Your band is called She & Him, your first album was entitled Volume One and now you’re releasing Volume Two. Do you like minimalist names?
Yeah, we wanted something as anonymous as possible and as vague a reference as possible to who we were to keep the focus more on the music.
How many times a day do you have to spell out your own name on the phone?
Actually, almost never. I’m not calling people constantly with my name. I don’t really book tables that much.
If you had children would you give them offbeat names?
I like my name, but I probably wouldn’t if I had kids because you just don’t want to set up a really weird school situation.
When you first started recording, were you worried people would think you were just another actress-turned-musician and expect you to fail?
There hadn’t been a precedent of excellence but, no, I wasn’t because I think for any kind of art-making you have to do it for the process and not the reaction, not in anticipation of anybody’s response. So we just made a record we liked and thought hopefully, if we like it, other people will like it too.
Your music has been described as “feelgood”: are you a natural optimist?
I think so. I gravitate towards happy music. I love the Beach Boys.
Do you ask your husband [Ben Gibbard of indie rock band Death Cab for Cutie] for musical advice?
No, we try to keep that very separate but he’s supportive.
I read that the first album you bought was Madonna’s Like A Virgin.
Not exactly. I was three and I was in a baby dance class and they would play that all the time and Dad bought it for me. The first album I bought with my own money was A Hard Day’s Night.
That’s quite a risqué album for your dad to buy you when you were three…
I know! That’s why it was so surprising. They played “Material Girl” in the class and I would always sing it so Dad got it but then I remember being very shocked because Madonna’s on the cover in lingerie and I didn’t understand… I thought she was singing “Like A Persian”. I wasn’t quite sure what a virgin was. For many years actually.
You’re famed for wearing vintage clothes and your music also has a certain retro quality. Do you ever feel you were born in the wrong era?
Sometimes I feel that way. But then I’m happy that I was born when I was because I think in a lot of ways all of the modern conveniences make it easy for you to cherry-pick the best things out of other decades.
Is it difficult having such individual tastes in Los Angeles?
To be honest, I spend time in my garden. I don’t like business talkers, you know, people who are constantly like “Blah blah blah movies.” I find it incredibly boring.
Have you ever looked yourself up on the internet?
Oh, of course. I don’t do it any more because if you’re in the public eye at all, people are really polarised. The internet’s like one big bathroom wall with a lot of people who anonymously can say really mean things. It’s fine, I believe in freedom of speech and I think people should think what they want, but I don’t care to hear it.
For a while you seemed to be the first port of call for directors wanting to cast a kooky and sardonic best friend. Did you ever feel typecast?
Sometimes you have to play to your strengths. Every actor’s known for being good at certain types of role. I think maybe for a little while, it was OK. I didn’t necessarily want to do that all the time; it gets a little bit boring. There are other things I can do well but I feel like I’ve been very lucky to have been able to play all the different roles that I have.
Your most recent film, (500) Days of Summer, was described as an “anti-romantic comedy”. Do you believe in true love?
Well, I’m married so of course I believe in true love! A lot of romantic comedies end right when people get together so you don’t really know what happens with them. In a way, romantic comedy is such a narrow genre at this point. I am a fan of the 30s screwball comedies – that was a time when people were just accepting getting divorced as something that happened and it wasn’t totally looked down upon, so they were all about people getting divorced and getting back together again. So I think just playing with the genre a little bit is nice.
Those screwball comedies also had lots of strong, funny roles for women. Is there less of that in modern Hollywood?
I don’t really know, it’s hard to say. I’m focused on music right now. I’m not not paying attention but I’m not so focused on it that I’m up in arms about anything. I think there are enough good roles and there are now a lot of women writers.
Do you prefer listening to yourself sing or looking at yourself act?
Listen to myself singing because I have control over everything. I’m not going to use a singing take that I don’t like… but when you’re acting you’re totally at the mercy of someone else. They can cut you together to make your timing totally different. They can cut two takes and manipulate you, which is an incredible thing in many ways because they can make you look better, or they can make you look worse. In the end, I do not have control over what’s on screen which is very terrifying.
Do you like being in control?
Because you can bring something into the world and say: “That’s what I put out and that’s a real reflection of myself and it’s truthful and honest and sincere.” With a movie, it can be a really amazing collaboration but a lot of the time it can be a director saying “Do it this way, do it that way” and it’s not a reflection of who you are, it’s a reflection of how well you’re able to take in someone else’s advice. In the end it’s nice to be able to have your own stamp of approval on something.
If you were a musical instrument what would you be?
A pedal steel guitar because it’s very versatile. It’s very beautiful and it has a unique sound and it has all kinds of pedals that bend pitches and it has a double neck and many strings, it’s just an amazing instrument.
You once admitted that you hated spas…
Well I don’t drink so I don’t like bars that much.
No, spas not bars.
Oh [laughs]. I don’t hate spas, I just find them boring. Places where you go and it’s like: “Relaaax…” I went for three days with my mum and I was going totally insane by the end. A spa is nice for an hour. Just not for three days.
Volume Two is out now on Double Six [SOURCE]