Calpurnia comes of age

Calpurnia // Pooneh Ghana
Calpurnia w/ Dead Friends (All Ages)
Apr. 12 (7 pm)
Union Hall

By Nina Legesse

Calpurnia is breaking out of its “Cell” this month for a global tour following the release of its latest single. Before the band hits the stage at Lollapalooza and Japan’s Fuji Rock Festival, these Western Canadians will kick things off in Edmonton.

Finn Wolfhard—who plays mop-topped hero Mike Wheeler in Netflix’s hit series Stranger Things—unveiled his Canadian roots and knack for music with the debut of this Vancouver-based indie rock band. Formed with his long-time friend and rock camp partner (yes, a real-life Camp Rock) Malcolm Craig, Calpurnia combines the talents of Wolfhard (vocals, rhythm guitar), Craig (drums), Ayla Tesler-Mabe (lead guitar, vocals) and Jack Anderson (bass).

The band is all 18 and under, but the 2018 EP, Scout, proved the members were far from premature. Tracks like “City Boy” and “Greyhound” soothed fans with relaxed garage rock that oozes rock ’n’ roll influence.

“We don’t try to have a unique [sound],” Wolfhard says. “It just comes pretty naturally to us.”

Calpurnia creates a sound that impresses more than their Generation Z fanbase, demonstrating influence from The Beatles, Beck and Motown.

“Cell” is an angsty toe-tapper that narrates the pain of being taken advantage of by someone. While the song takes a mature step forward from Scout, its music video has a much brighter tone. Home-video-style footage, directed by Pooneh Ghana, highlights the group’s on-tour teenaged shenanigans.

Touring gives the band members a lot of time together, which they say is a positive experience.

“There’s so much learning going on every day [on tour], be it musically, or about people,” Anderson says.

Other members are learning that they don’t all agree on choices of road trip music.

“Jack likes torturing us in the van cause it’s a long drive,” Wolfhard says.

Apparently, Anderson likes to play 16-minute tracks of ambient music. Wolfhard equates it to Chinese water torture. At first it isn’t so bad, “but 15 minutes later you’re like ‘Please, stop!’”

Such mischief reminds you that despite the band’s nascent mega-fame, Calpurnia’s members are still in their teens. At fan meetings and record store events, they get to see their tangible influence on other young musicians who aspire to the same success. “Kids will come to our table and say, ‘You made me want to start a band,’” Wolfhard says. “That’s my favourite thing to hear.”

Fans have a real reason to use Calpurnia’s members as their role models. Less than a year after the band covered two Weezer hits for Spotify Sessions, the 1990s rock legends invited them to star as Weezer’s younger selves in the “Take On Me” cover music video last February. At first it had Anderson thinking, “Holy moly, they know who we are?”

Now, it’s not odd to see Wolfhard play a young Rivers Cuomo. The Stranger Things star’s on-screen success could easily afford Calpurnia more chances to meet Weezer’s level of fame. But that’s well-earned beyond Wolfhard’s Hollywood leg-up. The band members immerse themselves in their craft whenever they can, leaving little free time to spare between recording, performing and, now, acting.

To unwind after a show, Tesler-Mabe will “just get home and play some more.” She may now be legal drinking age in half the country, but there will be no post-show beers on beach chairs for her.

“Even if I thought that everything sounded good [during the show], I always wanna strive to be better,” she says.

Although Calpurnia is on a constant grind, it wants fans to feel nothing but relaxed by the music.

“There can be a lot of difficult things that happen in a human life,” Tesler-Mabe says, “and creating a space where people can just totally let go and enjoy the moment, I think, is all we’re really trying to do.”

“If we can make anyone feel like that,” she adds, “then it makes it all worth it.”

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