She & Him’s Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward take their love of Christmas music on the road for the holidays
Over the last decade, when actress Zooey Deschanel wasn’t occupied shooting episodes of her long-running sitcom “New Girl,” lending her voice to animated projects including “Trolls” and TV series such as “The Simpsons” and “Family Guy” or co-starring in feature films including “(500) Days of Summer,” she’s happily taken on the real-life role of rock star as half of the indie duo She & Him.
Partnering with singer, songwriter and producer Matt Ward, who is better known by his nickname M. Ward, Deschanel has co-written, sung and performed songs for a half-dozen albums She & Him have released since 2008.
“Matt and I just love playing music together,” Deschanel, 38, said last week. “We’re always working on what can we do next that would be fun. Our goal is always to have fun no matter what we’re doing. So, yeah, I always thought this was something I’d like to do.”
“This,” refers to a short tour She & Him are doing this month focusing on the two albums of holiday music among their six releases: “A Very She & Him Christmas” in 2011 and “Christmas Party” in 2016.
To the surprise of no one who has experienced the low-fi charm and earnest sincerity of those two collections, Deschanel and Ward are big fans of the holiday season, which is why they’re taking their music briefly on the road, starting with a pair of shows Thursday and Friday at the Wiltern and continuing with stops Saturday in San Francisco and Monday in Austin, Texas.
The Times asked Deschanel to explain what she loves most about the yuletide season, how she and Ward approached a repository of songs that have been interpreted and reinterpreted endlessly over the past century, and what they have in store in their upcoming shows.
Without giving away any surprises, what can you tell us about what to expect from “A Very She & Him Christmas Party?”
We want these shows to be like you’re going to a party in someone’s living room, someplace that’s warm and cozy and it’s a party you remember because you met friends there. It’s sort of about all these people coming together and enjoying the warmth and togetherness of the holidays.
Is it going to be primarily music, or are you planning to incorporate other elements like video? Will the two of you be chatting or engaging in any skits?
There’ll be chatting, there’ll be music. We’re not big on antics, and there won’t be any big light show. There might be a skit, I don’t know. It’s the type of thing I’d do, but Matt — I don’t think he would do a skit. [Laughter.] We just like to have a good time and we want everybody there to have a good time too. Want it to feel casual, and friendly, and we want everybody to dress up and have a good time.
How did you two set about making your two albums of holiday songs — I’d think it could be daunting trying to find a way to bring something new to songs that have been sung so many ways by so many other musicians.
We’ve always been sort of enamored of things that happen in the moment and just embracing what happens in the moment. Both our records, we did them very quickly. It was really fun, very off the cuff. Our first one was really off the cuff. We were sitting in the lounge of the [recording] studio and one of us would say, “Do you know this one? Let’s try that one!”
All these little fun things happen in the moment. We always wanted [the record] to feel like a Christmas party in somebody’s living room — it was as if we’re at a party and somebody started playing music and somebody else joined in. It was sort of the beauty of the moment. And that’s how we are approaching these shows.
What was the tradition of the holidays in your family when you were growing up?
I grew up really obsessed with Christmas. I love Christmas so much. Now, looking back, I’m always thinking of the togetherness. I love the time of the year when people are looking for something fun to do with your family. Now that’s what I think about. But when I was a kid, one thing always remained extremely special to me for the holidays was Christmas carols and singing. That was so much fun for me.
I grew up being in choirs, always looked forward to doing Christmas concerts and caroling, singing in harmony. That’s so much fun for me. Caroling for me is such an important part of the holiday season that if I don’t get invited to a caroling party, I get really sad. It doesn’t feel like a complete Christmas without that.
What are some of your favorite Christmas records?
I remember when I was a kid getting “The Beach Boys Christmas Album” in my stocking. That and the Phil Spector Christmas album [“A Christmas Gift for You”]. They’re so good you want to listen to them all year long.
As for new ones, I don’t know, I’m not so up with the new Christmas songs. I love the Nat King Cole Christmas record, and Bing Crosby’s, the Andrews Sisters, Frank Sinatra. There are so many good ones.
As far as complete Christmas albums, there are not as many complete ones that are great all the way through. But the Phil Spector album is a masterpiece. Every song is unbelievable. It’s a perfect record. “The Beach Boys Christmas Album” too. It’s absolutely amazing.
Do you think you and Matt will take a third crack at this music?
I don’t know. It’s always possible. I’d have to start writing some original Christmas music to have enough material. I do really enjoy singing Christmas music, no matter what. So I’m really looking forward to these shows over the holiday.
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What: A Very She & Him Christmas Party
Where: The Wiltern, 3790 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles
When: 7 p.m. Thursday (limited tickets remain), 7 p.m. Friday
Cost: $40 to $90
Information: (213) 388-1400 or www.wiltern.com
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