First and foremost, I must hang my head in shame at my curious absence from the cowbell stage. My excuse is the dreaded exam season and a bit too much after partying upon their end. However, with a summer of rocking music ahead, I feel we should put this sad fact behind us and look towards the glorious, glittering future time in which jaunty pixies and vibrant rainbows adorn the twilit sky.
I want to talk about slashies. This may be a word that conjures up the gory film Saw or weird eye makeup and aging rockers. But slashie is actually a word meaning one who has their finger in more than one pie. I’m talking Rihanna’s disastrous appearance in Battleship (certified worst film ever made) or Cara Delivigne’s awkward attempt at becoming a teen heartthrob in Papertowns. Those that deem themselves worthy to cross the invisible line into another profession- for better or worse.
“Creatives” as I’ll call them, often consider themselves polymaths. If you can pour your heart and soul into a song, why shouldn’t you pour it into stupidly high budget Hollywood blockbuster? But more curious than those that cross into acting are those that disrobe themselves from the intensity of the stage or screen and venture into the murky depths of a rip-rolling music career. Just what makes people do this? Is it their latent teenager in them that’s screaming: “you can rock man, YOU CAN ROCK!” Perhaps, or perhaps they’re just bored of pretending to be other people, reading scripts written by fat white guys and smiling like a dummy in front of flashing camera bulbs (bulbs? Do they still have those?).
I’m going to take you through some of the most notable names in actor-SLASH-musicianship. From the very best to the shuddering worst. Those that have exploited their big cheese names ruthlessly and those that prefer to keep their double lives on the down low. I give you, the slashies.
I thought I’d start with one of my favourites. Once a floppy romcom actor, Gosling actually started his career in the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse alongside Justin Timberlake (another big slashie). Apparently, this show engenders teeny weeny actors to break free from the constraints of simply one career. Gosling shot to fame after his appearance in “The Notebook” but has since developed into a mature and well-respected actor, appearing in dramas alongside some of the best actors of our time.
But of course, he couldn’t stop at mastering just one craft. Oh no, Gosling had to prove to us all that he is indeed the world’s most desirable man by revealing his passionate love for making music. Gosling’s band, Dead Man’s Bones, is a pretty epic venture. Him and his long time pal, Zach Shields, met when they discovered their mutual obsession with the Haunted Mansion ride at Disneyland. I mean wtf?! They decided they wanted to write creepy songs, play all the instruments on the record (including the ones they didn’t know how to play) and keep their music as authentic as possible by only doing two or three takes to every song. INTEGRITY. ARTISTRY. CREATIVITY. ALL GOOD THINGS.
The result, a 2009 self-titled album, is mesmerising. They enlisted the help of Silverlake Conservatory Children’s Choir, started by the Red Hot Chilli Pepper’s bassist Flea. Its creepiness is not overdone, hovering somewhere between psychrock and indie. The most famous song “Pa Pa Power”, is quite simply AWESOME. It’s a perfect exposition of the band’s big strength, which is the homegrown quality of the sound. It’s not too polished but it’s also accessible and doesn’t veer off into hyperweird territory. The children’s choir adds a dramatic quality to it and the spine of the album, the Haunted Mansion, gives it very strong narrative.
In short, Gosling has nailed the slashie. He clearly does this out of respect for the craft and not as an overindulgent money grabbing scheme. He’s turned his weird obsession into art and I salute him for that.
And now, inevitably, to the other side of the spectrum. Draco Malfoy decided it was time to flex his musical muscles on the public stage when he released an EP in 2008. What followed was a string of what can only be called sludge. I can sum this music up by a quote from a fellow hater who said it sounded a lot like “children’s music” or a karaoke rip off of McFly. In my opinion, that is an insult to McFly.
First off the lyrics are sickeningly cliched and sound like they were written by a depressed CBBC’s presenter. Secondly his voice has that irritatingly vague London accent that Lily Allen once flogged until it was dead. Thirdly he sounds like he is beaming like Nigel Farage when confronted with the disgruntled laughter of a room of MEPs. IE it makes you want to punch him square in the face. Finally the production sounds like it was constructed by a “generic music creator” device where you put in minimum effort and maximum arrogance on one side and get a pile of steaming shit on the other.
You’re an embarrassment to the slashie community Felton. Pack it in.
Next, the God of awkward teen romance and weird indie movies, Michael friggin Cera. Another child actor, he started his career as the prepubescent George Michael Bluth in “Arrested Development”. His work since has injected comedy with a much needed shot of self consciousness. He is an emblem of the weird and the socially anxious. I love him.
He dipped his toes into the choppy waters of the music industry in 2014 when he released his debut album, “True That”. The music, like his onscreen presence is calming yet tentative. It’s a graceful foray into ambient folk. Despite not being able to read music, Cera plays some charming piano on the record, as well as guitar and mandolin. Like his roles, his music is pretty much all the same. However, as I’ve always said: “who the fuck cares”. He does it so so well and his unmistakable high pitched voice is the perfect backing for anyone who has once dreamed Michael Cera would whip them away in his parents’ car and hold them with clammy hands at the drive thru viewing of a slasher movie.
In an interview with Stereogum, Cera straight up admitted that he had no clue about music and simply enjoyed making sounds: “Jeez, I don’t know. I guess just sitting down at a piano and kind of seeing what I can do — which is, you know, very limited. It’s like making songs with power chords or something. I don’t know much about music or any kinds of musical concepts. So I really just do the kinds of things my hands are capable of. I don’t have much dexterity, I can’t do anything fancy.”
Spoken like a true Michael Cera. The music is weird, there is no denying it. But weird in the way Bleeker, Scott and Evan are weird. It makes you feel uncomfortable…but in a cool way.
Like Cera, Deschanel made her name in slightly awkward indie romcoms. She really hit the big, though, with her show “New Girl”. Anyone who watches it will know that she is continually mocked for being so ridiculously cute. In 2008, she found a way to channel her retro charm into music, with the help of folk legend M. Ward. Their collaboration, She & Him, is part time-machine, part kitsch indie pop.
It reminds me of a tame American version of Kate Nash. I’ve got to say, it’s not for me. That said, I can appreciate the craftsmanship behind it and I can see why some people would see it as a bit of fun. I can’t help wanting a bit of bite, a bit of what Nick brings to New Girl. A bit of cynicism. That could be the grumpy old git side of me speaking, but I know I wouldn’t put this on a playlist.
So, alas, it is clear that slashism doesn’t always bear the fruits of sweet labour and in fact bears nothing but half priced Morrison’s out of date cheese (Malfoy we’re looking straight at you). But sometimes it turns out that people can actually be awesome at more than one thing. Whether they are using their earnings to fulfil a childhood dream or simply trying out the punk rock lifestyle, it seems that there are actors who genuinely love to make a saucy tune or two and will not apologise for doing so. Hats off to you my friends. Although I hate you for being freakishly multitalented, I respect anyone who appreciates the healing power of rock. So go forth and conquer, (especially you Michael).
If you are intrigued I have constructed a very tiny playlist of the highlights:
Peace and sweet loving to you all,