Photo: Leon Heaney

Wasia Project

In the midst of rehearsals, brother-sister duo Wasia Project, made up of Will Gao and Olivia Hardy, are on a high from completing their first-ever sold-out UK tour. “It was lit,” Gao says. “It was a really educational process for us because it’s so different from the studio. It’s very regimented. You need to stick to a routine. It was really interesting and insightful to do the tour.”

You will have noticed that Wasia Project have repeatedly been named one of the UK’s most promising rising talents. Their musical journey began when their debut track, “Why Don’t U Love Me,” created on Garageband, was released via Soundcloud in 2019. Opening the doors to their world of jazz, classical, and indie pop, future releases such as the dreamy “My Lover Is Sleeping,” uptempo “Petals on the Moon,” and romantic “ur so pretty,” the latter gaining huge popularity after soundtracking a poignant scene during Season 2 of Netflix’s Heartstopper, in which Gao stars as Tao Xu, have continued to keep listeners immersed in their unique sound and their fanbase growing. However, one thing Wasia Project takes huge pride in is the close connection they have with their audience. “The fans are great,” Gao says. “They’re so fun to connect face to face with a crowd. The feeling of singing our music and hearing it sung back is always really cool,” Hardy adds.

When asked whether either suffers from nerves before showtime, Gao puts his hands up. “I get so gassed,” Hardy says. “I used to get super sleepy. I think it was because of the festivals in the summer though. I was probably just tired in general, but now I’m vitalized. I feel good,” she adds with a laugh. They credit their “wonderful performance coach” Janice for helping them with a routine that works. “She’s kind of deciphered or cracked the code of our warmup, our cool down after the show, and our pre-sleep routine,” Gao says. “I think a lot of [the nerves] is actually made worse by your body being in stress. What we’ve worked with Janice on is freeing our bodies and making them completely relaxed and making them one. I think it’s a physical thing more than anything. Obviously, it’s a mental thing as well. Being nervous can spiral on your head, but it’s how your body reacts to that mind stuff.”

Two weeks following their tour, the musical duo find themselves back in a rehearsal studio as they’re days away from hitting the road across Europe with fellow Brit Tom Odell, which kicked off in Rotterdam on March 17. Having just headlined their own shows, the opportunity sees Gao and Hardy playing to much larger crowds than they are predominantly used to. Knowing this, are they going into this tour with a different mindset? There’s a slight pause before Hardy giggles and says, “the same.”

“I mean, we’ve talked about this because when you support someone, you are bringing a taste of our set to someone else’s show,” she adds. “We’ll have the same energy,” Gao insists. “The only difference is that we’re spreading the word about our music and introducing people to music who have perhaps not listened to us before. The switch is that we are performing to them in more of an inviting way as opposed to saying, ‘Welcome back to the house, let’s party!’”

While somewhere in Europe, Gao and Hardy arrive today with “Is This What Love Is?” — their first release of 2024 that stays true to their unique sound but bolder in every capacity. Was this a cautious decision made? “Not really,” Hardy says. “It came about very organically,” Gao adds. “The last song we did was a really long and drawn-out process and it was quite hard to sort of let go of because the recording process was over a solid chunk of time. It was sort of at a point where I was like, ‘We need to just say bye to this.’ And then naturally out of that super long process, we had this idea going around,” Hardy says. “The actual recording of it was a super quick and flowing process, which was super refreshing. I think that translated itself in the way it sounds.”

The idea of the song first began in 2021, but just “sat around.” Gao adds: “Our previous single ‘Remember When’ was a really insightful process for us to get to the place where we were ready to release. It was quite a maze. And I think after that came this kind of freedom we felt in the studio along with the song inviting freedom, which is weird because the song is the opposite of that.”

Photo: Leon Heaney

“Is This What Love Is?” details a lot of questioning. Not necessarily romantic love, but all the different types of love in the world. “There’s a lot of chatter where people talk always about spreading love and peace but there’s definitely human traits and part of our being that counter that kind of feeling. The song proposes a question and a muddled question to the complexities of that duality,” Gao says. “It’s very out of control,” Hardy adds. “I think it’s the concept of such a powerful emotion of being scary and making you feel very out of control of your own emotions and what your body is feeling.”

Describing the song’s purpose as a way to open the doors to a new era, Wasia Project are gearing up to release another EP, two years on from their debut, how can i pretend?, which dropped back in the spring of 2022. “It’s a new sound,” Gao says of the upcoming material. “It’s the beginning of a chapter of a body of work that we’ve been working extensively on,” he adds. “It is reminiscent of stuff we’ve established our sound upon from our very early songs. There is a song in there that’s very old, but it’s sort of been recorded and translated through the people we are today. Even though it’s an older song, it resonates with where we’re going next,” Hardy says. Any unexpected moments? “I might be cracking a bit of a vocal at some point,” Gao teases.

The goal, however, is to release a full LP that slaps from start to finish, where every song is as good as the last. Their examples of this? “It’s basic but The Dark Side on the Moon by Pink Floyd for me is an insane masterpiece where there doesn’t seem to be a weak link. Maybe not from a song perspective, but from a sense of pure creative power and creative art. It’s a collective body of work,” Gao says. Hardy namedrops Ms. Lauryn Hill’s 1998 solo record, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. “It’s untouchable,” she says. “It’s her only album but she dropped a fucking bomb and left. I’m so inspired by that. I was also thinking about the Silk Sonic album [An Evening with Silk Sonic], I do remember thinking it had a lot of bangers on there,” she adds.

That being said, Gao recognizes that these albums didn’t reach iconic status due to the artists having the same mindset. “When we say that that’s the aim, that’s not how we are gonna do it. It’s just us saying, ‘That would be insane,’” he says. “Because we see those things and are so inspired by that but we understand that it’s not a formula. The reason why those albums are so good is that they’re so full of expression and depth of some sort of character,” Hardy says. “I see it as a thin silk parachute let out into the world. [The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill] is just this complete openness of what was going around her at the time and musically what she grew up with,” Gao continues, with Hardy adding: “It’s so raw. It has that less polished feel to it but it’s still just quality. Just because something is super polished and perfect and in tune and has all the instruments in the world, that doesn’t mean it’s gonna have that character. I think that’s what we really value and is really important to us.”

2024 is set to be Wasia Project’s most crucial year yet. Following Tom Odell’s tour, they will be heading straight to the States to support Laufey during her sold-out tour. The band’s headline shows in North America will follow in May. Live shows aside, their main focus is the “worldly concept that we’re trying to achieve with the EP,” says Gao. Admitting many keep asking for an album, he assures fans that will be worth waiting for. “I’m so passionate about this EP man,” he says, “We’re trying to create something that’s just all interlinked and it’s one story. It revolves around a nucleus that we’re so excited by.”

Revealing that they’re writing a lot, Hardy teases, “There’s a lot of work in the vault.”