She and Him’s Sweet Retro-Pop Union
On their second record, the duo cover NRBQ, channel Roy Orbison
While many bands retreat into the studio for months to make an album, She and Him make records the modern way: They multi-task. Their second album, Volume Two, was recorded whenever Zooey Deschanel could spare time from acting gigs and when cohort MÂ Ward wasn’t on a solo tour or out with Monsters of Folk. “We’d grab a few days here or a week there,” Deschanel says. “I’m used to working on the fly.”
The band’s first opportunity to listen to the fully mixed album comes in a Seattle studio the day after Christmas. Deschanel seems to revel in the activity, and she’s even baked macaroons for the playback. “I don’t think if we went away for two months, it would be good for the songs,” Ward says. Scheduling challenges meant Volume Two was recorded in Los Angeles and Portland, Oregon, in three different studios, but that’s the nature of things since She and Him formed in 2007. “Songwriting is a release for me,” Deschanel says. “I’d write a song and send it off to Matt to see what he thought.”
Though Deschanel is married to Death Cab for Cutie’s Ben Gibbard, who drops her off at the studio, she’s emphatic that no one, including the label, hears any of the She and Him material until she and Ward are done. “One thing we are quite strict about,” Deschanel says, “is that this is its own bubble.”
This musical marriage between Ward and Deschanel, which yielded a big indie hit with the debut, continues on the follow-up with a spry, sunny mix of folk rock and pop. On the lead single, ”˜In the Sun,’ Deschanel croons like Ronnie Spector, while Ward creates an acoustic-guitar wall of sound in the background. ”˜Thieves’ is even better, and contrasts Deschanel’s increasingly confident singing with a string section that builds like a Roy Orbison classic.
If there’s an offbeat, nostalgic feel to Volume Two, that’s due to Ward and Deschanel’s mutual thrift-store tastes. “A lot of people say we sound ”˜retro,’” Ward says. “I don’t want it to take people to a particular place in time, just to a faraway place.” Fittingly, the album’s two covers are Skeeter Davis’ 1964 ”˜Gonna Get Along Without You Now’ and NRBQ’s 1977 ”˜Ridin’ in My Car.’ Says Deschanel, “If I could go back in time, I’d want to be an AM Gold artist.”