Finn Wolfhard is a busy young fella. Apart from starring in your fave 80s sci-fi/monster series Stranger Things, and being the sassiest little shit in the 2017 reboot of It, the 15-year-old is also completing high-school (mostly by correspondence), oh and his band Calpurnia is just about to drop their first EP, Scout.
He spends a lot of downtime jamming with the rest of the band – guitarist Ayla Tesler-Mabe, bassist Jack Anderson, and drummer Malcolm Craig – in Ayla’s basement, where they wrote most of the forthcoming EP and is a musical sanctuary where they quietly wish they could spend every moment of their lives.
Forming in May last year when Finn needed a band to play a charity gig he was hosting in Los Angeles (I know, I could barely take care of myself at 15), he called on a couple of friends he knew from music camp, hoping they’d be able to make the trip down from Vancouver to play, and Calpurnia was born.
After laying down a couple of covers, the four teens started jamming on their own stuff back in Ayla’s basement and eventually started working with Cadien Lake James from Chicago‘s Twin Peaks on what would become Scout.
There’s flavours of Mac DeMarco, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, and The Pixies, and leans into that summery, blissful indie-rock with fuzzy guitar licks, grooving basslines, and Wolfhard’s earnest crackled vocals. Calpurnia are a mature sound coming from a bunch of teens that haven’t even graduated high school yet.
PEDESTRIAN.TV got on the phone with the group to chat about their first big release, managing school life, and the importance of making music accessible to underage fans like themselves. But first things first, they’re just so bloody stoked to be a band.
“We’re just really excited to be a band and playing shows and people coming to our shows,” gushes Finn.
“We’re just hyped up for the full release. Yeah, we’re having a great time.”
The process of writing between the four of them seems to come quite naturally, and Ayla tells us that each song on Scout began in different ways.
All of the songs came together quite organically and differently, which is amazing. Sometimes someone would come with some sort of melodic idea that they had or some sort of chord progression, or there’d be two people sitting together and they’d come up with some sort of song idea, and then we’d all just collaborate ideas and eventually it’d become a real song, which is amazing.
Jack adds that the group wrote and recorded the whole EP in a really short time and that as soon as they started writing and working, the songs just all fell out of their brains and into place. Scout was recorded in nine days, which Jack admits was “quick, but not too quick.”
Being at school as well as technically being international artists is still a bit of a novelty for the band, and although they just wanna play music all day every day, they know that making time for their studies is still important for keeping their minds active.
Jack notes that it’s all about making sure that his teachers are on the same page because, for the most part, they’re pretty cool with him taking time off for his music.
It’s something that we’ve had to learn really quickly. Keeping humble is super important, just planning ahead, talking to your teachers. If you tell them you’re playing a show they’re usually pretty nice, so yeah just being motivated to doing well in school as well.
Ayla recognises that as much as she just wants to spend all her time in her basement noodling around on guitars, she knows that she needs to keep her mind sharp by taking every opportunity to learn about the world around her.
When I wake up in the morning, I really wanna just play guitar all day, but as we said, education is always very important and I think, not just to graduate and get a certificate but being educated and learning about different things – even if they’re not necessarily what you’re interested in – can help you grow even as a musician I think.
That’s what helps me keep trying to truck along and learn as much as I can and take advantage of every opportunity I’m part of because I think you can learn something from everything that you do, even if it’s not something you’re inherently interested in.
Finn’s school life is obviously a bit different – he doesn’t get to actually make it into class too often because of how much he has to juggle between acting and music and being a regular 15-year-old dude – so he has to compartmentalise all the different aspects of his life to make sure that everything gets the same amount of attention.
I’m just in so many things and I kinda have my brain in ten places at once in the best possible way. I off-switch things. I’ll switch mediums kind of every day, and when my brain is writing, my brain will still be thinking of the next whatever thing I’ll be doing. Then when I’m acting I’ll be thinking of the next song I’m writing, it’s kinda one of those things – I’m kinda all over the place when it comes to that. I kinda promise myself that I’ll devote as much time to each interest as possible, and that’s kinda how it looks as of now.
But when they do get a chance to see friends, their mates are nothing but supportive of their music.
Jack’s friends seem to give him a bit of flack for being a ~superstar~ now, but he promises that it’s just their way of showing their support.
I think in general, guys are a little bit different so, there’s a little bit going on for sure. But it’s all in good fun and definitely my friends are all so super supportive. But it’s nothing blown out of control; heads are all screwed on pretty tightly, which is good.
Whereas Ayla’s friends are just hanging out for new music and the next show.
My friends have always been so supportive of my music and it seems like they’re really excited that I’m able to pursue what I love.So I think everyone’s been asking the same, they’re just excited to ask me about the next show we have coming up or what the next song we’re putting out is. It’s definitely amazing to have such supportive people around me.
Being underage in a band doesn’t necessarily mean they can’t play 18+ shows in clubs, Finn says that they regularly get to play overage shows because they’ll always pull a crowd, but it does mean that as a band, they’re hyper-aware of the state of accessibility to live music that underage people have in both Canada and the US.
I think we’d all kind of agree that we’ve had a pretty easy time getting shows because clubs know that we can get a lot of people in – which is great. So thank god we haven’t had any problems with playing clubs underage. But definitely there is a difference between playing underage shows, or an all-ages show, and an 18-and-over show. There’s definitely a difference.
Malcolm notes that a lack of accessibility affects a crowd, but he’s happy that Calpurnia is opening the door for underage people to experience more live music in a community that seems to shut them out more often than not.
I think like the underage shows seem to be a little more awkward because there are a lot more kids who have never been to a concert before, which is great because I guess our band’s getting other kids to go see a show and like, do all that jazz. But yeah it’s just a whole different atmosphere; people really wanna party and others who are a bit shy.
Jack adds that as a band they’re actively trying to be as accessible with shows as they can because means their teenage friends can come and see them play live too.
We try to do all ages shows as much as possible because being on the west coast of America is notoriously bad for underage kids wanting to go see shows. I have so many people that I wanna go see and I just can’t and it’s so frustrating.
Yeah so just certainly trying to be all ages because hey, music doesn’t exclude people so why should a live show?
The band tells us that they love Australia, some of their favourite bands are from our shores (hello King Gizzard, Hiatus Kiyote, and Tame Impala) and that playing over here is on their collective bucket list.
“Hopefully one day we can play a show there. That would be a dream come true, I think,” Ayla says.
“But even if we don’t play I just wanna visit the country and experience all the culture; it really seems like an amazing place.”
“We’ve been told that Australia is the best country for Canadian musicians to play,” Jack adds.
“So thank you very much for being nice to our fellow Canucks over there.”
The debut EP Scout from Calpurnia is out through Royal Mountain Records and Inertia on Friday June 15, and you can pre-order the record over here.
Now we just wait with fingers crossed that the sweet angels find their way over to Australia, hell I’ll even let them play a house show in my loungeroom if I have to.Image: Leeor Wild