Finn Wolfhard’s Calpurnia are an infectiously brilliant new indie band in their own right

Interview Finn Wolfhard’s Calpurnia are an infectiously brilliant new indie band in their own right

Yes, yes, it’s the kid from Stranger Things. But Calpurnia aren’t just another celeb cash cow; this lot are eager, energetic and very bloody exciting.

The road from child Hollywood star to burgeoning musician has a strange place in history. From The Mickey Mouse Club’s all-star brat pack to Macaulay Culkin’s fast food-themed Velvet Underground covers band The Pizza Underground, it’s seen global successes and horror show car crashes – the latter often swiftly succeeding the former. So when Calpurnia – fronted by Stranger Things star Finn Wolfhard (aka young hero Mike Wheeler) – first cropped up with debut single ‘City Boy’ earlier this year, it was with some degree of wariness that the world pressed play.

Give it approximately 10 seconds of Growlers-esque sun-drenched slackerisms, however, and you’ll realise that the quartet (completed by guitarist Ayla Tesler Mabe, bassist Jack Anderson and drummer Malcolm Craig) are about as far away from an ill-fated vanity project as you can get. Calpurnia, like any good new band, are just a bunch of mates, nerding out about music and learning as they go along. “We all connected initially over classic rock. Obviously The Beatles, obviously Led Zeppelin and those obvious choices,” enthuses Finn, dialling in during a filming break. “But what was also special about it was that there was stuff that we needed to show each other.” “I remember sitting in my basement and we’d constantly be showing each other different music. You showed me a song by the Buzzcocks…” joins in Ayla, she and the rest of the band currently in hometown Vancouver. “I was going through a big Blink-182 phase so I showed her that and she’d be like, ‘Cool… It’s not my kind of music…” laughs Finn. “I’d be like, how can you not like this?! This is art?! But even Malcolm was like, dude…”

Though three quarters of the band initially started playing together at a School of Rock-style musical summer camp - “It’s the same idea [as the film], just without any of the irresponsible illegal stuff,” notes Finn, he and Malcolm had been pals, jamming and going for auditions together, since the ripe old age of nine. It means that, though the band are all still in their early teens, they’ve actually been at this lark for a while now. You can tell it, too. From the Kevin Morby lilt of ‘Louie’ to ‘Wasting Time’ a brilliantly irreverent thing in the surf-punk vein of pals and EP producers Twin Peaks, Calpurnia’s recent debut EP, released in the UK via indie champs Transgressive Records, is a far more musically-astute, accomplished thing than you might expect from a band of such formative years. “I definitely have faith that when we get up there and do what we always do and show how passionately and genuinely we love what we’re doing then people can overcome whatever biases they may have,” explains Ayla. “I think it’s having faith that you’ve put in the work and they’ll respect that in some way.”

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“It’ll become a priority when it can become a priority.”

Finn Wolfhard

Though three quarters of the band initially started playing together at a School of Rock-style musical summer camp - “It’s the same idea [as the film], just without any of the irresponsible illegal stuff,” notes Finn, he and Malcolm had been pals, jamming and going for auditions together, since the ripe old age of nine. It means that, though the band are all still in their early teens, they’ve actually been at this lark for a while now. You can tell it, too. From the Kevin Morby lilt of ‘Louie’ to ‘Wasting Time’ a brilliantly irreverent thing in the surf-punk vein of pals and EP producers Twin Peaks, Calpurnia’s recent debut EP, released in the UK via indie champs Transgressive Records, is a far more musically-astute, accomplished thing than you might expect from a band of such formative years. “I definitely have faith that when we get up there and do what we always do and show how passionately and genuinely we love what we’re doing then people can overcome whatever biases they may have,” explains Ayla. “I think it’s having faith that you’ve put in the work and they’ll respect that in some way.”Playing their first show as part of a charity benefit in LA last year, Calpurnia were faced with the bizarre reality of debuting their wares to a horde of starstruck Finn fans. “I will never forget what it was like going onto the stage as a unit for the first time and hearing screams, legitimate screams. It was crazy,” recalls Jack. But though they may have started the show as Mike Wheeler Plus Pals, they ended it having won the crowd round on their own terms. “Afterwards this woman came up and she was just so ecstatic. She wasn’t drunk or high or anything, she was just super normal but so happy that kids were bringing back rock,” enthuses Finn. “She was like, ‘You just got up on that stage and you’re just a big ball of energy and so tight.’ I was so flattered, and I guess I kind of knew from that that if she’s excited then maybe more people are excited too.”

People undoubtedly are excited – and with good reason. But for now, Calpurnia are taking it slow, fitting the band in whenever they can between schoolwork and starring in one of the most successful shows of the last few years. A classic tale. “It’ll become a priority when it can become a priority,” nods Finn. “We’re thinking about doing a little [tour] when I’m not shooting something, so that we can live that life for a bit, get in the van and feel that great vibe for a few weeks.” “But I think it’s almost a blessing in a way that we have so much space to give what we’re doing because of schedules,” picks up Ayla. “I think when you’re not totally overwhelmed, then you can enjoy the moment a lot more because you’re not being thrown into this totally different world. You’re taking little bits and pieces of it and you can take time to reflect on what you’re experiencing.”

What they’re experiencing is the early stages of what could genuinely blossom into a truly exciting musical career, no caveats necessary. Sure, Finn’s got his diary full of other things right now, but when Calpurnia have time to really explore what they’re capable of, you sense they could be the real deal. Heck, stranger things have happened.

‘Scout EP’ is out now via Transgressive Records.

Taken from the August issue of DIY. Read online or subscribe below.

As featured in the August 2018 issue of DIY, out now at stockists across the UK. Alternatively, read below, get a copy sent to your door, or subscribe for a full year.

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