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London based producer/singer/songwriter Oscar Scheller has gone out of his comfort zone with the release of his latest album Boys Cry. This album consisted of twelve exceptional songs and helped to shed light on the topics of toxic masculinity, and society assigned gender roles. Mixed into Boys Cry are Scheller's own thoughts and emotions about how men are treated/represented in society, and how they should be able to express their emotions (like crying) without the fear of judgement. Additionally, he also incorporated his own firsthand accounts of certain times in his life that he has cried, or times where he has had to repress emotions that he felt needed to be expressed.
Scheller started his career in music during 2015 with the release of his first EP Beautiful Words. The following year, he released his first album Cut and Paste which helped to cement Scheller's talents as an indie singer/songwriter. During 2019 he released the album HTTP404 which was chock full of catchy pop songs and featured artists like Sarah Bonito on the track "1UP," and Lucy Taylor on the massively fun song "Interstellar Disco."
During HTTP404, Scheller moved from his indie roots of Cut and Paste and crossed into the pop-indie threshold; essentially shifting the focus from being lyric heavy and onto being more concerned about the music, beats, and performance. However, on his latest album Boys Cry; Scheller essentially blended – or combined - all of his best strides in music to date. Tracks on that album like "Famous Enough to Die" or "Peach" are prime examples of this blend – where the song was not only danceable, but also contained lyrics full of sentiment and depth.
Further, the songs on Boys Cry can be categorized into four different groups; the first being that of cause-and-effect actions that have occurred in Scheller's life. The next category of songs helped to represent the confidence Scheller has found within himself. During those songs he also sang about the importance of rejecting cultural, or societal norms. The third category consisted of Scheller's own disdain for himself, and the depression that followed. Whereas in the final category, Scheller touched on the importance of self-improvement and why we all need to work on ourselves.
The cover art for this album was a photo of Scheller when he was a little boy, happily eating a waffle while a girl in the background looks at him judgingly. In a recent interview with Scheller he stated, "On the surface level it seems kind of contradictory. At the time when that picture was taken was – I mean my father had died that month when I was eight years old. My dad's girlfriend she took me and my sister to Paris to take our minds off things, and to cheer her up as well. That picture was taken on that trip. I was going through all the pictures and thinking of what visuals I was going to have for the record, and it kind of seemed appropriate to honor that moment where I think I hadn't really experience or processed the trauma or the finality of death. As a kid I couldn't really understand it so I wanted to give him a platform you know; like give younger me 'this is your time to cry, this is your time to share that with the world.'" Additionally, he recently noticed the presence of that little girl in the background, "Yeah, that is so funny because I didn't at first. And then my friend was like, 'Do you think the girl in the back is going to see this?!' But yeah, she looks really judged."
Starting with the first group of songs that fell into the cause-and-effect category; the tracks "Fuck It All" and "Hollywood Sign" helped to tell a story about a breakup in Scheller's life. Within these songs were lyrics like "Just my dumb luck/I thought it was love/You turn, I sigh/I know I'm the wrong guy" and "'Cause I love a bad idea/Won't you come over here and we can fuck it all/Fuck it all, fuck it all."
Although "Fuck It All" sounded more like a precursor to the events that had unfolded on "Hollywood Sign" it's actually the opposite. Scheller explained, "Well 'Hollywood Sign' I think, in terms of what that song is about – is something that has been troubling me for a few years now. It was about a friendship that turned into relationship that turned into a fallout. I guess 'Fuck It All' is slightly less serious, a little more cheeky side to it. Where it's like 'fuck it, I might as well do that.' But yeah 'Hollywood Sign' is a song I wrote for someone, it's for them and I don't know if they'll ever hear it. Whereas with 'Fuck It All' it was a much less serious situation, I hadn't known the person long. 'Hollywood Sign' is probably the oldest song on the record, it's been hanging around for two years maybe." Together these two songs helped Scheller relate the feelings of rejection, and apathy to his listeners. Thus being able to show different sides of himself, Scheller then moved into the second category of songs where he exhibited self-confidence, and rejected cultural and societal norms.
Low self-esteem has been a major factor in how men in society view themselves – including Scheller. Within the tracks "I'm Enough (featuring Katie Gavin)" and "Peach" Scheller brought himself out of his comfort zone and allowed himself to sing about times where he felt confident. In the song "I'm Enough" he sang, "They're all happier than me/I got no luck/I'll whisper to myself/I'm enough/I'm enough/I'm enough/Doesn't seem like it most days/But I'm enough." A common theme among people with low self-esteem is that they often compare themselves, or their happiness with others. By Scheller singing these lyrics, he is able to empathize with how other people feel. He is also able to elaborate that although he feels this same way at times – he is able to overcome these intrusive thoughts by repeating the phrase "I'm enough." Katie Gavin helped bring this point home by singing, "I know I'm enough 'cause I'm so smart/I just need my brain to tell it to my heart." Moreover, the chorus in "Peach" "Hey there, it's me/I don't look too bad, yeah I'm glad that you agree/Hey there, it's me/I'm feeling myself, kinda pretty like a peach" further allowed Scheller to express how happy he was with himself. Given the lyrics in the bridge of the song, "It's kinda weird that I'm self-obsessed today/I'm impressed at my state of happiness (Yeah)/It's like I'm wearing my Sunday best/'Cause I must confess that I'm so in love with him" Scheller was able to acknowledge that feeling this way is different, or strange, because he has been at the opposite end of the happiness spectrum for so long.
Moving onto the other songs contained within this second category; the tracks "Average Joe" and "Boys Cry" accurately described what this album's overall theme was, and how it related to Scheller. In the song "Boys Cry" Scheller sang, "I've had bad days but not this usual type/Boys we don't cry, we've got way too much pride/You know I do what I do to survive/I'm starting to feel I might not make it out alive, oh/Who told you boys don't cry?/I'm telling you now that's a lie." Within these lyrics Scheller essentially asked the listener, "Where did you hear this bullshit rumor that boys don't cry?" This question embarked the listener on the discussion of how it's unhealthy to suppress emotions because in doing so you, "might not make it out alive." In the second verse of this song, Scheller used the lyrics "You keep holding in, while giving out love/Deeper than your skin, why don't you talk about/The little things that feel too big?/The shadows in the life you live?/'Cause what you run from will only catch you up" to help back up his point of the dangers behind suppressing one's own emotions. During the interview he described his thoughts on the track by saying, "I was thinking about masculinity and how it's taken me a long time to cry and understand my emotional state. I really wanted it to be about that – even the upbeat songs like 'Peach' is about self-esteem and self-love, body image and things that feel like they should be talked about; especially for men."
Moreover, in "Average Joe" Scheller used the lyrics "I read a poem once that parents fuck you up/Oh, does society tell us that, what if we go wrong" to basically relate that each generation screws up the proceeding generation because that's what they were taught. He also used the lyrics "I don't care about being cool/Fuck what they all thought in school/Now I'm not your textbook/average Joe/I'll bend all the rules/I'll play around 'cause I'm free/Can't tell me what masculine means/'Cause I'm not your textbook average Joe/No, that's not me" to reject the unwritten rules that men have in society. During the interview, Scheller added, "The original title for 'Average Joe' was 'Normal Rules' and I don't mind being what you would call a simp, I'll break normal rules. I won't be the guy who is hard to get or a fuckboy, that's how much I like you. I'll go out of my way to make you happy."
Despite the confidence that we have heard this far on the album, this third category of songs went in the opposite direction. All together these tracks focused on Scheller's depression, and disdain for himself; which left quite the impression. The first track on this album "2D," and the third track "Famous Enough to Die" were perfect examples of times where Scheller felt inadequate and didn't enjoy who he was. "2D" focused on a breakup given the lyrics, "And I came a long way/Just to hear you say it's not gonna work, it's not gonna work/Said you can't be the girl, not the one I want/Nor the one that I deserve," whereas "Famous Enough to Die" gave an idea of how little Scheller thinks of himself. He stated during the interview that, "I was always going to start the album or end the album and I knew that much when I made it. Actually, I often start records like that. In a way it's a bit like cinema like it's a very strong opening scene, and then you get the credits. '2D' I just wanted it to jump straight in, you're on the street with me and you're about to meet up with someone, and they're about to tell you something that you don't want to hear. After that everything sounds flat. That recording where it starts is me on the subway going back to Brooklyn from Manhattan. I was getting a melody and was like, 'This is how I'm feeling!' If you listen you can hear the train tracks." Given how Scheller sang "Now everything looks 2D to me" in "2D," we can understand how he thinks he is "not famous enough to die/Nobody gets fucked like sacrifice/I'm not famous enough in their eyes." During the interview he explained, "With 'Famous Enough to Die' and that slightly tongue in cheek commentary on society, but also the double meaning of, 'You're not famous enough to die in someone else's life because they don't care about you.'" He went on to say, "I think that our ideas of success or achievement are so subjective. I think fame is an interesting notion, to be seen in multiple places, and to be known in multiple places."
Other songs on this album that fell into that same category of depression and disdain were tracks like "Half Eaten" and "Murder." During "Murder" Scheller moved in a similar style to "Famous Enough to Die" in that he felt unworthy of himself. Lyrics in the song like "I know you treat me badly/And I'm free to leave, so why can't I leave/Your words they bruise severely/And your actions speak even more harshly" and "It's wrong how I come right back into your attack/Thеre's no good in that/Can't seem to run from the past/A pattern that shapes my hands in the door" served as metaphors of his own self-worth. Moving into "Half-Eaten," Scheller described, "I was fourteen when I got the blues/Such a sad boy, difficult even to tie my shoes" and that he felt like he was, "a blown fuse, half-eaten bowl of tomato soup." Additionally, he also mentioned how, "I can give you wisdom/But I shook hands with nihilism/and now I need to wash them," thus further proving how negative his view on life was. However, there are certain instances in this song where Scheller revealed that he's working on himself. This included the lyrics, "Better days I wanna meet 'em too" and, "You can call me a loner but I won't be alone/You could say it's beginning and there's a long winding road." These lyrics helped Scheller acknowledge that although he feels depressed, or unhappy, he knows it won't last because he wants to change. This idea thus leads us into the last category discussed in this album.
Scheller seeks to continue working on himself, and he knows that he's not finished doing so even by the end of this album. This was represented through the songs "Happy Nowhere" and "Red Eye" given the lyrics in their choruses, "And I don't know where it's going/Somewhere in the middle of nowhere/I kinda like it there/I guess I'm happy there" and, "But reality doesn't give me peace/Thought I needed you, but I needed me." This feeling of flourishment and pride that Scheller felt at the end of this album was very pleasing to hear. During the interview he said, "This record is the first time where I've ever really listened to my own music. Before I would put the album out and just wouldn't listen to it. When I tried to make HTTP404 the first time, I scrapped it. I took like a year, and scrapped the music – nothing survived the first draft. I guess I was quite depressed and was feeling very dark. But then I got out of it and then the music was born."
All in all Boys Cry achieved it's goal of being a statement towards what it means to be the modern man. By Scheller allowing himself to focus on the lyrics he was able to successfully bare his soul and show the world who he really is. He stated during the interview that, "When I was being asked to write about what the album meant, I was like, 'This is my manifesto to manhood' and kind of reshape, reform and reinvent or sort of reconsider what masculinity meant to the modern man. To me, it's about being vulnerable and that being a strength instead of a weakness. Essentially split that narrative which is so hardwired into men, you see it in the destructive qualities of masculinity. The fact that toxicity and masculinity are synonymous in society just tells you everything you need to know about how wrong our approach, or our notions of it are. Without getting too heavy, I wanted the music to start these conversations about masculinity and about what it means. This is me cutting myself open and saying this is what it means to me."
To those trying to succeed in their own passions, Scheller gave the advice, "I would say follow your own path, don't worry about what other people are doing. Listen to your voice, find out what that is and what you have to say. Keep giving that your care and attention. If you can do it long enough and practice hard enough, you can do anything. It's about putting the time in and committing, and honing your craft. 10,000 hours you become a master."
Merch for Boys Cry can be found online and according to Scheller, "I have hoodies, they are available on my website oscarscheller.com. All the proceeds go to All Young Minds which is an amazing mental health charity here in the UK. It's for a good cause and I think they're made from recycled material. I felt like I wanted to contribute, we've left the age of Taurus and now we're in the age of Aquarius which is about community and society. We are in a mental health pandemic, not only a Coronavirus pandemic, but people's mental health is pretty intense right now."
Scheller also hopes to potentially release Boys Cry on vinyl, "I would love for it to be on vinyl but because it's on my own label I can only press a certain amount, I think 300, but I'd have to make sure 300 people would buy it. I would love to make a record of Boys Cry that would be great." Listeners can also expect, "More music. I'm constantly making it, so I'm going to be putting it out. More music, more good times. I might do a little tour potentially if the world allows it." Future goals of Scheller's also included producing an album for actor Michael Cera, "I don't know, I have this weird affinity with Michael Cera. I can't explain it. I feel like he's a gentle soul, I feel like he's a kindred spirit. Maybe we'll go for coffee when I go to LA. But I'd like to make an emo or Blink 182 sounding record with him. I put it out in the universe so if enough of us have that intention, we will manifest it."
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