The couple played indie folk and released a new album, featuring Brian Wilson favorites.
It’s not always a cliché: many Southern Californians really love the surf, the sand and the sun, and the sounds of the Beach Boys.
Even as cool as indie folk duo She & Him, Zooey Deschanel — the her — and Mr. Ward — the him — grew up loving the music of the Beach Boys and the words penned by co-founder Brian Wilson. Deschanel is from Los Angeles and Ward is from Glendale, California.
“We’ve both been Beach Boys fans for as long as we can remember,” said Ward, who has lived part-time in Portland and part-time in — you guessed it — LA since 2000.
Ward, whose first name is Matt, added, “Growing up in Southern California, his music was on the radio all the time.
“But, when you write songs, you realize how difficult it is to write even a simple song. We believe that (Wilson) is the architect of that sound. Listening to his sound is like tasting the home. Listening to his music when it’s on the radio is always like traveling back in time in some way. Going back to your childhood, which is a place of endless inspiration.
So Ward and Deschanel — also a successful film and TV actress — set about making a Brian Wilson tribute album. The result is “Melt Away: A Tribute to Brian Wilson”, which includes many of Wilson’s hit songs, such as the album’s single “Wouldn’t It Be Nice”, and more obscure songs that appealed to Deschanel. and Ward, such as the lead single “Honey”. It is due out July 22 on Fantasy Records.
And, luckily, She & Him have toured and will perform in the Portland area this week – Thursday, June 16 in Forest Grove, as the first performers of the new McMenamins Grand Lodge concerts in the Grove Series. .
The gig will feature many of their Brian Wilson renditions as well as many songs from their catalog, which now includes seven albums.
Ward and Deschanel have been an independent folk duo for 15 years, shortly after Deschanel starred alongside Will Ferrell in “Elf.” They have original albums and Christmas albums and now a collection of recordings of Brian Wilson songs.
“There are so many levels of love for this music and what his music meant to us,” Ward said. “Also, we’ve been collaborating with him for the past two years.”
Wilson sings on one of the songs from the new album, “Do It Again.”
The duo evaluated about 25 “favorite” Wilson songs and broke them down into chords, vocals and guitars.
“The disc could easily have held two volumes. It’s the crème de la crème,” Ward said.
“I love hearing Zooey sing so many songs that you’re used to hearing from a male perspective. One of Zooey’s gifts is that she’s an amazing performer. Hearing these songs in a new light with a female lead vocals and also female backing vocals is a great pleasure for me to listen to.”
It was a joy to be with Wilson, he added.
“He’s extremely humble and gracious. He always makes music for the right reasons,” Ward said. “Combining rock and roll beats with harmonies from the Four Freshmen (which the Beach Boys imitated) was hardly a business idea. He followed his own voice very well in his head. That’s what makes his music so interesting , it’s so individual.”
Wilson commented that “Zooey and Matt did such stunning versions of our songs. The harmonies are beautiful and on point. I love this record.”
Ward continues to release his own music and resumed touring Europe in the spring.
He and she have toured in the past, including “seasonal” tours around Christmas.
“This is the first non-seasonal tour we’ve done in maybe eight or nine years,” Ward said. He has never performed at the Grand Lodge and is delighted to “cut the ribbon” from the Concerts in the Grove series.
Fifteen years together, and each of them having distinctly different careers, what’s the secret behind She & Him?
“Our longevity comes from a lot of different things,” Ward said. “Perhaps the most important thing is that the things she’s most passionate about are the things I’m very happy to delegate, and vice versa.
“My greatest passion for music is guitars, alternate tuning, chord and guitar progression and production. And his is singing, backing vocals and harmonies, writing songs and learning other people’s songs. They’re very compatible. Part of the reason bands break up is the guy on the left wants to be in the position of the guy on the right. We didn’t really have that. I am very happy to hear his voice.
Deschanel is a well known actress and Ward is very happy with the music.
“I’m definitely not an actor,” he said. “In the music videos I’ve been in, you see that. That’s another thing I delegate. My passion is guitar chords.”
When they reunited, Deschanel and Ward focused on music, especially with Brian Wilson tribute songs.
“We talk about what we do and what’s on the plate,” he said. “At the moment, for me, it’s about arranging these (Wilson’s) songs for the stage, which is very different from arranging for the studio. And his head right now is transforming the huge harmonies into something that the people on stage can sing along to. There will be about five of us on stage singing.
“It’s going to be a roller coaster. I’m very happy that I don’t have to be the lead singer on these songs, they’re very difficult to sing.”
For more on Her & Him, see http://www.sheandhim.com.
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