The lead singer of She & Him is a relatively famous actress who has been nominated for several Golden Globe awards, but that doesn’t mean that the indie pop duo should be dismissed as just an actor’s side project. No – She & Him are the real thing: timeless and unforgettable. The pair have released four albums on the Merge Records label that have sold a combined one million-plus copies, and they signed with Columbia in June 2014.
Zooey Deschanel and Matt Ward (known by his stage name, M. Ward) met while filming The Go-Getter in 2006. Deschanel had a starring role, and most of the film’s music consisted of M. Ward compositions. Their first dual recording, a cover of 1974’s “When I Get to the Border,” was used in the closing credits of The Go-Getter, and their partnership began.
Their first studio album, Volume One, was released in March 2008, with Ward serving as producer. The 13-track indie pop release featured 10 original tunes penned by Deschanel (the songstress co-wrote “Sweet Darlin’” with actor Jason Schwartzman,) as well as a traditional, acapella version of “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” and two cover songs. Volume One peaked at No. 8 on the Billboard Top Independent Albums chart.
Due in part to the success and simple majesty of Volume One, their 2010 release, Volume Two, debuted at No. 6 on the Billboard charts, and Volume 3 sold 26,000 copies in its first week of release in 2013. Volume 3, their tightest album, is a prime example of the duo’s evolution from raw indie darlings to an experienced pop-folk team.
Ward, a member of the supergroup Monsters of Folk, is a bit of a musical factotum – along with producing, he plays lead guitar, synthesizer, mandolin and piano, and has a delicate quality to his singing that’s equally romantic and sensual. Ward’s pipes are the perfect complement to Deschanel’s sugar-coated voice, one that has matured as she has become more confident as a vocalist. When they sing a duet, you can feel the chemistry between the pair resonating from the stage.
She’s the lead vocalist and occasionally shows off her skills on the mandolin or piano, but where Deschanel truly shines is with songwriting. As a lyricist, Deschanel often speaks of heartbreak, longing and working through loss, demonstrated in tunes like Volume Two’s “Brand New Shoes,” and “I Could Have Been Your Girl,” one of Volume 3’s most lyrically complex numbers.
The pair toured extensively following the release of Volume 3, and opening acts on the tour included Tilly and the Wall, Camera Obscura and The Chapin Sisters. When She & Him tour, they bring along an entourage – likely to join the duo onstage are a fiddle player, two backup singers, a bass player and a drummer, and although Ward is the more seasoned musician, he gives Deschanel the spotlight during live performances.
The duo’s biggest seller is 2011’s A Very She & Him Christmas, an album full of classic (and some lesser-known) holiday tunes. Their sweet demeanor and simplistic sounds make the duo a perfect complement to the holidays, without sounding kitschy. They even take on the controversial “Baby, it’s Cold Outside” in a playful manner, switching gender roles and having fun.
Equally nostalgic, ethereal and poppy, She & Him are a wholly likeable band that just get better as time goes on.