Finn Wolfhard: “I just like writing songs and making music accessible. I’m not trying to take over the world”

Following 2021 debut album Karaoke Alone, this week The Aubreys return with their most personal song to date, Kato. While superstar Finn Wolfhard is nervous at the prospect of revealing a new side of himself, the musician and actor simply just wants to keep making art he loves…

Finn Wolfhard: “I just like writing songs and making music accessible. I’m not trying to take over the world”
David McLaughlin
Cooper Fox

Finn Wolfhard has lived half his life in the public eye.

We’ve watched him grow up on screen while starring as Mike Wheeler for four seasons on flagship Netflix phenomenon Stranger Things. He’s worked with Hollywood legends like Julianne Moore, Guillermo del Toro and Willem Dafoe. His CV boasts major blockbuster hits and indie gems alike, not to mention a modelling stint for Yves Saint Laurent, appearing on covers for Elle and GQ, and releasing music in two bands. All before the age of 21.

Understandably, people feel like they know who Finn Wolfhard is. They recognise his face, they know his name, his voice and his work. But they don’t yet know the real Finn. It’s making the young Vancouver native a little twitchy about the release of his band The Aubreys’ new single, Kato; a delicate and deceptively breezy folk lullaby with an angst-riven soul. ‘It’s been hard to make decisions on how to live my life,’ one lyric goes, ‘Wanna crawl out of my fucking skin.’

Alongside his bandmate and long-time musical collaborator Malcolm Craig, for the first time, Finn is finally feeling ready to share something private and personal in public. We meet him to find out how he’s steeling his nerves at the prospect…

Your new single Kato is a musically pretty song, but there’s a lot of anguish in the lyrical content. Do you enjoy that juxtaposition?
“Oh yeah, absolutely. Some of my favourite songs combine darker, more personal lyrics with incredibly soft arrangements. Growing up, my interests were rock’n’roll, indie and punk, and I’ve been getting more into folk and quieter, reflective stuff. That was the bridge into recording this song the way that we did.”

What inspired that darkness? It feels like there’s a theme of growing up and awareness of the essence of who you are changing at the core of it all.
“I think it’s all of that. Being 20, so far, has been incredibly fun. I’m sure I’ll look back at these years and think that they were a blast. I also think that my 20s have been a complete mess and a nightmare! Those two things completely coexist. Everyone around me is also changing, and so it’s also about how relationships are evolving. When you start to get older you start to have questions about identity. It’s a very existential age. I wanted to explore that.”

If someone were to psychoanalyse your state of mind from the lyrics, what conclusions might they come to?
“(Laughs) I showed it to my parents, and they were like, ‘Are you okay? This is really sad!’ It’s sort of an identity crisis and sort of an anxiety song, but at the end there’s a coming to terms with that; to just let it happen and live through it.

“I moved out of my parents’ [house] for a while, and it’s about that, too. It was this, ‘I’m an adult now!’ thing. And I had a really great, crazy experience living on my own, but it was so intense. So, I went back home. I felt really embarrassed because I thought I could handle being grown up. Turns out, sometimes you need to go home and recentre.”

Being a teenager is hard for most people. Harder still nowadays, with the added pressures of social media. Doing it all in the public eye like you did must be even more difficult. How well do you think you survived your teenhood?
“You know, man, I have a really great family, support system, and friends. So, I think I came through it a relatively happy person. Sometimes I’ll talk to people a little younger than me and their big fear is getting cancelled. I talked to a 15-year-old about that and they were worried they’d say the wrong thing, a friend would post about it, and their life would be over. That’s an actual fear for 15 year olds now. I’m so glad I missed out on that.”

That’s so heavy. Especially at an age when you’re supposed to make mistakes, in order to develop as a person…
“It’s incredibly heavy. Also, feeling that defeated when you’re at an age when you should be having a great time is sad. At that age the brain is still developing. You’re freaking out, your body is freaking out, and it’s a really weird time. For that to be in front of everyone is intense. For that reason, I’ve been off social media. I have an account, but I only really post stuff for film or promote music. Once in a while I’ll see what’s going on, but I periodically delete the app from my phone, and that feels great. I feel so much more present in my life. I think social media is cool, but I also think it can be damaging.”

The work you’ve done onscreen has already left a huge cultural imprint. Would you like to replicate that kind of success with music or is it something you’d rather keep on a more intimate scale, allowing you the freedom to explore more personal expression? Or is it possible to do both?
“That’s a great question. The filming side of that cultural impact was not on purpose! I was just a part of it. And I was really lucky to be a part of it. With music, it’s a more personal endeavour. I just like writing songs, putting them out, and making music accessible. As long as someone can hear it and relate to it, that’s really all that I care about. I definitely don’t feel like I’m trying to take over the world! It’s my own personal journey and relationship with music, so it’s less about cultural impact. If it does end up reaching people and they like it, that’s great.

“Usually, when something does make a cultural impact, it’s because it’s by people making stuff for themselves [first and foremost]. Even with Stranger Things, none of us knew that it would be as big as it’s become. It ended up culturally changing things because it’s organic. It’s come from two people [The Duffer Brothers] who really believed in their project. I think that’s really all you need. I’m just going to keep doing stuff that keeps me artistically stimulated and happy.”

You’ve played a young Rivers Cuomo from Weezer. You’ve been a young Stefan Babcock from PUP. Can you imagine a day when the next generation’s Finn Wolfhard plays a younger you in a future Aubreys video?
“(Laughs) Yeah, who is that gonna be?! That’s really funny. Hey, maybe! I have now played younger versions of lead singers, huh. I loved the Kerrang! live show PUP played. That’s a great performance. I was talking to Stef the other day. They’re so nice. They’re part of the reason I’m into music as much as I am now. I met Malcolm on the set of a PUP video and I had never really heard that kind of super heavy punk music before. I remember hearing Reservoir for the first time and being completely freaked out. I was kind of terrified. Then I fell in love with it. Without them I wouldn’t have had this journey in music.”

Your life’s work and achievements already read like someone’s idea of a dream bucket list. How do you keep from getting a big head about it all?
“I like travelling. I like seeing family and friends and keeping up with their lives; being involved in things that aren’t just my career and film. It’s hard for me to do that, because sometimes work can feel really overwhelming. But I try to have a real life. Sometimes your career becomes your life, and you want to keep those two things separate as much as you can. Even with music, it’s hard, especially for me because it’s so personal. You try to strike the balance between personal enjoyment and happiness, while also kind of making a career out of things. The way that I try to deal is by compartmentalising and keeping things separate. So I go home as much as possible to connect with people who I feel I’m most myself around.”

Having just wrapped production on your feature-length co-directorial debut, Hell Of A Summer, can you give us the elevator pitch?
“It’s a slasher comedy about a guy named Jason who’s a 24-year-old camp counsellor. It’s the weekend before campers arrive and one by one counsellors start getting murdered. The group turn on Jason thinking that he’s the killer. It’s all about how the group survives the night. I co-directed with my friend Billy Bryk, who is brilliant. We’ve been working on this for a long time together. It was a short shoot and an ensemble comedy, so complete chaos, but also the most fun I’ve ever had in my life. I hope that translates on screen.”

Because you’ve lived half of your life on screen, people think that they know you. How true are those impressions? Is The Aubreys a way for people to get to know the real Finn, or is that something you try to protect?
“It’s weird. Sometimes I feel like I have personal interactions with people because of their art or their music. When you’re consuming really personal stuff you feel like you know a person, like you’ve been inside their brain, but in reality, it’s just a song. But both things can be true. I’ve been really lucky that people have come up to me and said they identify with the things I’ve done. As long as you are kind, I don’t really give a shit. I think it’s all about boundaries, kindness and communication. Kato is easily my most personal song to date. I hope people like it and identify with it.”

What can you share about what’s on the horizon?
“Writing a lot of music for the next singles. Then I have to do the last season of Stranger Things. I’ve only read the first three episodes. Ever since the writer’s strike they’ve had to stop, which has given me some time back. But that’s going to happen sooner or later, which is very exciting. I’ve spent half my life on that show, and it’ll be really sad and yet great to work on it and see it go. Hell Of A Summer I’m really excited about, too. There’ll be some fun news and developments on that in the next month or so. Apart from that I’ll just try to hang out with friends and travel when I can.”

What goals are left for you to achieve?
“I think I had a lot more of those two or three years ago. As I turned 20, I had an epiphany. I’m way less concerned about tangible career goals and more interested in personal ones, like being comfortable in my own skin and generally being happy. Along the way, I’m sure there will be a lot of really fun and cool art that will lead me towards that happiness and adulthood. I just hope to be an older person who’s a happy dude making cool stuff.”

The Aubreys’ new single Kato is out now

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