It’s been a few years, but Theo and Sasha Spielberg are finally back with some Wardell magic; the brother-sister duo have a new record out today, and it’s pretty much the greatest. (Grab a copy here.) I was able to hop on the phone with them last week to talk about the arduous process of getting Impossible Falcon from Point A to Point B, which involved hurdles like flaky producers, emotional turmoil, geographical inconvenience, etc. We also rehashed the benefits (and drawbacks) to working with a sibling on a creative endeavor, discussed some of the incredible childhood home movies they’ve started sharing on social media and more, so go ahead and internet-eavesdrop on our full conversation below RIGHT NOW:
Congrats on the record that’s about to be out! I guess we should maybe kind of start with the mundane but necessary question of what the timeline was like, because I know you’ve mentioned before that the foundations for this one came in 2016, but that you didn’t feel that they were ready or in the right place?
Theo: It’s a pretty funky timeline. So our first album came out in 2015, and I think we pretty much hit the ground running in terms of writing songs for the second album. At a certain point I feel like we had to have made at least twenty that we were kicking around, and then we were supposed to record an album with somebody that kind of kept getting pushed back. So it was supposed to happen in the summer, and then it was gonna happen in December, and then it was gonna happen in April…
Sasha: And then it was gonna happen never! [Laughs]
Theo: Basically, yeah. A week or so before we were supposed to do it, it got canceled. So for a little while, that took a bit of wind out of our sails.
Sasha: We felt defeated, because we were just so ready. We’d been sitting on the songs for so long, and we were just ready to go. It’s never fun when something’s delayed, because it does take the steam out of it. And I’d just met Greta Morgan of Springtime Carnivore, and she and I started to become very close, songwriting together and hanging out together, and I was explaining the situation where our producer was a nutcase, and she’d actually had a similar experience with someone. And she said that she worked with this producer named Chris Coady, who she had the most amazing experience with, and that he’d be perfect for our songs, because I’d sent her our demos. So she set us up in an email, and he sort of swooped in and was great and ready to go, really loved the demos, and we met with him and got along so well, because of course we talked about astrology…
Sasha: …as many do. And we really clicked with him, so…Theo, do you wanna jump in?
Theo: Yeah, so Chris was amazing, and it was really nice because the way that we recorded the first album, and the way that we were supposed to record the second album before it fell apart, was very clear. I tend to move sort of slowly, and…
Sasha: I like to rush things, because I have a very anxious personality, and I kind of move very fast. Theo moves slowly and is more of a perfectionist. That’s why it actually sometimes really works with us.
Theo: [Laughs] But I was overjoyed when Chris suggested that we kind of just camp out in his little bungalow studio for about a month to work on these songs, so we came in with four that we wanted to do, and we got three and a half done. We really kind of went deep into them. But anyways, after that we had four songs, really three, that we were happy with. It just sort of felt…it didn’t really feel like an EP yet, and we were trying to figure out what exactly it was, figure out what would push us in a slightly different direction, or help the album evolve into the album that it was supposed to be, sort of like Pokémon, it would upgrade itself. [Laughs] So that was quite a long process, and I think the reason it took so long was that I took a job running a venue, I was the Director of Programming…
At Public Arts, right?
Theo: Yeah. And for basically the whole year of 2017, my hours were just bananas. Basically 10am to 11pm.
Sasha: Sometimes even later!
Theo: Yeah. So by the time I quit about a year later, we really had a lot of…we were just really ready to go. So I went in and met our mutual friend Adam Gunther, who we’d both grown up with, at a show at the Moroccan Lounge. And I sort of sat him down and said, “Hey man, would you be interested in recording me and Sasha? This is sort of the vibe, and this is what we’re trying to do with these songs.” We were really trying to give them a lot more space. So we were sending demos back and forth, and sort of continued the conversation about how we wanted everything to sound and how we wanted everything to fit together, and there’s something (and I feel like Sasha, you can speak to this as well) that really clicked when we were working with Adam, because it really felt like…especially in music, you’re kind of trying to chase something bigger and step up to that next ladder rung, and a lot of that involves wanting to use producers whose names carry some weight, or big name producers, rather, and working with Adam, who’s literally a friend that we grew up with and we’d just talk about things from fifteen years ago…
Sasha: I think if I could just add…working with a sibling is inherently familial, so bringing in anyone external…it feels like we’ve only brought in people we’ve known forever, in the same fashion that we feel comfortable with each other as brother and sister. And so Adam fit right into this nook that was just a very familial little nook.
Theo: Exactly. I could not have put it better. And then for the next couple of months, we just finished the album with Adam. It was a really amazing, super rewarding experience. Sorry, that was a bit of a ramble!
No, no! I think it’s good that we mapped that out first.
Sasha: We literally just gave you a collegiate lecture. [Laughs]
[Laughs] The oral history of Impossible Falcon. So what, apart from the bonkers timeline, felt like the most impossible aspect of Impossible Falcon?
Sasha: That’s a great question. For me, I was going through so much personally while making this. I was going through this turbulent relationship where people and dogs passed away during this relationship, and there was ultimately a breakup. So for me, personally, I find it hard to go back home, in a way. Metaphorically speaking. When I am in a crisis mode, I have to start something new. I have to write a completely new project, I have to try a new genre of music, I fantasize about moving somewhere that’s completely out of my comfort zone and somewhere new, and I have this sort of wanderlust. So reeling me in and bringing me back home (quite literally), I felt that was very impossible and really challenging, because I wanted to run away a lot. That, personally, for me, was really challenging, especially because we’d lived with some of the songs for so long, and that’s hard for me. I get bored, I lose interest, and I need a new song. So some of the songs on the record we wrote and finished in the studio, and that was very exciting for me, but the songs that we had to finish…that was the most challenging for me. It felt like I’d lived five lives from the time the songs were birthed to the end. [Laughs]
Right! Theo, what about you?
Theo: Obviously for me, that was kind of a plus. I hear things on our first album that, when I listen to it, I’m just like, “Oh, this could have gone this way,” or “This could’ve gone that way,” and there are a couple of songs, like “I’m a Man”, that have gone through so many different iterations since we started. So I actually enjoyed having the songs have a lot of different lives, because then…you know, it was sort of those clear charts that you can put over one another and see everything at the same time, so we were able to pick and choose from these songs. But as far as what felt most impossible for me was also sort of geographical.
Theo: I live in New York, and this whole project is a very Los Angeles, home-based thing. So I was flying back and forth between New York, really quite frequently, to the point that it felt like I couldn’t really develop a life in either place. I mean, I’d come back to Los Angeles, and people would be like, “Where’ve you been?” And I’d be like, “Well I don’t actually live here…” But yeah, so sort of having my work and heart in one place, and having my physical body in another…it was just…it started to feel very taxing. And weirdly, the closer we got to the finish line, the harder it started to feel.
Oh my god I bet. And just the physical distance from each other in that process as well. There are obviously a lot of benefits to working with a sibling, but what would you say is the (for you) biggest benefit that maybe might not be obvious to someone who’s not a sibling? Or what’s the biggest drawback, apart from your personally different pacing styles?
Sasha: Speaking at the same time. [Laughs] No, I was just gonna say that full transparency, down to the…I mean, Theo and I are really blunt with each other. And another advantage is that we have so much history, so we can reference a time that we both experienced together in like ‘97 and bring that time to life in our music because we’ve lived a whole life together. And that’s just such a real, beautiful thing that I don’t think anyone can do unless they’re a sibling who’s lived a life together. Obviously there’s the familiarity, but it’s deeper than that. It’s almost dreamlike, because sometimes I don’t know what actually happened or didn’t, and I sometimes blur the line between fantasy and reality. So we’re melding our memories all the time, and that’s a very big advantage, I think. Theo, did you wanna take on the difficulties?
Theo: Well I was gonna say that you can answer both questions by saying that our conversations are incredibly frank. It kind of cuts both ways, but ultimately I think that’s an incredible advantage to be able to be honest creatively with whoever you’re working with. And I was basically going to say the exact same thing, just having that shared well of experience. It’s super helpful, and a very beautiful thing.
Sasha: I think a disadvantage is when we go home for Thanksgiving, or if we’re having family dinners. Rather than focusing hard on like, one sibling, asking “Okay, what’s happening with your music?”, it’s double. So a disadvantage is that it makes all our family dinners a little more intense, because it’s double.
Understandable. Also, speaking of family, some of those home movies and old photos you guys have posted are INCREDIBLE! Where do these archives sort of live? Do you discover them when you do go home for things like Thanksgiving?
Sasha: Oh, I’m such a nostalgic. So our family makes these videos every year (that are called family videos), and they’re a montage of every video…they’re basically bar or bat mitzvah montages, like “I’ll be there for you!” over me losing my first tooth. And so we’ve had these videos since ‘92, and…
Theo: It used to be required watching. [Laughs]
Sasha: Oh, yeah. Required watching. To be a part of the family, you must watch. And I love going back and looking at them. Only recently I started putting together that, “Oh my god, I should be filming these with my phone from these DVD/VHS extras from our life!” So I started filming the TV with my phone, and we started accumulating more and more, which gave me more incentive to be nostalgic, which is probably not what I need.
[Laughs] Has there been anything in there that you absolutely didn’t remember happening before rewatching? And have any of these moments influenced any of your songs?
Sasha: I remember everything because of these family videos. Sometimes I’m like, “Am I just remembering the video of it? Or am I remembering the actual memory?” Yeah, I don’t know where that line…for me I’m sometimes not sure.
Theo: I don’t think any of them have in a direct way influenced any song in particular, but when you’re kind of thinking about videos and looking at pictures of the past, I think that kind of permeates the whole vibe when you sit down to write.
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Hi everybody, (🔊) Sorry for the near complete radio silence on our end but after some time we are finally back with new tunes for you. Thanks for sticking with us. Unless you unfollowed because you were doing a cleanse and checked that we hadn’t posted in a year. There will be more announcements in the coming weeks but for now we’re just 🤙happy to be here.
Absolutely. Now, I also wanted to ask you both what the sort of line is for what you feel would fit inside the Wardell project, and what would maybe work better in a different project. Is it always pretty clear?
Theo: We tend to be pretty clear.
Sasha: We do. There are certain songs that I’m just like, “This is me all over this song,” and it’s so personal, and the style of writing doesn’t feel Wardell. It’s very subtle, but it is a clear line in my head.
Theo: Yeah. I’d say when I’m writing songs they fall into all different categories, but I know absolutely when a song is for Wardell.
Sasha: Yeah, because Wardell is also…I actually think this is a really personal record, and a lot of songs actually have more of Theo’s voice on them.
Theo: It was always a little tough for us in the beginning to ascribe personal, individual emotions that we were feeling onto something that was very much a group endeavor, so with this second album, I feel like even over the course of making it, we kind of got comfortable with the idea that in order to really express ourselves in these songs, some boundaries had to be blurred. So sometimes Sasha is singing things that I was feeling, and other times I’m playing towards an emotion that was Sasha’s.
And if someone asked you to give a sort of “mission statement” for Wardell in this exact moment, maybe not a permanent, concrete thing, then what would you say you hope for the project and what you feel about it? And has that changed at all since its inception?
Theo: Well, I think that we both really love this album. I came away from this album (not to say I disliked the first one in any way, but…) feeling happy, which is something that, for me, is pretty hard to do. Also, in the intervening four years, we played one show. There wasn’t very much heard from us. So really, I think the goal for this album is just to get out to as many people as possible, which can be hard when nobody’s heard from you for four years and basically thought you were dead. [Laughs]
Sasha: [Laughs] Definitely.