As Dylan Minnette's Wallows head to the UK, we look at more actors in bands we love
It’s no rarity for musicians to try their hands at acting. Everyone from Harry Styles to Vanilla Ice to Tom Waits has had a crack, with varying degrees of success. As 13 Reasons Why’s Dylan Minnette heads this way later this year with his band Wallows, we thought it’d be more interesting to flip that trope on its head and shine a spotlight on the other actors who are also musicians and are pretty damn talented to boot.
Minnette’s alt-pop trio Wallows have risen in tandem with his ever-increasing acting profile. Famed for roles in teen drama series 13 Reasons Why and the Goosebumps franchise, Minnette formed Wallows way back in 2011 with two friends: fellow-thesp Braeden Lemasters (Men Of A Certain Age, Easy A) and guitarist/drummer Cole Preston. Their collaboration with Clairo – ‘Are You Bored Yet?’ – reached No.2 on the Billboard Alternative charts and their second album Tell Me That It’s Over is due later this year.
Juliette Lewis (Juliette & The Licks)
Lewis is currently having a renaissance in the wonderful Yellowjackets, which spends half of its time back in 1996, a time when she was famous for roles in Cape Fear, Natural Born Killers and From Dusk Til Dawn. In between then and now, she had a high-profile run fronting The Licks, a 00s indie sleaze outfit born out of her friendship with Hole drummer Patti Schemel. The band split in 2009 but reformed in 2015.
Michael Shannon (Corporal)
One of the few non-terrifying things that Michael Shannon has done is this quartet, whose self-titled debut album is filled with captivating folk rock. Shannon’s delivery as a vocalist is as off-kilter and intense as his acting performances, but there’s a rusted quality that suggests abandoned steelworks and overgrown rail tracks. Shannon reprised some Corporal tunes in 2018 for Paste with help from Jason Narducy (Bob Mould Band, Superchunk) on bass. Shannon and Narducy have organised charity gigs in Chicago later this year, covering T-Rex and The Smiths.
Finn Wolfhard (Calpurnia/The Aubreys)
The star of Stranger Things, It and Ghostbusters: Afterlife appeared in two videos for Canadian punks PUP in 2016 and shortly after formed his own band Calpurnia, who signed to Transgressive. The band proved short-lived, breaking up in 2019, but Wolfhard and drummer Malcolm Craig soon formed a new band, The Aubreys. Their debut single ‘Loved One’ appeared on the soundtrack to Wolfhard’s film The Turning and a collection of singles arrived in 2021.
Kevin Costner (Kevin Costner & Modern West)
Kevin Costner plays earnest, hard-worn Americana. That’s hardly surprising. Honestly, that could also describe almost all of his best films. But Costner plays genuinely very, very good earnest, hard-worn Americana, far from the stereotype of the A-lister using his clout to get some records out. With his band Modern West, he’s soundtracked two of his series (Hatfields & McCoys and Yellowstone) and released three albums. There’s a touch of Ryan Bingham about their dusty sounds and their track ‘Superman 14’ is a country rocker hot enough to leave scorch marks.
Ryan Gosling (Dead Man’s Bones)
Ryan Gosling’s band is a Halloween-themed duo (with screenwriter Zach Shields) that sounds for all the world like Arcade Fire backed by an army of trick or treaters. That’s a very good thing. Their excellent debut album is positively ghoulish, heightened by Gosling’s eerie baritone croon and instrumentation that sounds like it’s been lifted from Carnival Of Souls. Sadly they only made the one record (initially intended as a musical), but we spend every October hoping for a follow-up.
Zooey Deschanel (She & Him)
Everyone remembers that moment in Elf where we realised Zooey Deschanel can sing. Singer-songwriter M. Ward had the same realisation and jumped at the chance to record a duet with her for her film The Go-Getter. From there, She & Him was born and the duo have since recorded six studio albums (including two Christmas albums) and earned a Grammy nomination for their song ‘So Long’ from Disney’s Winnie The Pooh film (which is incidentally one of the best kids’ movies ever made). They also got to record with Brian Wilson on his 2015 album No Pier Pressure.
Jason Schwartzman (Phantom Planet/Coconut Records)
It’s not terribly actor-like to be the drummer in a band, but Schwartzman more than ably filled the stool for Phantom Planet, the indie poppers who provided The OC with ‘California’, its endless earworm of a theme song. Schwartzman left the band in 2003 to focus on his acting but returned to music a few years later with his own project Coconut Records. His track ‘West Coast’ is well worth your time.
Maya’s old man has always had a strong musical connection, showing some nifty piano skills in Boyhood, convincingly playing a washed-up singer-songwriter in Juliet, Naked and portraying Chet Baker in Born To Be Blue. Maya’s a whole other deal though. The scene-stealer of Stranger Things season three released one of our favourite albums of 2020, the superb, Laurel Canyon-flavoured Blush. She’s had pretty big shadows to step out of, but she’s done it in style.
Aleksa Palladino (Exitmusic)
The Boardwalk Empire and Halt And Catch Fire star spent around a decade as one half of atmospheric electronica duo Exitmusic, the other half being her then-husband Devon Church. The two met in the smoking car of a trans-Canadian train (which could be a movie in itself) and went on to sign with revered indie label Secretly Canadian. Their 2012 album Passage was called “emotionally evocative” by Pitchfork, while their final album, 2014’s The Recognitions, was a brutally stark account of their divorce and the dissolution of the band.
Steve Martin (Steve Martin & The Steep Canyon Rangers)
The banjo has long been a part of Steve Martin’s career. The great comedian picked up the instrument as a teenager and gradually incorporated it more and more into his stand-up. It only really became a thing of its own when he appeared on The Prairie Home Companion with the Steep Canyon Rangers in 2009. Martin released his first album of bluegrass tunes later that year and has since gone on to record two albums with the Steep Canyon Rangers, two with Edie Brickell and one with both of them.
Maya Rudolph (The Rentals/Princess)
After Matt Sharpe left Weezer, he formed beloved cult indie poppers The Rentals. For a time, the band included Maya Rudolph (of Bridesmaids, Idiocracy and Saturday Night Live fame) on backing vocals and keys. Of course, Rudolph has musical pedigree, being the daughter of Minnie Riperton (“Luuu-vin’ youuuuuuu”). Since she parted ways with The Rentals, she’s gone on to form the Prince cover band Princess with Gretchen Lieberum.