She and Him

This month’s cover features the collaborative project She & Him which consists of Zooey Deschanel and Matt Ward, otherwise known as M.Ward. Now, we didn’t put Zooey and Matt on the cover just because they’re easy on the eyes, they’re easy on the ears too. After much success with their first album, Volume One, Zooey and Matt have stepped back up to the plate with their aptly named follow up, Volume Two. Volume Two is what a luau in the countryside would sound like with its twang-ridden, emotionally evocative vocals and fluid, gentle instrumentals. These are the perfect tunes for a rural bike ride along a smooth, sun bathed street—the best way to combat, yet take advantage of global warming. So start polishing your fenders and pumping up your tires because Volume Two is out on March 23.

The opener “Thieves” makes me want to start singing “Cupid” by Sam Cooke. Is that intentional?
Zooey Deschanel: No, it wasn’t. I love Sam Cooke but “Thieves” is a much darker song than “Cupid.” I wrote “Thieves” to be kind of a long lost Roy Orbison song. But I love hearing what people think when they hear the record and I love Sam Cooke. Very cool.
M. Ward: Sam Cooke is a constant reference. On “Thieves” one of the inspirations was a Phil Spector production called “Spanish Harlem” but that’s Ben E. King.

If you are slowly becoming the new Phil Spector, is your wig collection starting to rival your guitar collection?
MW: You know, I have not delved into wigs at all.

Do you still work out of Portland?
MW: I do. There’s a couple studios there that I work out of, the new She & Him was recorded at a couple of those and was also recorded in Los Angeles out of a pretty famous studio called Village Recorders, where Fleetwood Mac recorded Tusk.

Why is Portland such a special corner of America right now?
MW: Well I think a lot of people on the West Coast are moving there and have been moving there because it’s the cheapest and best city on the West Coast. You can still afford a decent practice space and there are plenty of musicians to work with. I have friends who live in San Francisco and they had to eventually stop playing music because they couldn’t afford to have a practice space.

Did you get together and write for Volume 2, or was it still a mostly correspondance project like Volume 1?
MW: Well, Zooey writes all the lyrics and writes all the melodies and pretty much all the chord progressions. So in general, she writes all the songs and I just do the production and the guitars and the arrangement.

Tilly and the Wall are on this record. Were you hoping for a little tap routine on the song?
ZD: No, they did a great enthusiastic response to our call and response section. I wasn’t about to ask them to do a song AND dance.
MW: We already had our percussion set up when we got Tilly and The Wall involved. I just love their singing style. It’s incredibly enthusiastic and it seemed to fit for what we wanted for the song which is basically a chorus of enthusiastic singers. So we were mixing the record in Omaha, Nebraska and I was hoping that Tilly and The Wall were in town and they were so they came in and recorded “In the Sun.”

Who chose the covers for Volume 2? Was there a debate?
MW: I suggested the NRBQ song and Zooey suggested the Skeeter Davis song. We come up with a lot of songs but the only ones that make the record are the ones that take on a life of their own outside of the original version that was recorded years ago. We recorded a bunch of covers. We also recorded “I Can Hear Music” which the Beach Boys made popular years ago and it’s going to be a b side to the single that comes out this month.
ZD: We don’t really ever debate about things because we almost always agree. It’s pretty awesome.

Matt, you get to work with Jenny Lewis and Zooey Deschanel. Does that make you the envy of most young men of a certain demographic?
MW: Y’know, journalists point that out but it doesn’t really happen much in normal everyday life. I work with a pretty good mixture of talented men and talented women and it’s one of the best parts of my job working with extremely talented people.

What is the best/most difficult part about working with each other?
MW: Well the heart of the record is the songs. The songs are incredible and the singing is incredible. As a producer, it makes life very easy when you’re working with a remarkable ingredient.
ZD: The best thing about working with Matt is that we always have fun in the studio because Matt is a very intuitive artist who always takes advantage of the present moment while recording. It never feels overly “precious” and it is always fun.

Actors and actresses face heavy scrutiny when trying a hand at music, no matter what their history with it is. What was your internal debate like when you decided to move forward with She & Him?
ZD: There wasn’t really an internal debate concerning that. I have always felt that the music spoke for itself and it’s very
sincere. I make music to please myself and Matt and we hope others respond to it. But I don’t make it in anticipation of others’ reactions. You can’t win trying to constantly predict the reaction of people, so I just worry about myself and hope people like it.

Zooey, your father shot The Natural, which is awesome. (I heard that Robert Redford hit all those homers himself as he once had a baseball scholarship to the University of Colorado, but says he discovered booze and women and dropped out). Your mum was on Twin Peaks. Your sister is an accomplished actress and producer as well. What’s Sunday dinner like with the Deschanels?
ZD: Probably a lot like everyone else’s Sunday dinner except my mother has to make a lot of different things because everyone likes different kinds of foods.

What’s the worst/most embarrassing thing that’s happened to you onstage?
MW: One of our backing vocalists got locked in the bathroom at a show in North Carolina. That was pretty funny. We thought we lost her.
ZD: A day onstage is always a good day!

Are you fans of any Canadian acts, country or otherwise?
ZD: Yes, of course. Feist and Sloan immediately come to mind and of course classics like Joni Mitchell and Neil Young. But I am sure there are dozens of others!

You’re a man of many hats. Do you have a favourite project to work on?
MW: I love the She & Him project because I just get to focus on the guitar and the arrangement so, especially if you’re asking me right now, it’s the She & Him project.

The record stores call you Alt Country. What’s the divide like in the country world between more traditional sounding artists like yourself and what is sometimes referred to as Country-politan?
MW: Yeah… I have an allergic reaction to those terms. I am happier when people label the music much more broadly. Definitely I’m inspired by American music, which Zooey calls AM Gold music and I like that.

Do you drink or smoke before a show or recording? If so, is it whiskey? Do you get that authentic Sixties country sound or mood?
ZD: I don’t drink or smoke, ever, actually. I really don’t believe that drinking and smoking is the magic behind old recordings. It would be much more apt to blame the microphones.

Are YOU a whiskey drinker?
MW: No.

What’s your karaoke end-of-the-night go-to song?
ZD: “Crazy” the Patsy Cline version or “Stand By Your Man” by Tammy Wynette.


Photography: Jeremy Williams []

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