Late last year, Billie Eilish made headlines when she didn’t know who Van Halen was. Reactions were understandably divided, with some decrying Eilish for her lack of knowledge of the virtuosic hitmakers (while shaking their fist at the sky) and others more sympathetic to Eilish’s case, wondering why we should ever expect a young person to have an encyclopedic knowledge of a musical era from thirty years before their time. Although he is almost the same age as Eilish, Finn Wolfhard likely won’t ever find himself in a similar situation.
Wolfhard is a child of the 2000’s, but he is a disciple of the 1970’s and the 1990’s. “There was so much amazing stuff that came out of the late ’60s and the ’70s. The Band and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, all these amazing people. The ’70s was huge for music,” he recites over the phone while on a break from shooting the highly-anticipated fourth season of Stranger Things. “But yeah, the ’90s were great, too. That’s kind of when all indie rock started.” While, as was the case with Eilish, some might view Wolfhard’s age as a detriment, his cultural reference points to the times before his present few gaps in his knowledge base. “Definitely my parents were huge in that,” he explains. “Also my brother and uncle. There’s a bunch of things, but I think my parents were probably the biggest influence on that.”
With such a vast understanding of the musical landscape, Wolfhard’s newest musical endeavor, The Aubreys, finds itself with a wealth of influences. It channels bands like The Clean, but if The Clean listened to a lot of Jay Reatard and employed the production style of The Strokes, while also balancing out their sound with a sort of melodic melancholy. “We went into it wanting to be a mix of Kiwi pop-rock, even though we’re not from New Zealand, mixed with a crazy band like The Flaming Lips, mixed with a really gentle band like Wilco.” After all, according to Wolfhard, “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is a pretty perfect album.”
After achieving pop culture superstardom with his role as Mike Wheeler in Stranger Things, Wolfhard rode the wave of his acting success into a musical venture with the band Calpurnia, recording an album and playing shows around the world. But the project ended up being relatively short-lived as it became more and more difficult to balance Wolfhard’s hectic schedule with the grueling requirements of being an active band. “We had obligations to tour and we had obligations to do another album, and I ended up having no time to do all that stuff. So it became more like a chore than music, so we went on a hiatus for Calpurnia just to take a break from it.”
It was during this hiatus that The Aubreys were born, a duo comprised of just Wolfhard and Calpurnia drummer Malcolm Craig, who Wolfhard befriended on the set of Pup’s now-legendary “Guilt Trip” video. “I started jamming with Malcolm when I was eleven, so we’ve known each other for a long time. When we’re playing, it’s a little telepathic, just because we know each other’s quirks and music and what we do.” This pseudo-telepathic relationship allowed the duo to record a handful of tracks in a matter of days by setting up a few mics in their basement and tracking themselves.
Once complete, they sent the songs to their friend and producer Andrew Humphrey, who layered on some supplemental instrumentation and mixed what became a three-track effort. On their debut EP Soda & Pie, the music is instantly recognizable in its influences, but there is a sense of originality that remains. Perhaps it is the youth of the band’s members that allows them to incorporate the sounds they love, but also push forward to innovate and build upon what they know. The future is bright for The Aubreys, but it will be a while before we get to see the band bring their songs to life on a stage. “We’re planning to play some shows in 2021, just because my schedule is so crazy,” Wolfhard explains, with a hint of disappointment in his voice.
2020 is shaping up to be a huge year for the actor, with the upcoming season of Stranger Things, as well as a role in the forthcoming Ghostbusters: Afterlife film, which sees Wolfhard sharing the screen with Paul Rudd and Carrie Coon, who he calls “two of the greatest performers living right now.”
Although Ghostbusters: Afterlife takes place in the present day, its title alone does evoke a sense of undeniable nostalgia. For Wolfhard, it begs the question: what it’s like to be a young person in 2020 that signals, to older people, the 1980’s? It’s something he’s thought a lot about since Stranger Things skyrocketed him into stardom and people started telling him and his co-stars that “surprisingly, you guys got it right.”
“It’s odd,” he admits. “But what we can do is just the best we can with the clothes we have and the information we have. I’m pretty well-versed with what happened in the ’80s. I’m not an ageist or anything, I love all history and every year, ever. I don’t think any year is better than others.” He pauses for a moment to consider, before re-directing.
“I think Stranger Things might be the number one reason why this nostalgia thing has kicked in. But I think why I love Stranger Things is that it’s not just nostalgia. You have some of these things come out and just be copycats of Stranger Things and kind of only take the nostalgia out of it. What’s great about Stranger Things is that it’s not just about the ’80s. Yeah, that’s the time it’s set in, but it’s about these characters and the situations that they’re in, and not the time. I think it’s definitely interesting and weird.”
As for what we can expect from the forthcoming season of the anti-nostalgia sci-fi drama? A story that’s “funny, dark, sad, and… big, I guess.”
The Aubreys’ debut EP Soda & Pie is out now, with a full-length album due in 2021. In other news, Ghostbusters: Afterlife is out July 10, and Strange Things season four should be dropping sometime later this year.