When most people talk about their middle school band, they speak with distance and healthy amount of self-depreciation. When Nat Wolff talks about his middle school band, he speaks with total clarity, and a tiny bit of bitterness. Maybe that's to be expected, since his middle school band was not something confined to a box of burned CDs in an attic. His middle school band was the Naked Brothers Band, the subject of a very popular show on Nickelodeon that ran from 2007-2009. By the time Wolff was 11 and his younger brother, Alex Wolff, was 7, the pair were writing and recording dozens of songs for public consumption.
"I needed songs for each episode—it was almost like I had an assignment to write 14-15 songs, which means I would write like 40 songs," Wolff recalled. "We were really working our assess off on that show. We wrote all the music, we'd record all the music. Alex, as a 7, 8-year-old, was playing live drums on all of our music. It's why the music is really authentic and original, but it's also why certain songs will make you cringe a little bit."
Thanks to the brother's musical father, jazz pianist Michael Wolff, the family's New York City apartment was filled with musical equipment. But even more special than the family's beautiful Steinway grand piano, at least according to Nat, was its soundproof home "studio."
"It's a room," Wolff said. "It's a room with a couple of microphones, but it's in New York! It's a soundproof room in an apartment in New York!"
The studio became something of a solace for Wolff, where he and his brother would spend hours writing new songs and learning some of their favorite classics Big Star and The Replacements. "I definitely had insomnia .... Alex and I both would just stay up playing music all night, and then we'd go to school. We'd come home, take a nap, then get up and fake do our home work and go back."
Both Wolff brothers have moved on, from the apartment and from crafting songs for tweens. Alex Wolff starred in last year's Hereditary and this year's The Cat and the Moon, the former is also his directorial debut. Nat Wolff is most famous for starring in the two released film adaptations of John Green's young adult novels The Fault in Our Stars and Paper Towns. But he's spent the last few years working on darker projects, two of which come out this month: Semper Fi and The Kill Team.
"I feel like I've done a lot of movies where I've come of age," Wolff said. "And now I feel like I'm finally at the age that I'm ready for the parts that I've dreamed of being able to play. These are the kinds of movies that I grew up watching."
And yet despite their busy schedules and other work, the brothers still convene in that home studio to write together. In fact, the recorded the demos for their recent EP, "Cool Kits + Note," in that small space. "Whenever either of us are in NY...probably every two months or something, we meet in the studio...it just never stops for us."
Here's all the gear (and a few weird hacks) they employ in that hyper-creative space.
"When we were on Nickelodeon we got tons of free guitars. We've got a bunch of guitars, but a lot of them were a little bit defective. Each one has a little bit of a dumb issue. Still, we have a lot of other beautiful guitars that we've tried to maintain over the last few years."
13.00, Guitar Center
"We keep them all on stands."
400.00, Guitar Center
"The MIDI Keyboard we use in the studio is a Casio, very inexpensive. The other good one we use for live performances and rehearsing on gigs is a Yamaha keyboard. But the Casio is the controller we use for the computer."
"We have two of these that are about 30 years old. That means they're good."
"I use a guitar strap made by my friend Sam Fredric. [Note: These straps no longer appear to be available, so we linked to as similar one.] They're super functional. We take acoustic guitars to the limit in terms of the amount of jumping around we do with them on. So I've had a lot of problems with keeping other guitar straps on. One of the methods we used involved beer bottle caps that tour managers have had lying around. When you put one on the edge of each straps, it keeps them on your guitar. That's worked better than anything."
You need one of these to employ the method Nat describes above. Here's a video demonstration.
"Alex and I are constantly making Logic demos. We use Pro Tools when we record in other studios. But at home, especially for demos, our Logic set up is perfect. Alex is a Logic wizard. In the song that we just put out, "Cool Kids," I used a lot of the same keyboard sounds that we found or created on Logic that we used in the final mix."
"I’m a self-diagnosed hypochondriac and I keep these handy to fight colds like a wellness warrior. As soon as I feel that sore throat coming on, I’m ... draining a packet of Emergen-C in a glass of water and doing three shots of apple cider vinegar. The germs don’t stand a chance.”
"Growing up, Alex, my dad, and I would fight over who gets to play for how long almost every night. It doesn’t get better. "
Originally Appeared on GQ