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Why ‘Stranger Things’ heartthrob Finn Wolfhard hit pause—and then play again—on his music career

While some child actors spend their young adulthood proving they’re more than their star-making roles, Wolfhard, 17, has gone through the process in record time—and at his own pace.

Why ‘Stranger Things’ heartthrob Finn Wolfhard hit pause—and then play again—on his music career
Finn Wolfhard and Malcolm Craig [Photo: courtesy of Pooneh Ghana]

In the four years since Netflix’s Stranger Things made Finn Wolfhard a household name, he’s been relentlessly stacking his résumé.

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He’s appeared in such major studio films as It, The Goldfinch, The Addams Family, and Ghostbusters: Afterlife; he wrote and directed the forthcoming short film Night Shifts; and he’s got a burgeoning music career as the former frontman of the garbage rock band Calpurnia and with his new duo The Aubreys.

While some child actors spend the better part of their young adulthood trying to transcend the roles that initially made them stars, Wolfhard, at just 17, has gone through the process in record time.

At this point, he’s trying to learn how to steer it all at his own pace.

“I’ve known what I’ve wanted to do with my life since I was really young. And I’m lucky to know that, because a lot of people don’t know what to do with their lives until it’s too late,” Wolfhard says. “But I don’t want to rush into anything.”

One of the biggest lessons in that regard manifested itself with The Aubreys’ recently released EP Soda & Pie.

The Aubreys, Soda & Pie

Wolfhard started seriously playing guitar around 11 years old, and it wasn’t too much longer after that that he met fellow preteen Malcolm Craig. The two had starring roles in the band PUP’s 2014 music video “Guilt Trip.” Once Wolfhard found out that Craig played drums, the two began jamming together. Wanting to sharpen their songwriting skills, Wolfhard and Craig attend a music camp where they met guitarist Ayla Tesler-Mabe, who eventually rounded out the foursome with her friend and bassist Jack Anderson.

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Calpurnia officially formed in 2017, signed a deal with indie label Royal Mountain Records that same year, released their EP Scout in 2018, and, at the end of 2019, disbanded.

Calpurnia’s ascension wasn’t only coasting on Wolfhard’s own meteoric rise with Stranger Things. The band’s EP was pulling in solid reviews and racking up millions of streams and views.

It was the perfect foundation to start building a lasting music career.

But for Wolfhard, it was too much too soon.

“It just went too fast,” he says. “When you have a teenage band, you want to slowly start picking up steam. But for us it was just like an immediate record deal, doing an EP, and then it was, ‘Now you have to tour all the time.'”

Wolfhard’s decision to put Calpurnia on hiatus was fueled partly by the obvious lack of time to tour with such an aggressive slate of acting roles, but, more importantly, it was the breakneck pace the group was flying at that was draining the passion that inspired Wolfhard to start the band to begin with.

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“It got to the point where I was so unhappy doing it,” Wolfhard says. “The music part should be the fun part of my life. There’s no point in doing it if it’s not fun.”

After the band split, Wolfhard and Craig continued playing together like they did before Calpurnia formed. In those laid-back sessions, something clicked for Wolfhard.

“We realized, ‘Oh, this is what the music part of our life should be: just us jamming in our basement,'” he says.

After Calpurnia broke up, Wolfhard started working on some demos for fun, which Craig helped flesh out during their jam sessions. They decided to release what they’d been working on but not at the label scale of Calpurnia.

This time around, they wanted their music to be self-funded, self-recorded—and, of course, under a new identity.

“Initially our band was called the Audreys and that was because it was named after a childhood cat that I had,” Wolfhard says. “But there’s another band called the Audreys, so we just swapped the ‘d’ with the ‘b’ and we thought it just sounded cool. And we kind of created these alternate versions of ourselves named Aubrey and Aubrey.”

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The Aubreys’ debut EP Soda & Pie is a noteworthy benchmark for Wolfhard.

Finn Wolfhard and Malcolm Craig [Photo: courtesy of Matthew Craig]
His high profile as an actor has been a catalyst for creative pursuits like writing and directing films as well as music. But what he’s holding onto from the experience of breaking down Calpurnia and rebuilding it as The Aubreys is that just because you have the talent and access to do something doesn’t mean you should.

“The number-one thing I learned is that you don’t have to say yes to everything that sounds cool to you,” Wolfhard says. “It wasn’t at all the label’s fault. I just wasn’t thinking. I thought we’d be doing this cool experience and play a few shows here and there, but then it ended up becoming such a bigger thing, and there was so much more pressure from everyone, from all sides.”

“The only people [Craig and I] have to answer to are ourselves,” Wolfhard continues. “That’s a really great thing. There’s no pressure to put out a song. There’s no pressure to write a song. It’s just fun releasing music again. It’s much more an organic thing.”

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About the author

KC covers entertainment and pop culture for Fast Company. Previously, KC was part of the Emmy Award-winning team at "Good Morning America," where he was the social media producer.

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