Star Tracks: 12 Actors With Bands.
‘Scott Pilgrim vs. The World’ is oddly, but deservingly one of my favorite movies. After seeing the flick, it might be a bit easier to imagine the films star in an actual band in real life, but take a look at a few actors who might be a little harder to imagine making their own music.
Ryan Gosling: Dead Man’s Bones
Considering all the Grammy-winning talent that came out of season six of the All-New Mickey Mouse Club—Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera—it shouldn’t come as a surprise that another member of that cast, Ryan Gosling, is one half of a two-man band. Dead Man’s Bones began in 2005 when Gosling and Zach Shields began performing their light goth music for friends. They released their first album in 2009, which Rolling Stone described as “Arcade Fire, Tom Waits and the cast of Sesame Street performing a Kurt Weill musical.” Most impressive, they played almost all the instruments on the self-titled debut (which includes the track, not to mention that Gosling taught himself piano and cello. As in, Hey, Girl, did you know I can play the cello…?)
Zooey Deschanel: She & Him
Although she sang a bit in Elf and always dreamed of having a musical career, Zooey Deschanel truly found herself as an artist when she sent a demo to musician M. Ward in 2008. “Her voice doesn’t sound like anything else that’s out there. All I really had to do is press record,” Ward told Billboard about their collaboration, She & Him. “I feel like she secretly had been working on a first record for years but kept it under her hat and focused on acting.” That first album, the cleverly titled Volume One, contained those early Deschanel songs as well as covers of the Beatles and Smokey Robinson. With the release of Volume Two, Spin declared: “If Zooey Deschanel didn’t exist, indie rock would’ve invented her…fans of ’70s AM Gold will sip this stuff down like so much well-aged chardonnay.” The duo also released a Christmas album last year, and is it too much to hope that She & Him expand “Who’s That Girl? It’s Jess,” the micro-theme song of Deschanel’s sitcom, New Girl?
Jason Schwartzman: Coconut Records
While the filmmaking talents of Jason Schwartzman’s family are vast—his mother is actress Talia Shire, his uncle is Francis Ford Coppola, his cousin is Nicolas Cage—it’s also easy to overlook his grandfather, Oscar-winning composer Carmine Coppola. Fittingly, the indie actor also has an indie-rock side. His first band, Phantom Planet, became famous for the song “California,” the title track for the Fox show The O.C. But since 2006, Schwartzman has performed as a solo act, Coconut Records, and released two albums, Nighttiming and Davy, which Pitchfork praised, saying, “while Davy‘s lyrics are fed by a network of autobiographical arteries, this source material only fortifies the record’s moderately angsty life-in-your-twenties concept with concrete, ground-level detail.” And fans of Schwartzman’s late, great HBO series Bored to Death will also recall that Coconut Records performed the show’s jazzy theme song.
Jada Pinkett Smith: Wicked Wisdom
Her husband became famous as the Fresh Prince of rap, and daughter Willow had a hit song about whipping her hair, so why shouldn’t Jada Pinkett Smith want to rock out every once in a while? In 2002, Smith (performing under her middle name, Jada Koren) formed the hard-core metal band Wicked Wisdom, which opened for Britney Spears and in 2004 and played at Ozzfest the next year. In 2006, Wicked Wisdom released a self-titled album and also appeared on David Letterman. And no less a critic than Sharon Osbourne was impressed with the band’s talent. “I wasn’t sure what to expect when I went to see Wicked Wisdom play,” Osbourne told Billboard in 2005. “But let me tell you, I was blown away. When you see and hear Jada with her band, it’s apparent that she has nothing but love and respect for this genre of music.”
Adrian Grenier: the Honey Brothers and Kid Friendly
Actor Adrian Grenier doesn’t just moonlight as a musician, he moonlights from his moonlighting—Grenier is a member of two New York bands. In 2002, he joined The Honey Brothers, a new-wave folk act whose members include a musician who, improbably enough, shares a name with Jeremy Piven’s character on Entourage, Ari Gold. “I was a fan before I was a member,” Grenier said of The Honey Brothers, who are touring this spring. “I think they’re just delightful people and musicians. I was drawn to them immediately because of the good nature of the music but also the really catchy, hooky style as well.” And when he’s not playing drums with The Honey Brothers, Grenier fronts the Brooklyn band Kid Friendly.
Ed Westwick: The Filthy Youth
Taylor Momsen’s band, The Pretty Reckless, may get all the press, but her Gossip Girl co-star Ed Westwick also had a successful music career as the front man for the British indie-punk band The Filthy Youth. While the group has benefited from Westwick’s series—two of its songs were featured on Gossip Girl—the 24-year-old actor himself has put his Filthy Youth career on hold since he’s been in New York. Though Westwick did tell Teen Vogue to put another band together someday—“You haven’t heard the last of me yet.”
Malin Akerman: The Petalstones
While filming 2003’s Utopian Society, director Francesco Sondelli asked Malin Akerman to sing a few songs with his alternative band, Ozono. She was a hit—and the group soon changed its name to The Petalstones and made Akerman its lead singer. The Petalstones released an album in 2005, Stung, but then Akerman’s acting career took off and she left the band. But not completely. In 2007, Akerman married The Petalstones’ drummer, Roberto Zincone.
Michael Cera: Mister Heavenly
In Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Michael Cera played the bass guitarist for Sex Bob-omb who must defeat six ex-boyfriends to win the girl of his dreams. In real life, Cera had a brief flirtation with similar superheroics when it was reported that he would be joining the indie supergroup Mister Heavenly—which includes Modest Mouse’s Joe Plummer—as its bassist. Except it was too good to be true. While Cera did tour with the band a bit, the group’s publicist told L.A. Weekly “[he] did not record nor was he ever a permanent member of the band. Just a friend of the band who was helping them out when they were in need of a bassist.” And Mister Heavenly’s Ryan Kattner backed that up. “Michael is a buddy, never toured before, good bass player, but he’s not playing on the album,” he said. “When the band formed a year ago, we thought it would be fun to have him on the road, but it’s been kind of a distraction. I hate the girls screaming ‘Michael.’”
Hugh Laurie: Band From TV
When Heroes star Greg Grunberg had an idea to form an all-star charity cover band made up of television celebrities, there was little doubt as to what to call it— Band From TV. Among those who jammed with Grunberg on drums were House’s Hugh Laurie (who sings and plays keyboards), Desperate Housewives’ James Denton on guitar, and former Bachelor Bob Guiney, who provides vocals. (Over the years, there have also been cameos from Teri Hatcher, Jorge Garcia, and even the Today show’s Lester Holt.) Thanks to Laurie, Band From TV even contributed a song on House, but the good doctor has also had a successful solo career. In 2011, Laurie released his debut album, Let Them Talk, a collection of old-school New Orleans jazz and blues tunes that was well received. And for those who mourn the end of House, Laurie and his quintet will be going on a world tour this summer.
Maya Rudolph: The Rentals
As the daughter of singer Minnie Riperton (“Loving You”), Maya Rudolph has an impeccable musical pedigree, which she often displayed in Saturday Night Live impressions of Whitney Houston and Beyoncé. Last August, the Bridesmaids star also showed she could do a mean Prince—or in this case, Princess—when she performed with a reunited When the Dog. And back in the ’90s, Rudolph was a member of The Rentals, a band formed by former Weezer bassist Matt Sharp. In 2010, Jimmy Kimmel asked Rudolph what it was like when The Rentals went on tour with Alanis Morissette. “The road is dudes,” she quipped. “With ladies sprinkled in between.”
Christopher Mintz-Plasse: The Young Rapscallions
He may make a living doing comedies, but Christopher Mintz-Plasse takes his music very seriously. The Artist Better Known as McLovin’ formed The Young Rapscallions in 2007, and five years later he still considers their sound pure garage band. (Particularly because they often rehearse in Mintz-Plasse’s parents’ garage.) The Young Rapscallions released their first album last year and gave it a title, Everything Vibrates, that makes Mintz-Plasse, who plays drums, blush because it came from a friend’s story about watching a sex show: “He was just telling me he was up late one night watching some weird sex show where they had a bunch of toys,” he said in an interview last year “He told me that everything in that show vibrated, and I thought the name Everything Vibrates sounded cool. So lame.”
Ricky Gervais: Seona Dancing
The concept is almost hard to believe, and he is practically unrecognizable in the old videos, but back in the early 1980s, Ricky Gervais formed one half of a Bowie-esque new-wave duo known as Seona Dancing. In 2008, when David Letterman played a clip of one of their two hits—in which Gervais is whippet-thin and sounds like he could open for Tears for Fears or Psychedelic Furs— Gervais joked, “Immediately after that video was shot, I saw a Pizza Hut—and I’ve never looked back.”