finn wolfhard's band calpurnia wish they could’ve soundtracked juno
Not just ‘that Stranger Things band’ -- they’re four super talented young musicians with a world of potential and a banging new song.
Photography Leeor Wild
“Going to Seattle on the Greyhound -- I missed school for this,” opens the latest bop from Vancouver band Calpurnia, Greyhound. The track reeks of teenage angst -- feeling out of whack and in your own world. Fronted by Finn Wolfhard on vocals and guitar, Ayla Tesler-Mabe joins him on backing vox and lead guitar, with Jack Anderson on bass and Malcolm Craig on drums. All in their mid-teens, Finn met Malcolm on the set of a music video for Canadian band PUP, while Ayla and Jack are childhood friends. After meeting at rock camp one summer, the four of them joined forces and formed their very own supergroup.
Named after the kindly housekeeper in To Kill a Mockingbird -- the friends picked Calpurnia off a list of ‘cool band names’ Finn had saved on his iPhone -- the foursome make infectious guitar-driven rock that isn’t dissimilar to that of their Royal Mountain Records labelmate, Mac Demarco. It might have only been a month since they shared their first single City Boy, and sure, they’ve only played four shows, but the band have already managed to hit the top spot on the Global Viral Spotify chart and their festival bookings are rolling in.
With Calpurnia gearing up to release their debut EP Scout -- we’re sensing a theme here -- produced by Twin Peaks frontman Cadien Lake James and out on 15 June, we thought it was about time for a chat. Finn dialled in from Atlanta where he’s filming Season 3 of Stranger Things, while the rest of the band skipped class to join the call from school in Vancouver. Here’s what happened.
Hi Calpurnia! What fictional crew do you most identify with?
F: I don’t know guys, what do you think? I like to think that we’re all just as good friends as the band in Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World.
Sex Bob-Omb! Nice!
M: Or maybe Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?
Also good. How have your lives changed since releasing City Boy ?
A: It’s been pretty cool. It was released on my birthday, so ever since I was 17, this music has been out. It’s so overwhelming that people are interested in what we’re doing. It’s really encouraging more than anything else. We’re definitely very excited for the future.
So you're having fun?
F: It’s the most fun ever! I keep psyching myself up because the guys are coming to Atlanta. I’m shooting the third season of Stranger Things here and these guys are coming in like nine days.
Just to hang or to play a show?
Finn and Malcolm, you both act. Do you get a different kind of nervous acting to playing shows?
M: Oh man, they’re such different energies. I would say I used to get way more anxious before an audition than I would for a show. Except for one show where I had a panic attack, but that’s a different story...
F: Yeah, I guess it’s just different energies. And there’s something about doing an audition where it feels like it’ll affect your future. It feels like the stakes are higher. With music, you’re up there doing your thing and having fun as well as entertaining people.
What movie do you reckon your music would be the best soundtrack for?
F: That’s a really good question!
A: I’ve always imagined some sort of indie road trip movie, with beautiful scenic shots.
J: Probably Juno.
F: Yeah, it's very Juno!
M: Or Mall Cop 2.
Tell us everything you can about the release.
F: Well, we made it in November of 2017 in Chicago. We recorded it with Cadien Lake James, who is in one of our favourite bands, Twin Peaks. And it was the most fun I’ve had in my entire life. We worked pretty hard on it and it kind of poured out of us. It was just a really, really fun thing to do as best friends.
J: It was all of our artistic ideas and it was great to let it all out in the studio for the first time.
A: Each song captures a different emotion, and although lyrically they touch on similar subjects, the atmosphere of each of them is quite different.
You’re really sticking with the To Kill a Mockingbird theme with the title Scout .
F: I mean, we don’t wanna harp on about the book.
J: We don’t wanna Harper Lee on, you mean!
F: Very good. I think because there’s a character on all of our covers, we wanted to have a name for him and figured why don’t we call him Scout? Not only is it from To Kill a Mockingbird but it’s also a cool name. It’s short, it’s to the point.
J: We should name the next one Boo Radley.
If you could have the voice or musical skills of anyone, who would you pick?
A: I’d love to have the songwriting abilities of Paul McCartney. He’s definitely one of my musical heroes.
J: I’d choose the bass player James Jamerson -- he played on most of the Motown songs. He was so understated with his playing but brought so much to the songs.
F: I would love to have the vocal range of Kurt Cobain -- he sounded so good and he never thrashed his voice at all. I’d love to be good at piano too -- that’s something I want to master.
M: I want the skills of a drum machine so I could just do whatever I wanted and not get tired.
What are you currently obsessed with?
F: I’ve just been playing Bowie’s Friday on My Mind on loop. I’m also obsessed with watching old movie trailers. You guys, I’m really sorry but I have to go record a voiceover now. I’ll talk to you guys later! I love you!
J: Bye Finn!
Yeah, bye Finn!
J: So I’m currently obsessed with King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard. They are ridiculously good. The most talented and crazy driven people on the planet, with the best album covers.
A: I’m obsessed with Miles Davis and listening to everything he’s ever put out. Then from there I’ve been getting into all the musicians he’s ever played with and everything they’ve put out. Jazz is so incredible -- it elevates melody and harmony to a totally different stratosphere.
Last but by no means least: what would your wrestling entrance music be?
J: Do you know the song Funeral for a Friend (Love Lies Bleeding) by Elton John? It’s got this crazy five minute organ intro and then explodes into this incredible rock opera. It’s about ten minutes long and I think if I was a wrestler I’d do all those classic stretches and take my sweet time while sir Elton John blessed everyone’s ears.
A: I’d love to walk on to Roundabout by Yes. It’s an incredible song but it’s also become a little bit of a meme so it makes people laugh but it can also really pump them up. There’s that moment after the guitar intro where all the instruments come in and the groove starts -- doing something super cool like a backflip as soon as the groove hits would be so fun. Obviously I’d have to figure out how to do a backflip first.
M: Okay, so the announcer guy would be like, “Please welcome to the stage: the immortal, the amazing, Simon!” That’d be my wrestler name… it’s an inside joke. And then choirs or opera singers would start choiring. And then I’d probably get beat up.
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