While 2020 brought a number of cancellations or postponements and put the entire entertainment industry on an indefinite hiatus, Finn Wolfhard took the downtime to mature his creativity as a musician. After calling it quits with Calpurnia at the tail end of 2019, Wolfhard and his longtime friend and drummer Malcolm Craig wanted to continue to make music, but without obligation or an extensive touring schedule. With his co-pilot by his side, Wolfhard didn’t waste a moment of being in lockdown due to COVID-19. Rather, the newly 18-year-old spent months writing and becoming a more well-rounded lyricist.
Despite the duo’s new endeavor, the Aubreys, only having a handful of songs to binge, Wolfhard and Craig regularly send voice memos back and forth to one another and in their group chat with Lunar Vacation’s Grace Repasky and Maggie Geeslin.
“This song came about when Finn sent Maggie and me the piano progression, and we both just immediately added on to it and made the structure,” Repasky says. “Malcolm made the drums remotely. Then when Finn was in town, we all went to the studio for a day and recorded the instruments [and] vocals. The song pretty much wrote itself, which is real neat. The first two lines of the songs are from a text I got from our friend Ben while he was living in New York City for college—literal poetry. So with that, I just wrote the lyrics centered around a person who is trying to find their place in the world, as cliche as that sounds, and all the weird feelings you encounter when doing so. New places, people, things, and feelings—especially in a pandemic.”
While the four didn’t intend to succumb to the pressure of writing a song about the pandemic, “No Offerings” does offer a haunting perspective on trying to find your way and the loneliness that can accompany that. Check out the Aubreys’ first collaboration, “No Offerings,” with Lunar Vacation below, and find out how Wolfhard knew they were the right musicians to work with on the project.
“No Offerings” is the first track under the Aubreys that you’re collaborating with another artist on. What was it like, from your perspective, to share the vocal responsibility with Grace Repasky?
I think what was amazing about doing this song is if we were to collaborate with someone first, it would be Grace and Maggie of Lunar Vacation because they were one of the first bands ever to open for our other band Calpurnia. It’s not like I discovered them or anything, but I found them on a college radio station, and it had like 400 views or something like that, and we became best friends. We send each other tracks all the time just as friends. I sent them this piano track, and then it just became really organic. I’m friends with them already, and I’ve been playing music with them as friends for a while. It was a really natural thing.
Aside from the fact that you were friends already, how did you know that they were the right individuals to work with on this specific piece of music?
Well, Grace and Maggie took the lead on that. Me and Malcolm and Grace and Maggie all have a group chat together, and I sent the piano and thought, “That sounds pretty cool.” Usually when I write something, I like to send it to them just to see if they like it or not or just get some advice on it. Within 30 minutes, Grace took the voice memo I sent and put it in GarageBand and put a vocal track on top of it, which is the vocal track of the melody you hear in the song. Then she’s like, “I just had this idea for it,” and Maggie put slide guitar on it. And then it was like, “OK, this is a real song.” Then I put on a duet and a melody, and it was like, “OK, well, let’s do the song together. Why not? You just started it off, so let’s do it.”
It sounds like it came together so organically. When you sent it to them, did you imagine this as being a full-fledged song together, or did you hear it differently in your head?
It’s funny: We kind of reverse-engineered it. So basically, we started with just a scratch version, like with a metronome, which is like just a Yamaha DX7, which is a synth. We were in Vancouver, and Malcolm put down the drums in his basement. So, the only track we had was drums and that scratch beat.
And so when I went to Atlanta because I filmed my show Stranger Things there, and that’s when I see Grace and Maggie the most. We said, “OK, let’s go into the studio, get some studio time.” So we went to Big Trouble Studios in Atlanta, which is run by Dan Gleason and TJ Elias, [who] engineered it. So we heard the drums, and I just went in and recorded the piano that you hear on the song with the drums and then built it from there. We started with drums and then weeks after started recording the song. It was me, Grace and Maggie in the studio, working from the morning till night and doing every instrument. It was really amazing and really fun.
Last time you spoke with AP, you and Malcolm were very much operating on this “no rules, not having to answer to anyone’s demands or obligations” mindset, and it was just very fun. Has that dynamic at all changed since the entertainment industry has been shut down since March 2020?
No, it’s funny because it’s a simple answer, but if anything, because we live so close together, we got to record even more music. What we do is we record in Malcolm’s basement. Then we do a rough mix, and then we send it to a friend remotely to fully mix it. We got Joe Keery and Adam Thein to mix it from Chicago and from a show in L.A. So it’s still exactly the same. I guess we’re playing live super different, obviously. We would have hoped to be playing a few shows. Obviously, with my schedule, I wouldn’t have been able to do a full-fledged tour in the first place. But just doing some scattered shows, we would have done. But that didn’t work out. And so what we did was we recently did a live session up on our YouTube channel at, in my opinion, the best record store in Vancouver, Neptoon Records, and we just set up in there.
I’ve been working a lot, so hopefully in the next few months we could start tracking the album. We have like 20-ish songs that we’re going to have to narrow down to 10 or 12. Our main producer that we’ve been working with is Cadien Lake James, who is a guitarist in Twin Peaks, but he’s an incredible mixer and producer. He mixed “No Offerings” from Chicago.
You mentioned that you have a lot of music and that you’ve been able to write a lot because we’ve all been stuck at home. Did you feel pressure to write music based solely around the events of 2020, or did you find yourself being able to take a unique approach to the year as a whole and seek out your own artistic perspective on it?
So I wrote one song that is about the pandemic, but not directly, because sometimes I’ve seen some people be like, “This is a song about the pandemic.” It’s the same thing with anything when it gets oversaturated. It’s funny: I have a bunch of friends who go to film school, and the amount of peoples’ class projects that are going to be about COVID-19 is ridiculous. And every single person is going to talk about COVID, which isn’t a big deal because it happened to literally everyone. It was the first time in the world [where] everyone was experiencing something together. So it was easy for people to say, “I’m going to write something about the pandemic. I’m going to do this.”
I wrote a song about the pandemic, but other than that, no. I had time to actually sit down and be like, “What do I want to write about?” I feel like my lyrics have gotten definitely better since the pandemic started because I got to sit down and take a lot of time to be like, “What did this song mean?” For my songwriting, I feel like I’ve gained a lot in the last year. I weirdly matured a lot in the last year. Not in a crazy way. I’m still the same person, but it got me to really think about what I’m doing.
Previously you had mentioned that you had plans to record an LP and to possibly release it in 2021. Has that changed at all, or are you still hoping to be able to do that?
Yes, we’re still trying to do that. I was just talking to our production team last night. We have some amazing people. As of now, it’s me, Malcolm, Colin Croom [Twin Peaks], who’s another songwriter and an amazing mixer and producer in Chicago, and Andrew Humphrey, who is also an incredible producer and mixer. Previously, Colin, Cadien and Andrew produced our EP for Calpurnia. So we’ve known them for a long time, and they’re the perfect people, I think, to do this kind of debut with. So, we were just talking about the sound and what we want it to sound like last night. Hopefully [in] the next few months, maybe spring, I can find some time in my crazy schedule to track that and hopefully put it out. What’s great about what we do is we can release singles whenever. So no matter what, we’ll have music coming out this year.