Wardell Open Up About Their Debut LP, Having Famous Parents + More
Family acts have always had this intrinsic connection that bands of friends don't seem to have. And while it can go sour -- as we have seen with a number of sibling bands -- there is generally a constant care and mutual respect had for one another. This is the case for Wardell.
Based in Los Angeles, Theo and Sasha Spielberg have always loved music. While their tastes may vary, especially when they were younger -- she was into Christina Aguilera and he was a big Strokes fan -- the two bonded over the sounds that seemed to intersect. And considering their artistic parents (yes, we mean those Spielbergs), it seemed only natural for them to follow that creative flow. Starting the band only a few years ago, the indie folk duo put out an EP called 'Brother/Sister' via National Anthem, which featured 'Opossum,' a song that got these two the buzz they were looking for to take off.
And now, signed to Jay Z's Roc Nation, the two released their full-length album, 'Love/Idleness,' yesterday (Feb. 10). We had the chance to catch up with Theo and Sasha in New York City right after they opened for Liverpool pop rock outfit the Wombats last month and chatted about the new album, their musical memories and what mom and dad think of their sound -- all while finishing each other's sentences, of course. Check out our exclusive interview below:
So let's start with your recent opening stint with the Wombats over the past couple of nights. Your sounds are quite different. What was it like to play to their audience?
Sasha: Their audience is a little rowdier.
Theo: I think it's great. It's like their audience is ready to go, ready to party. It's kind of really nice to get that energy.
Sasha: And it's great because we've opened for bands who really sound nothing like us, and we've opened for bands that we kind of have a very similar sound to. And it doesn't really matter. At a concert, everyone's just listening so you know, there's not much else to do. Sometimes you'll catch people checking their phone, but that's fine.
Theo: I also think you're not playing for an entirely different species. Especially today, I think people have broad, eccentric music tastes that it's almost nice to maybe go to a concert and expect one thing then get something a little bit different -- at least that's what I tell myself. [Laughs]
What are you first musical memories?
Theo: Interesting question ...
Sahsa: I used to make my parents sit down and listen to me sing Disney songs and 'My Heart Will Go On' [by Celine Dion] when 'Titanic' came out. I would always sing that and put on shows.
Theo: I think for me it would be Disney music, but probably temple actually.
Sasha: Oh interesting. I didn't even think about that. Oh yeah, I didn't even think about that. Hmmm, temple -- and then it takes a religious turn. [Laughs]
You two have pretty varied tastes. Sasha, you grew up on pop music like Christina Aguilera while Theo, you were into the Strokes. You guys clearly like different sounds, so how does that affect how you collaborate and make music?
Sasha: Well, Theo started as a drummer, so I always find that rhythmically we have really different styles.
Theo: That's a good point actually.
Sasha: Theo is always trying to explore new, weird ... I mean, I can't speak drums. You know what I'm talking about ...
Theo: Yeah, just phrasing things differently and having different rhythmic patterns that aren't your go-tos. But you know, again, me and Sasha, when we were 12, couldn't have started a band together because I liked Green Day and Rancid and she just liked Christina Aguilera.
Sahsa: It would have been ...
Theo: It would have been total war. But as we got into high school, we started going to shows together.
Sasha: We were really into MGMT when we were in high school. I feel like that was the first band we bonded over. We got that CD before ... I was in 10th grade.
Theo: One of my friends ended up managing them. I used to sell their CDs in my high school.
Sasha: So we had a bunch of the CDs, and that's when we both started getting into the indie music world. It was the album where we both crossed over to that genre.
So let's get to when you guys actually started the band. When did you realize that you two should form Wardell?
Theo: It's funny that you say that because a lot of people would assume we were jamming all the time.
Sasha: We were not. We really kept that separate until almost five years ago when we actually started jamming together and, in an hour, wrote 'Opossum.'
Theo: Yeah, we wrote our first two songs in our first jam, and we're still playing them.
Sasha: And I don't think there was a moment we were like, "We need to do this." We were just jamming for two hours, and it happened.
Theo: When we wrote our first song, we just thought we should start a band. It was pretty immediate and spontaneous and didn't require much thinking.
You guys released an EP, went to SXSW last year and are now ready to release your first album. How does it feel at this point?
Theo: It feels so surreal but ...
Sasha & Theo: ... Very scary.
Sasha: I was going to say it's really scary. It's like putting out a recording project because it started as a recording project rather than a band. We've had so much time to spend with these songs. It's kind of just like, "We're ready and scared," but I'm just anxious.
Theo: I've done this thing where it's done and I just turn my brain off as far as thinking about that goes, and it's only in the last two weeks where I'm already thinking about writing the next album because there's nothing I can do about this one. I really like it. We really, really love it, and we put so much work into it. So we can't wait to release it. But there's also the idea that, "Well, here it is. We hope you like it."
What can people expect?
Theo: It's not completely different, but it's definitely different.
Sasha: It's just more evolved I think.
Theo: I remember demo-ing all the songs on my computer in the basement, and I remember thinking it all sounded like it was all recorded in a basement. And I kind of wanted to capture that in the EP recordings so we muddied it up and reverbed it a lot. And I think now since we've been playing more, as you gain more confidence in what you're playing, you don't feel the need to mask it with a lot of atmosphere. And I think that's one of the things that happened with the album. Things just got a little bit crisper, and the arrangements have gotten a little bit more interesting.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of being siblings in a band?
Sasha: You know when your parents put pressure on you in life? [Everyone laughs] So it's like that times two. They will sit us down and say, "OK guys, what's going on with the band? What's the next thing? How is everything?" Actually that's an advantage because we get to team up and have our own ...
Theo: It's also kind of great because with other band members, you wonder, "Where is that person? I haven't seen that person. What are they doing?" And you kind of just always know where your sibling is. I mean, I've been in bands with siblings before, and it is different but not remarkably different. I think the big difference is the degree of honesty we're able to facilitate because we are siblings. We can easily be like, "I really don't like that idea. I really love this idea." It's an advantage and disadvantage because you know which buttons to push and how far to push them. It's also kind of nice because it's not just the two of us. So when we're on tour or playing live, we play with a band.
Sasha: So when we get annoyed with each other, we can just go off.
Theo: It provides a bit of a buffer. Honestly, family vacations are much tougher than touring.
Sahsa: That's true.
Speaking of family, I'm sure you've been asked this a lot, but were you a little weary when you were starting the band of the fact that fans would find out about your family and maybe think you were "a product of Hollywood." Was it something that ever crossed your mind?
Sasha: It didn't cross my mind when we started the band, but it started to cross my mind when we read about it. We didn't really think about it. Then every article says something ...
Theo: It didn't cross our minds until the absolute first article [that came out about us], and there's a moment when I was kind of bothered by it. I had a conversation with the guy who wrote the article, and after our conversation, I had a new understanding. What he said to me was, "Look, I get it." And he really didn't even say anything about how you're going to have to get used to it or people are always going to say that. What he said was, "Look, I wouldn't be doing my journalistic duty if I wouldn't at least mention it." And it makes sense. I'm just doing my job, and you're just doing your job.
So what do your parents think of your music?
Theo: They really like it. I actually had to stop them from playing it when I was in the room because it was like, "Mom, Dad, stop!"
Sasha: It's like an embarrassing photo album.
Theo: But they're super supportive of it. We actually left a family vacation a little early and they were like, "Are you sure you don't want to stay and hang out?" They were really supportive and understanding.
So what are the plans for 2015?
Sasha: We're writing the next album.
Theo: Hopefully we get on a tour and play the shows for people. Just do more of this.