A Can’t-Miss Christmas Party

By Nick Masuda   |   November 30, 2021
She & Him, featuring Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward, will play at the Arlington on December 2 at 8 pm

“The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.”

And Zooey Deschanel hasn’t stopped doing so ever since her musical introduction to the world in the holiday cult classic, Elf.

As a 21-year-old at the time, Deschanel feels fortunate to have identified the script as one that was timeless — and also gave her room to showcase what was a “hidden” talent up until her musical coming out party.

“I read that script, I remember laughing out loud and thinking, you know how great Will [Ferrell] would be in that part. And then also thinking like, ‘Well, if this movie’s really good, and people like it, they’ll play it over and over again,’” said Deschanel, also well-known for her lead role in the TV show New Girl

“It worked out really well. It was right in my wheelhouse. It was a really lucky moment. A lot of people had no idea who I was until I did that movie. Let alone hear me sing.”

Now, she has released six albums as part of She & Him, a group she co-founded alongside indie-folk artist Matt Ward, with the duo meeting on a movie set in 2006.

“We just clicked,” Ward said. “It was a great match.”

UCSB Arts & Lectures is bringing the “She & Him: A Very She & Him Christmas Party” to Santa Barbara as part of its Creating Hope series, with the dynamic duo slated to douse the South Coast with holiday cheer at the Arlington Theatre on December 2 at 8 pm.

“Santa Barbara is incredible; it’s where I spend weekends,” Deschanel said.

As Deschanel and Ward celebrate the 10th anniversary of their first holiday album, they spent some time talking about why they “make sense” as a duo, the overwhelming influence of Brian Wilson, and how returning to the stage is cathartic.

Here are five questions with the duo just days before their South Coast show:

Why do you guys click?

Zooey: We have fun.

Matt: If you’re in the studio, making music with your friends and it’s not fun, you’re doing something wrong. That’s the only philosophy I have in the studio. When we get together in the studio, we get stuff done. And it’s like almost without thinking about it.

Zooey: When I talk to other people in bands, and they are taking years to record a record. I’m like, “What?!” We record in six days. I come from a background where we don’t believe in overprocessing and over fixing. We’re not going back and fixing a ton of things. It’s just the performance from start to finish.

OK, that’s incredible — and impressive. Why is this important?

She & Him re-released its first holiday album, A Very She & Him Christmas, on vinyl and it includes new songs, including covers of Madonna’s “Holiday” and Wham’s “Last Christmas”

Matt: It’s been both of our experiences that when people start thinking about what they’re performing for a few months, the fire starts to go out. It’s been our experience that the first couple takes are the best because you’re inventing as you’re recording. You feel that in all of our records.

Zooey: When you get too obsessed with sounding perfect, it starts to sound robotic. It sounds like it came from someone else. So, we like to work in a very organic way.

You’ve had lots of success with holiday music. Where does that stem from?

Matt: I love how music brings people together, whether it be families or friends or even strangers. Music has that power to bring people together. Especially in December. The first songs we covered were written 70 or 80 years ago, but they’re still bringing people together. So there’s some sort of magic that they have.

Zooey: I grew up with the Phil Spector Christmas record, the Beach Boys Christmas record, Nat King Cole’s Christmas record, the Carpenters’ Christmas record. I’d hear them on the radio, they felt really magical, and I think we both just wanted to give our take on these new songs. We find so much joy in it; it’s so natural.

You mentioned influences, and you are both SoCal natives. How did that inform your musical taste?

Matt: It meant everything.

Zooey: Absolutely; our vibe really reflects where we come from. We are both obsessed with Brian Wilson [of the Beach Boys].

Matt: I remember going on my first trip to Europe and going to France and Portugal and hearing that each country has its own specific sound and instrument and style. And then it finally clicked how important Brian Wilson is to Southern California music. I feel like he seriously invented a musical sound for the West Coast. So, when you grow up in it, that’s kind of around you. And you get a little bit older, and you realize how genius his inventions were.

Zooey: When I was seven and eight years old, we lived basically for a year and a half abroad and I felt so homesick for Southern California. We would listen to “Surfin’ USA,” and we’d wait for them to say “Pacific Palisades,” which is where I’m from. It made us feel like we were home for a minute.

Speaking of feels, there has to be a lot of emotions that come with returning to the stage, both for yourselves, but also for audiences that have been kept away from live performances for nearly two years.

Matt: This is so important, for audiences and performers. We almost can’t believe that it’s actually happening.

Zooey: We’ve been able to make music over the last almost two years. So that has been so therapeutic for us. We just want to bring some of that joy to the people we play for.

If You Go

WHEN: December 2, 8 pm
WHERE: Arlington Theatre
COST: $42-$128.50 (general public); $23.50 (UCSB students)
INFO: 805-893-3535 or 805-963-4408, ArtsAndLectures.UCSB.edu 


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