)
- Mr. P's Lowrider Club (contact info not available, but you can learn more about lowrider bicycle culture here)
- The Cal Skate Grand Terrace Jam Skaters (www.calskategt.com)
- The Dazzlers (contact info not available)