If there’s one constant with Oshwa, it’s that Alicia Walter has never been content to stay in one place. The art-pop project started in 2010 as a solo endeavor when Walter, then a student of classical piano, decided to indulge her pop music-loving side and in her words, “hang out with a loop pedal in a North Side Chicago basement.” Later, it became a four-piece indie rock band, leading to a 2013 debut album Chamomile Crush, which combined Walter’s adventurously off-kilter vocal delivery with math-rock inflected arrangements. Now after Oshwa’s excellent second album 2016’s I We You Me, a more focused and accessible album that featured contributions from her band members, Walter has reinvented Oshwa as a solo project and moved to New York City.
“Chicago’s an amazing place, obviously, but I knew that I wanted to make some changes in myself. Moving to New York was kind of the impetus to make all those things happen by just putting myself in a new spot,” Walter explains over the phone. “Sometimes I like to make things really hard on myself in order to kind of figure out what’s most important to me. A particularly crazy way to do that is when you’re like, ‘I’m just going to get on a plane to New York with two suitcases and no major source of income when I get there.'”
Moving allowed Walter a chance to figure out how Oshwa would evolve as a solo effort. “For a while, the band was the medium. I was stoked to work with the same people and they were my close friends and it was a really good process. But while working on I We You Me, I wanted to start taking a little bit more control and was interested in kind of getting away from a full band sound,” Walter said. Citing David Byrne’s depictions of Talking Heads concerts in his book How Music Works, the move also allowed her to focus on her other interests in choreography and performance: “I just realized that what I was trying to convey musically could be amplified by a physical performance by really bringing in choreography and a much more animated persona.”