When you're the offspring of Hollywood royalty, it can be all too easy to follow in your parents' footsteps. But Sasha and Theo Spielberg (yes, that Spielberg), strayed from the clear-cut path laid out for them by trading screen tests for recording studios. "Even though a lot of members of our family act and direct, we’ve branched out in a lot of different ways," Theo tells InStyle. One of which is Wardell, the folk-pop outfit the 26-year-old fronts with his younger sister, Sasha.
The band's moniker hits as close to home as its membership: "Wardell" is a nickname given to their mother, actress Kate Capshaw. With tinges of Kate Nash and She & Him, their sound doesn't quite fall under any specific category (Sasha has recently come to terms with "soul pop"), but manages to evoke a special kind of sun-kissed, West Coast nostalgia nonetheless. We caught up with the bro-sis duo before their show at Rough Trade in Williamsburg to promote their debut album Love/Idleness. Here's an excerpt from our chat:
Did you grow up in a musical household, or was it all about the movies?
Theo: Yes and no.
Sasha: Our dad liked a lot of movie scores.
Theo: And our mom likes to sing and write, but she’s not a singer-songwriter herself.
Sasha: Our grandma’s also a classical pianist.
Theo: And our uncle taught us guitar. He’s an incredible guitarist.
Sasha, you've been in quite a few films at this point. Do you hope to eventually follow in your dad's footsteps?
Sasha: I tried! In high school I would be in little bit parts and cameos—mostly all of our dad’s movies [laughs]. I was in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. I scream at Tom Hanks in The Terminal. In college, I started auditioning on my own and under a different name to see where that would take me, and I got a bunch of little parts in indie movies like The Company Men and The Art of Getting By. Then Theo and I started doing music, and I put acting aside a little bit. I feel like you can act on stage. I can develop a totally different personality, and it's kind of like I’m acting, in a way. The door's always open, though.
How did you first start collaborating together?
Sasha: We both went to school for four years. I totally would’ve bypassed the college thing and gone straight to music and jumpstarted that, but we both came from a family that encouraged collegiate education. I discovered music at school. I was in a band with one of my friends, and we played live every two weeks. Then Theo and I started writing together.
Theo: I was actually in a band in high school, and we both decided toward the end of high school that we wanted to take a year off and work on music. I had this whole pitch, and I went to go present my parents with it, and I got maybe halfway into the first sentence and they were like, “No, you’re going to college.”
How did you correspond when you lived in different places?
Theo: Voice memos, text messages, the random email if you had to explain something. I graduated college in 2010, and I remember I came home and immediately had this horrible two-week illness and couldn’t leave my bed, and right at the end of it, Sasha came into my room and we decided we wanted to write a song. Within 20 or 30 minutes, we wrote our first single, "Opossum." We wrote our second song 20 minutes after that, and it obviously became clear that it worked really well. Then Sasha had to go back to college, so over the course of the next two years, we would communicate remotely and try to record when she was home in L.A. By the time she graduated, we had finished our first EP.
Do you both have similar musical tastes?
Theo: They’re very different and very similar. There’s a lot of crossover, but I think if at any given moment you were to grab our iPhones, you’d probably see something really different.
Sasha: The last song I put on was “California Saga” by The Beach Boys.
Theo: Mine was “Try Sleeping with a Broken Heart” by Alicia Keys.
Sasha: I was always the Alicia Keys type. I was obsessed with pop music.
Theo: I’m into more garage stuff. I would say I really liked the late ‘90s. Then the early aughts was immediately dominated by The Strokes.
Sasha: The Weeknd. Or D’Angelo.
Theo: Julian Casablancas would be cool. Same with Dave Longstreth [of The Dirty Projectors].
What's it like touring with your sibling? Do you ever fight?
Theo: We definitely bicker, but bickering is a part of any relationship. I think we get along really well. We’re really good at knowing when the other person is at the end of their rope.
Sasha: When we’re both hungry, we become angry, and that’s usually when we get into our biggest arguments.
Watch the music video for "Funny Thing" below, and buy Love/Idleness for $9 from the iTunes Store.