Joe Keery is me. Joe Keery is goooooaaaals. Joe Keery is the best mother to four pre-teen misfits this side of reality. If you’ve been on Tumblr in the last three months, you probably know Steve Harrington’s Stranger Things Season 2 arc has turned 25-year-old actor Joe Keery into a magnet for memeification. He’s become someone who can simply pose for a quick on-set snapchat photo with a dog and “champagne” and become synonymous with #goals or do his job well and end up with a Wikipedia page that indicates he’s a parent of four (people are just really into this Steve Harrington as surrogate mom to the Stranger Things kids, OK?). But in reality, Keery is just a dude who’s trying to figure out how to find time to create music between seasons of the Netflix smash, and who’s still puzzled as to why everyone is so obsessed with editing his face onto the cover of the Babysitter’s Club books.
“It’s wild, it’s crazy, it’s so weird,” he says, speaking to me at Bustle HQ with such genuine disbelief that you’d almost think he’d been body-swapped into the life of a celebrity. “It’s become a lifestyle?” he asks, referring to the viral dog photo (it was originally screen-grabbed from co-star Finn Wolfhard’s Snapchat). “This is just me, this is like how I am. It’s like geez, I was just doing it for fun.” But as Keery tells it, he probably should have seen this new wave of fandom coming — after all, his mom actually liked his character this season.
“I gauge it by the way my mom reacts,” Keery offers with a laugh, when I ask about how fans have received his character. “She saw the first season and was like, ‘Man, you were a total jerk, I didn’t know you were going to be a jerk.’ But, yeah this year, she’s a little more excited that I was, you know, hanging out with kids.”
Those kids (and OK, Hopper, too) are a big part of why fans’ obsession continues, even into 2018 and awards season. From his funny interactions with Finn Wolfhard on Twitter, to his palpable bond with Gaten Matarazzo (see: this adorable video over on Wired), to his offer to shave his beloved coif if Hopper actor David Harbour won a Golden Globe, Keery’s friendly-dude-next-door manner continues to enamor fans long after the initial rush of Stranger Things fever has subsided.
But that memo doesn’t seem to have made it to the actor, who doesn’t appear quite ready to lean all the way into celebrity. While his co-stars were posing as a lovable crew, debuting new relationships, and donning high fashion at the 2018 Golden Globes, Keery was MIA from the glitzy action. And when we meet, Keery seems more concerned with getting people to listen to one of his favorite bands — a funk band from Michigan called Vulfpeck — than he is about actually hopping in front of the camera; photos are practically an afterthought to stealing a few moments to just chat.
Apparently, this is a theme for Keery, who struggles to find sense in Instagram culture, in which fans need to grab photographic proof of even the slightest celeb encounter. “There isn’t really like a protocol and there isn’t really like a right way to do it, right?” he muses.
“I think it’s kind of like a 21st century thing. Man, when I was a kid, I didn’t even have a phone — I didn’t have an iPhone until I was in college. So, you know I wasn’t taking pictures on the Juke whatever,” he says, casually stealing a sip of cold brew iced coffee. (For the uninitiated, the Samsung Juke was a goofy, camera-less candy bar-style phone from the late 2000s.)
Not one for taking dozens of photos for photos’ sake (just look at his artsy Instagram feed, which he only updates a few times a month), Keery longs for a time when fans were actually trying to, well, just chat. “I think about Frank Sinatra — sure, he took some photos, but if he’s just walking by in public or something, or like eating at a restaurant, there wouldn’t be people trying to take a photo. It would be people trying to meet you.”
“I would much rather sit down and like talk to someone and be like, ‘No, I don’t really want to take a photo because I just got off a plane,'” he adds. “I would much rather say, ‘What’s your name? And where [are] you from?’ and talk to somebody.”
Of course, Keery’s seeming aversion to all things celeb could have something to do with how ardently fans seek out information about the actor — and his co-stars. An incident involving Wolfhard made headlines in November 2017, when he didn’t stop for a photo upon leaving his hotel — and it caused Wolfhard and his co-stars to collectively stand up for maintaining a modicum of privacy. Wolfhard later tweeted:
Hey everybody! I don't wanna ex-communicate anyone from this fandom, but if you are for real you will not harass my friends, or co-workers. Ya'll know who you are.
For his part, Keery says fans have even gone so far as to go through his high school friends’ Facebook pages and Instagram feeds for photos of Keery before he was famous. The invasive practice — which is the hallmark of “making it” for so many famous people — is forcing Keery into a protective mode, the type of careful privacy one might attribute to, oh, you know, a major celebrity.
“It’s so weird, it definitely makes me a little more hesitant to put myself online or anything like that,” he says. “It’s not like I’m just sharing it with my friend, I’m sharing it with a couple million people now. It makes me a little more hesitant, but it also doesn’t make me want to change my outlook for the way that I use it, just as kind of like a fun, funny tool, and not use it as an ‘on at 10!’ self-promotional thing.”
The other reason being a bona fide Stranger Things celebrity might be a little rough for Keery? It means giving up touring and collaborating with his band, Post Animal, as their new record hits this spring while he’s living in Los Angeles and filming Stranger Things in Georgia. After all, Google Hangouts “aren’t great for jamming.”
He explains the scheduling conflicts and missed touring opportunities with a heaviness in his voice — one that carries even more weight than any comments about overly invasive behavior from fans or a distaste for post-airport selfies. And yet, his focus is on his friends in the band and their future, not his own.
“It’s important to disassociate Steve from Stranger Things to the band because I think it will eventually hurt the band,” he says, averting his gaze. “Those guys are such talented musicians … I think it’s important that they’re hitting the pavement for a while and making a name for themselves and it’s not necessarily associated with Stranger Things.” He adds that there’s still hope for the whole band to get back together, “it’s just about finding the time.”
When I ask his about his own projects outside of the impending Stranger Things Season 3, he hesitates, mentioning some music he worked on while filming Season 2 (apparently, he lived in a cabin without wifi — casual) and that it will “hopefully” come out soon.
“Hopefully it doesn’t suck,” he says with a laugh, “It’s almost like I have to put it out there in the universe so in case it does suck, I said it.”
And if it does suck — but let’s be real, it won’t — fans could probably cheer Keery up by simply putting down their cell phones, and asking for a good old-fashioned, Frank-Sinatra-in-a-fancy-1960s-restaurant chat.
Grooming: Erica Sauer using Cicely and Bumble and bumble at The Wall Group
Steve Harrington cuddling a dog and drinking champagne was the meme the world needed in 2017. And if you thought the photo was a gift from the internet gods, just wait until you hear the story behind Joe Keery’s dog meme, as explained by the Stranger Things actor himself. In a recent interview with Bustle, Keery shares his thoughts on being a meme and how that now famous photo happened in the first place.
The first thing you need to know is that Keery wasn’t sipping champagne in the picture. His glass was full of apple juice instead, because the photo itself was taken on-set by Keery’s young co-star Finn Wolfhard. That’s not all — apparently, Wolfhard has lots of other photos featuring Keery and his Pomeranian pal. (Um, Wolfhard, if you’d like to share with the class, the internet would be eternally grateful.)
“Finn — we were just shooting one day and we were bored and we were in the trailer. I think it was close to the end of shooting,” Keery explains to Bustle. “It’s not champagne, it’s just apple juice, I’m pretty sure, because kids — and yeah, we were just joking around. There’s a ton of those photos, I guess that’s the only one that’s out, but Finn has a bunch of those photos of me and the champagne and this dog.”
What Keery fails to mention is that he and co-star David Harbour have been engaged in a bit of an on-set rivalry over who can get the most cuddles from that adorable Pomeranian.
However, the dog in question doesn’t belong to Harbour or Keery. The pup’s owner is actually one of the show’s makeup artists. In a November interview with Mashable, Harbour described his and Keery’s puppy obsession as a love triangle. Harbour said,
Of all of the iconic, meme-able elements of Stranger Things — Hopper’s dancing, Eleven’s love of Eggos, Bob’s adorable everything — perhaps nothing has inspired as much devoted fan fervor as Steve’s hair.
Steve’s hair is, in a word, luscious. It defies gravity in a Jean-Ralphio swoop with the movement and hold you only get with the exact quantity of Farrah Fawcett hairspray.
And it might be gone soon.
David Harbour (who plays that sweetly dancing police chief Jim Hopper) was nominated for a Golden Globe in the category of Best Supporting Actor, and his fellow cast members commented their congratulations on an Instagram post, including Joe Keery, a.k.a. Steve, who wrote, “if you win David the Duffer’s [sic] get to shave my head”.
Of course, given that Stranger Things is coming back for a third season and Keery probably wouldn’t be able to grow a full head of hair again before shooting starts means that this offer is probably just a joke — after all, Steve’s hair is essential to his character development.
But if you’re desperate for soon-to-be viral moments in the wake of a possible David Harbour victory, Harbour has already promised to do The Dance if he wins — and friends don’t lie.
It’s a little after 1 p.m. Pacific Time on Friday, October 27 and Joe Keery still hasn’t looked at the Internet. Even though this is the biggest day of the year since Stranger Things Season One became a surprise phenomena last summer, Keery is having a pretty low-key day, he tells me. “We’re going to check out the Griffith Observatory,” Keery tells me, mentioning that it was a location for James Dean’s classic
In fact, until I mention it, Keery doesn’t realize the reviews and recaps have already been rolling out since Netflix dropped the full nine episodes of Stranger Things 2 a few hours earlier. But Keery isn’t the only one extremely chill these days. His character—Steve Harrington—has also gotten a lot more relaxed in the show’s second season.
Over the course of the show’s two seasons, Steve has become one of Stranger Things’ most dynamic characters. At the beginning of Season One, he’s your typical high school bully with the perfect set of hair and the perfect girlfriend. He plays football and smashes the quiet loner’s camera. But, like some high school teens tend to do, Steve grew up. Paired with falling in love with Nancy and the ultra-dimensional beast that killed a schoolmate and kidnapped a neighborhood boy, Steve has matured quite a bit. He’s humbled, selfless, and brave in Season Two. He’s the highlight of these nine new episodes, with Keery shining alongside Gaten Matarazzo’s Dustin Henderson, for whom he’s become somewhat of a brotherly mentor.
Before he heads off to the Mount Hollywood landmark, Keery tells me about how his character has grown, the secret to Steve’s perfect hair, how he’ll become a meme this season, and his band getting signed to a record label.
Steve really has grown up fast in Season Two.
I think of it as kind of a fluid arc; it’s kind of a journey. It’s him growing up and becoming less self-absorbed. This character only cares about himself and the way people see him. In Season One, you really see that he cares about this girl; the beginning [of Season Two]is a catalyst is him learning to put others before himself. And I think it’s a super necessary part of him growing up and we see that through the relationship with the kids and through his final interactions with Nancy at the end of the season.
How Steve subverts typical ’80s character tropes.
I think a lot of it has to do with the writing. The boys do such a nice job of telling these stories. Personally, I think it’s my job to make sure people can relate to everything this character is doing and saying, even if it’s the wrong thing like breaking a camera. It’s an amalgamation of me making sure I’m doing my job and the writers making sure they do their jobs. They do such a good job of making sure the material is rich and full of human decisions, rather than just falling into a trope. They’re also really collaborative on set and in the writing room, and they’re really open to ideas. Them fostering that sort of vibe on set is integral to the show and subverting those tropes.
The trauma of Season One changed Steve.
The prep I was doing was mostly kind of—and this is going to sound cheesy—getting into the mindset of Steve one year later after the events of last year. I think one of the reasons that he and Nancy don’t work out is they both have different ways of dealing with the trauma. It was really about getting into the headspace of that character and making sure I understood everything that happened after Season One—[that] was the most important thing I could do for Season Two. Because he really deeply cares about Nancy, which you can tell in that shot [of him] sitting on the couch at the end of Season Two, where she looks one way and he looks another way. That look alone kind of explains what happens in Season Two and why the characters don’t get along. She wants to go about it one way and he wants to go about it another way, and eventually that’s what comes to a head.
Despite the monsters and other dimensions, at its heart Stranger Things is a relatable story.
It’s about this crazy extra terrestrial shit that’s going on, but the real conflict is how people deal with this situation differently. Fundamentally, that could be the end of so many types of situations. I think it’s believable, and I think it’s kind of a realistic thing. I think the boys did a really smart move making that a catalyst for me and Natalia’s characters.
His relationship with actor Gaten Matarazzo shone through in some of his favorite scenes.
That was one of my favorite scenes to film. It’s not like I really do anything for my hair; I just wash it every three to four days. People seem to be mystified by it. It’s mostly just my parents’ hair. What I really like about that scene is you see Steve for the first time let his guard down with this kid. The characters kind of come together because they’re both kind of left in the dust. They find what they need in each other. It ends up helping both of them and they learn from it. That scene is a moment where they both let their guard down and you can see that he really cares about this kid, and it’s helpful in his journey to care more about others than he does himself. It’s also these two characters who think they have it all figured out—but in no way have it all figured out.
Also, Gaten is such a genius; he’s such a smart funny kid. And I’m learning so many things about how to be spontaneous and relaxing. I’m ready to get back to work and shoot more. The kid is obviously 10 years younger than me, but he feels more mature than me. He’s a gracious kid, man; he has a really good head on his shoulder. A lot of people ask me how the kids are, and the kids are doing excellent. They’re dealing with such a crazy thing going on in their life.
It’s actually been really cool to become famous so quickly.
To put it simply: People who are strangers to me will come up and say, “Are you that guy from that show?” I’ll be like, “Yeah,” and they’ll say, “Oh, nice job.” And really, for the most part, it’s people showing appreciation for the work you’ve done. It’s really cool to have this positive response when just two years ago I was just waiting tables trying to get any acting job—let alone on a show that everyone watches. I mostly just feel really humbled and thankful, because I could be struggling to get any type of job.
It takes more than than shampoo, conditioner, and Farrah Fawcett’s Fabergé Organics hairspray to get Steve’s perfect hair.
Well, the cut’s good. And if the haircut is good, that’s half the job. It’s just a blow-dry with stuff in the back. Sarah Hindsgaul, who is the head of hair, is totally killer. She’s the best. She does the hair for the entire cast, and you can see how accurate and subtle her work is. It’s not, like, in-your-face ‘80s hair; it’s really nice and tasteful. She’s the hair guru.
I think they’ve actually discontinued [Fabergé Organics]. You can probably find it on ebay or something. Prices will probably jack up in the next week or two. Or maybe Netflix will reissue it.
Someone actually wrote Steve’s horrible essay.
I read that essay in the show, and it was a horrible, horrible, horrible essay. It was like, “I, Steve Harrington, stole the ball and I made the shot and that relates to the war for these reasons.” Any of the kids on the show could have written a better essay. It was like a page and a half long—definitely not long enough for a college application. I actually don’t know who wrote it. Whoever wrote that should just come forward and tell me.
His band, Post Animal, just got signed to a record deal.
Honestly, the band has been really great. Work has gotten a little in the way, but I’m really proud of these guys. I’ve lived with them for almost two years in Chicago. This summer I’ve been doing a lot of work stuff, but they’ve been doing really well. They just signed a record label for the record we all wrote last summer. It’s going to be out in springtime I believe, on Polyvinyl records. I’m very excited for the boys because music is another love of mine. And I don’t know another group of people who are as devoted and hard working as these guys. I’ll be able to be on this record that will be released. I feel super lucky. I’m really hoping that shooting this year kind of lines up so I’ll be able to take about a month and continue to do that. We’re going to try to go write the next record over January and February. It’s something we all work on and we all kind of have our own solo projects. I think people will really like the record it’s like classic rock—kind of psychedelic and we recorded it at this lake house up in Michigan. We just shacked up for about two weeks and banged it out.
The Steve and Jean-Ralphio was his meme last year, he thinks his dancing will go viral this year.
Maybe my face when I’m dancing. I look like a total idiot. It was in the Michael Jackson trailer. I didn’t even realize it, but I’m making the Tom Cruise Risky Business face, where he’s getting interviewed for college and he has this kind of open-mouthed look—that kind of classic Tom Cruise face. I don’t know if I’m allowed to turn it into a meme myself.
Where Steve is emotionally in the end of Season Two, going into Season Three.
He’s kind of realized that he’s not necessarily the best thing for Nancy. And he really loves this person. He knows that the best thing he can do is let her move on and do what she needs to do. I don’t think he’s given up hope, but I think he’s come to terms with the fact that to do what’s best for her he might not be doing what’s best for himself. Obviously, he’s going to have trouble getting into college. Who knows if he’ll even get in. HIs entire social climate has changed. The friends that he had—he doesn’t really have them any more. He’s really kind of in this limbo, and he could go a ton of different ways. The Duffer Brothers and I have discussed a few things, but I’ll keep those secret in case any of those actually happen.
When he’s getting back to work on Stranger Things.
I’ve got some time to hang out. I’ll be doing some traveling and I’m looking to book another gig. Just always looking for the next job. I’m going to do some press; I’m taking my little sister and we’re going to Italy to do press for the show. Stranger Things is in break mode right now. They have to write the damn thing. Step one: Write the damn thing!
We took the actor, who plays Steve Harrington on Netflix’s blockbuster show and possesses one of the most iconic manes to ever hit the small screen, to Montreal to try on this season’s best designer jackets.
When you sat down to binge-watch the first season of Stranger Things, you probably thought you knew exactly what you could expect from Steve Harrington (Joe Keery), the requisite popular kid at Hawkins High School. Smirky, cocky, and with a well-earned reputation as a heartbreaker, Steve seemed poised to be one of the show’s big villains—the ’80s bully to end all ’80s bullies.
But over the course of Stranger Things‘ first season, something strange really didhappen: Steve—in the hands of the impressively coiffed up-and-comer Joe Keery—evolved from being a smarmy jerk to a flawed but ultimately well-intentioned protagonist in his own right. By the end of Season One, Steve had dumped his awful friends, made amends with Jonathan (Charlie Heaton), and salvaged his relationship with Nancy (Natalia Dyer). Of course, Season Two is another story entirely—but we’re not going to spoil that here.
So what’s it like to go from waiting tables to being at the center of one of TV’s buzziest shows in the span of a single year? We caught up with Joe Keery in Montreal to get a peek into the mind of Stranger Things‘ bad boy with a heart of gold.
“When I first auditioned for Stranger Things, I was just living in Chicago. Just looking for a job. Working at a restaurant, doing commercials and bit parts on shows. I honestly would have been happy booking anything. But I remember seeing the concept trailer the Duffer Brothers put together. The boys took these bits and pieces from all the movies that inspired them—Jaws, E.T., The Thing, Firestarter—and they cut them together into a mock trailer for what they wanted the vibe of the show to be. I was like, “Oh, man. This would be so, so cool.” But as an actor, you audition for something and forget about it, because you figure, “Yeah, that was really fun. Probably won’t get it. On to the next one.”
Steve Harrington Was Supposed to be Even More of a Dick
“Originally, I auditioned for Jonathan. They were having everybody across the country audition for that. And when I got the script, Steve was definitely a little harsher. He was having this party—I think it was on a beach, because it originally took place in Montauk, Long Island. And he was a total, total dick. He forced himself on Nancy. Way harsher. But I think the Duffer Brothers were up for incorporating ideas we would have into the characters, and I had an instant idea what Steve would be like. I based it on people in my life, and characters that you see in those movies. In my mind, I think he has qualities that make him sort of a jerk. And aloof. And maybe not the most intelligent guy. But at the end of the day, I think he really does mean well.”
“Everyone is really excited—but at the same time, there’s an audience of people who are waiting and expecting Season Two to live up to the first season. But pressure’s also good, you know? When you’re backed into a corner, you’re forced to sink or swim, and I think people will like what we came up with. The new people we brought into the mix are some unbelievably talented actors. Paul Resier, Brett Gelman, Sean Astin… you list those people’s names, and you think about the films, and experience, and all the things they’ve worked on. I was sitting next to Sean Astin at the table read, and I was like, “I can’t believe I’m sitting next to Rudy.” It’s the craziest thing.”
“Steve has gone from this super-confident sort of ladies’ man to this needy boyfriend. I had friends—and I had situations—where you spend so much time hanging out with your girlfriend that you lose touch with other people. You only really have this one person—and when that person starts to let go, you almost feel like you need to clamp on even harder, you know?”
“I still looking relatively young for my age, so I find myself going in for these teenage roles. But as time goes on, I feel less and less like a teenager. Like… I shouldn’t be auditioning for a teenager. Certain things will always hurt: rejection, or loss. But I just turned 25. I’ll be turning 26 this year. It’s actually getting kind of far away for me. But I’m a working adult… so if I’ve gotta be a teenager, I’ll do it. [laughs]” Down jacket, $1,890, by Moncler / Jeans by John Elliott / Sneakers by Adidas / Beanie by Poler
Keery Knows It’s All About the Hair
“Do I get recognized? I guess it depends on if I’m wearing a hat or not. The hairdo is a dead giveaway. There’s nothing I can do. It’s just the way my hair grows. It’s my parents’ fault, really, because they have such big hair too. People always ask me, but it’s not like I use a shitload of hairspray or anything. I wash it probably every two or three days. On set—that’s the real preparation. There’s a whole process. Washing the hair at a specific time before coming in to shoot, and then a whole blowdrying routine, and then doing a thing to the back, and getting it cut a specific way. On set, the process is pretty lengthy. But in my normal, everyday life… most of the time, it totally looks like shit.”
At L’Gros Luxe. Suede jacket, $4,990, by Saint Laurent by Anthony Vaccarello / Sweater and trousers by Saint Laurent by Anthony Vaccarello / Socks by Falke / Loafers by Sebago / Watch by SeikoAaron Feaver
The Strange Thing About Style Right Now
“’80s style is contemporary style now. Especially shoes. But people who have already experienced the ’80s, I think, are less likely to go back there style-wise. Since I experienced the late ’90s and early 2000s, when people start wearing low-rise jeans, and getting frosted tips again… I don’t think I’m gonna go there.”
At the Hotel William Gray. Jacket by Berluti, price upon request / T-shirt and trousers by Berluti / Belt by Tom Ford Aaron Feaver
Lucky for us, Joe Keery wasn’t a very good high school student.
“I think I had a C average,” says the likable 24-year-old, better known as complicated dreamboat Steve Harrington in Netflix’s hit series Stranger Things, which is filmed in and around Atlanta. “I just chose to focus on theater instead.” During his senior year, the Massachusetts native applied to Chicago’s DePaul University on a whim. Keery found his niche in the theater department, and he appeared in shows including Empire and Chicago Fire. But it’s his work as Stranger Things’ impeccably coiffed hero that gave him his big break.
“I could kind of sympathize with him, even though there’s a scene where he’s sort of a bully,” he says. “I thought it was a really interesting project—I instantly got what they were going for. I loved the aesthetic right away.”
The actor is certainly no stranger to Atlanta—which stands in for the show’s fictional setting of Hawkins, Ind.—after filming in the area since fall 2015. Keery has posted photos on his Instagram account of hot spots including The Fox Theatre, Sweetwater Creek State Park and the BeltLine, and we imagine there will be more to come now that production on season two has officially gotten underway.
Keery—who also plays guitar and drums for the psych-rock band Post Animal—was most recently seen in horror movie The Charnel House, which premiered last month and was filmed in Cleveland earlier this year. The humble Keery even took a Megabus there: “It was definitely a bumpy ride,” he says with a laugh. We’re thinking the ride’s going to be a lot smoother going forward.
Stranger Things. A new film. A rock band. Is there anything Joe Keery can’t do?
Lucky for us, Joe Keery wasn’t a very good high school student.
“I think I had a C average,” says the likeable 24-year-old, better known as complicated dreamboat Steve Harrington in Netflix’s hit series Stranger Things. “I just chose to focus on theater instead.” During his senior year, the Massachusetts native applied to DePaul University on a whim. Keery found his niche in the theater department, and he appeared in locally filmed shows Empire and Chicago Fire. But it’s his work as Stranger Things’ impeccably coiffed hero that gave him his big break.
“I could kind of sympathize with him, even though there’s a scene where he’s sort of a bully,” he says. “I thought it was a really interesting project—I instantly got what they were going for. I loved the aesthetic right away.”
Despite his newfound fame, Keery has stayed in Chicago and can easily rattle off some of his favorite haunts: breakfast at Humboldt Park’s Flying Saucer, lunch at Lula Cafe, jazz at Green Mill, horror movies at The Logan Theatre. Even his memory of getting his big role is a classic: He was working as a waiter at DMK Burger Bar, and he went into the alley to take the call from his agent when she gave him the good news. “I did a little celebration dance,” he says, “and then went back and kept waiting tables.”
Keery—who also plays guitar and drums for the local psych-rock band Post Animal—will next be seen in horror movie The Charnel House, premiering Nov. 4, which was filmed in Cleveland earlier this year. The humble Keery even took a Megabus there: “It was definitely a bumpy ride,” he says with a laugh. We’re thinking the ride’s going to be a lot smoother going forward.
King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard (they’re a band), a well-made BLT club, lemon water
Guitarists who wear their guitars really low, fussy neighbors, too much mayo
There’s not many people in the world that I would get up at 5am in the morning to interview, but when the time arose to speak with Joe Keery (known to most as Steve from ‘Stranger Things’, and also Jean-Ralphio Saperstein’s supposed father), an early morning was worthwhile. He’s nothing but apologetic for getting me up early – “I’m so sorry to wake you up so early!” – and at the end of the interview instructs me to go back to bed.
For a 24-year-old, Keery is doing remarkably well for himself, balancing acting (as well as his role in ‘Stranger Things’, he’s also starred in ‘Empire’) and being in a band – he’s in a six-piece psychedelic group called Post Animal, who take inspiration from the Australian psych scene, think Tame Impala and Pond.
We spoke to Keery about his role as Steve in ‘Stranger Things’, his band Post Animal, as well as when he hopes to come to New Zealand…
“…[At ten I] wasn’t playing Dungeons & Dragons, but I was playing dice-games, like ‘Warhammer’ and ‘Lord Of The Rings’, like, roll the dice and move-the-painted-figure games…”
COUP DE MAIN: What’s your earliest musical memory, ever? JOE KEERY: Hmmm, probably listening to Stevie Wonder with my Dad. At our old house, he would, it sounds kind of cheesy, but he would play a bunch of different albums, and Stevie Wonder is the one that I mostly remember – he’d just play it while he was making dinner. So, probably that.
CDM: At what age did your interest in music move from just listening, to musical creation? JOE: I would say, probably in Middle School. I had a bunch of friends, like three or four guys, we would always– kind of all decided that we would start playing music around the same time and then all kind of learned what we wanted to play, and various types of music – we discovered our interests together. So, probably Eighth Grade [NZ Year 9] was when we started.
CDM: In photos and videos I’ve seen from old performances of Post Animal and your old band, The Stacks, you played drums, but in a recent live video you were playing guitar. Has this been a recent switch of instrument for you? JOE: Yeah! So, it happened about, probably, a little over a year ago. One of our guys moved to New York for the Summer about a year ago, and we needed someone to fill in for guitar, and I had really been interested in playing guitar for the band for a really long time, so I did the switch for the Summer, and had a friend come – who I knew from school – named Wes [Toledo], to play the drums. We just liked it so much that we kept Wes, and then we basically had three guitars and one other guy on keyboard, and then a bass – but then we added another member as well, Javi [Reyes] as well. Now we’re stacked, we’re loaded with guitars. <laughs>
CDM: Are there any particular musicians or bands that inspire the overall sound of Post Animal?
JOE: I think when we were doing that first release, ‘Post Animal Perform The Most Curious Water Activities’, we were all really loving ‘Innerspeaker’ by Tame Impala. We love the whole– like, Pond, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, those are some of our favourites. But in terms of the most recent stuff that we’ve been doing, we’ve been listening to kind of more classic music, Electric Light Orchestra, Steely Dan, and Stevie Wonder actually, and always The Beatles. We’re all pretty big Beatles fans, so that’s something that I think we’ll forever enjoy.
CDM: I’ve seen from social media that you guys are currently recording another album – how’s that process coming along? JOE: Good, it’s really good. We went up for about a week, a week-and-a-half in June of this year, to a lake-house that was owned by our family friends’. We went up there and recorded pretty much in a week straight through, and pretty much got everything we wanted to get done, done. It’ll be about 12 or 13 tracks I’m pretty sure. Just doing the mixing, mastering, adding extra things that we may have forgotten or things that we’ve learned from playing live now, that we just kind of want to add to the recordings. So it’s coming along. It’ll probably be closer to the end of 2016 when we finally end up releasing it.
CDM: You’ve said about the first album that it was a “pretty group oriented writing process for that album.” How does the writing-process for songs in the group tend to work? Does someone come with a particular idea that gets developed, or is it entirely collaborative? JOE: A lot of them start at least that way, someone will have some sort of idea and we’ll kind of branch out of it, but a lot of times, new songs will come from when someone comes in and says, “Hey, I’ve got a really strong idea for three of the instruments that I think we should do.” And maybe that’s how it’ll turn out, and that’s how it’ll start, but usually, I’d say especially with this one, we really wanted to come in with some ideas and make sure we weren’t underprepared or anything like that, but really make sure that we collaborated in the room as well. So, I think we kind of focused a lot on figuring stuff out as it brewed part-wise, and kind of just learning where you fit in the whole group. I feel like in that one week, we learned more about playing together as musicians than we have in like, the previous sixth months. It really solidified us as a six-man group, rather than a five, with an alternative someone who just kind of came in sometimes. It really solidified the way we work together, especially for this project.
CDM: As well as Post Animal, you’ve released a couple of solo songs that you wrote, recorded, and produced yourself, such as ’Slowbro’ and ‘I’m Not Smart’. How has that experience differed to working in a group situation? JOE: Well, that’s like the exact opposite, so you can have total control over everything. It’s a kind of blessing and a curse, because one of the best things about playing with other people is that when you get stumped, you can pass the baton on, hand the idea over, and maybe they’ll have a totally different idea which is way better than any one that you could’ve thought of. So I think there’s advantages and disadvantages, for sure. Recording music on my own, like that, has been something I’ve done for quite some time. Just started as kind of a hobby before Post Animal, and was kind of the reason I met those guys, and got involved in that band, so it’s something that I feel like I’ll do for a long time. It’s a really nice creative outlet to be able to just sit down, bang some tunes out, have some fun doing it – and then listening to it is fun, and sharing them with your friends. It’s equally rewarding, but has its own trials and tribulations.
CDM: Side-note: Is Slowbro your favourite Pokémon, and if not, what is? JOE: Oh, great question! I would say it’s probably in my top three. But I think that my top favourite one is Golduck.
CDM: Definitely better than Psyduck. JOE: <laughs> Oh, definitely! That one, or Growlithe is really sweet. I think those are my top three, I could never really decide who was the best though.
CDM: Because you once starred in a KFC commercial, I have to ask – what is your go-to KFC order? JOE: It’s funny that you say that, I don’t actually– I think that was the first job I ever got, but I don’t really eat KFC. I feel like a bad spokesperson, I don’t ever really get it.
CDM: It’s really big in New Zealand. They’re everywhere. But we don’t have many takeout options. JOE: No way. Well, I gotta start eating with them again.
CDM: You appeared in the season finale of ‘Empire’ Season One last year – what was your experience like working on that show? JOE: That was really cool. That was one of the first shows that I actually got a sizeable– it’s not a huge part or anything, but I had a name. At the time, that was huge for me, that I was on some sort of television show. It was actually pretty stressful, because I knew there was going to be a really bad rapper, which is not a problem for me because I’m pretty bad at rap to begin with, so I was like, “Okay, great, I know how to do that!” But then when I showed up on the day, they had this whole– I thought I was just gonna be making it up, but they had this whole rap written out that they, for some reason, it hadn’t been sent to me – so I had this stress of trying to learn this. And then the actual take, I’m pretty sure, they used of me in the show, is me actually just messing up in front of all of these people who I totally respected. I was super nervous. I think they got a pretty realistic embarrassing moment of me.
CDM: I watched the scene you were in, and your rapping was really… something. I’m guessing it hasn’t inspired you to quit everything and become a full-time rapper? JOE: I don’t think that’s my fate.
CDM: You were formally trained at The Theater School at DePaul University – is traditional theatre something you ever see yourself returning to? JOE: Totally. Before graduating, pretty much all I did was primarily theatre. So, that’s kind of why I fell in love with acting in the first place, and it kind of stretches a different muscle. It’s kind of like long-form acting, instead of these short bursts that are filmed. So, definitely something that I’d like to do, kind of go back and do the thing that I originally fell in love with. Hopefully in the next year or two, I’ll do another play.
CDM: For the upcoming quick-fire round, complete the following sentences… You will like my music, if you like…? JOE: Sushi. <laughs> That’s the first thing that came to my head.
CDM: And you know you’ve made it when…? JOE: Somebody online edits a picture of you with no hair.
CDM: If J.O.E. was an acronym, what would each letter stand for? JOE: What would I stand for? Just Observe Everything.
CDM: If you could steal one thing without consequence, what would it be? JOE: A helicopter.
CDM: If you were on a pub-quiz team with three of your fellow cast members from ’Stranger Things’, who would you choose, and why? JOE: I would choose David Harbour, because he’s very knowledgable. I think he has a well of information inside of him that would be very helpful in a quiz situation. I imagine he could hold his drinks so he wouldn’t be a total… you know. I’d choose Charlie [Heaton] because he’s from a different country, so he might have a different perspective on the whole thing. And then I’d probably choose Matthew Modine, because that guy has been around for a really long time, and he is one of the smartest guys I’ve ever met, actually.
CDM: If you were to direct your own ‘Stranger Things’ episode, what would you want to happen? JOE: I’d want… I’d want Barb to come back, in like the last episode, and have a total ‘Rambo’ moment and just destroy the monster. She’s like, “Guess what? I was never dead.”<laughs>
CDM: If Steve were to write a love song for Nancy, what do you think it would sound like? JOE: It would probably be like some Hall & Oates sounding song. Either something like that, or maybe like <laughs>‘Every Step You Take’ by The Police – kind of heartfelt, but also maybe a little bit creepy.
CDM: If there were to be a ’Stranger Things’ spin-off based solely on Steve’s life, what would be the main storyline? JOE: What would be the main storyline? Good question. Probably, Steve finds out that… <laughs> I have no idea. I don’t know. I have no answer for that one. I’ll think about it!
CDM: Seeing as Season One was fully soundtracked by S U R V I V E, are you currently in talks with the Duffer Brothers to have Post Animal soundtrack all of Season Two? JOE: You know, it’s on the list. I think I’d just be doing a huge disservice to the show because S U R V I V E, they just are so good. They rock. Maybe we’ll get a song in the credits or something like that.
CDM: Just get it written into your contract. JOE: Yeah, in the fine print.
CDM: I read that Finn Wolfhard [a.k.a. Mike Wheeler] has been sending you covers of your own songs, which is basically the best thing I’ve ever heard. Have you been giving him tips on how to pursue a music career as well as be an actor? JOE: Well, I’m still trying to figure it out for sure, but that guy is just the– A) he’s just so talented, and he sent a little cover of him plucking along to one of our songs and it just about broke my damn heart. He’s such a sweet guy, and such a cool kid, and I wish I was that cool when I was that age.
CDM: I feel like everyone feels the same about those kids, “I wish I was like that at that age.” JOE: I know, I feel the exact same way. In the show, I’m a total popular kid, but I was definitely more along the lines of the main kids. Total geek, for sure.
CDM: Were you playing Dungeons & Dragons at age ten? JOE: Wasn’t playing Dungeons & Dragons, but I was playing dice-games, like ‘Warhammer’ and ‘Lord Of The Rings’, like, roll the dice and move-the-painted-figure games.
CDM: What do you hope for people to take away from listening to your music? JOE: It’s something I really enjoy doing, and if people can listen to the music and lose themselves for a little bit, forget that it’s just a whole bunch of people playing instruments, then I feel like as a band we’ve kind of done our job, kind of what we set out to do – like, to transport people. And also to get them excited, and get them pumped up, especially at the live shows.
CDM: What do you think is the difference between a good song and a great song? JOE: For me personally, I think it’s lyrics. That’s why I think Paul McCartney has so many great songs, because he’s got these unbelievable chord-progressions for sure, but then he also just has these really insightful, short phrases, that can really, really stick with you – in The Beatles, and outside of The Beatles’ career. Like, ‘Let ‘Em In’, like ‘Uncle Albert / Admiral Halsey’ from ‘Ram’, then also ‘Hey Jude’ or something like that. Just a bunch of small phrases that really stick with you for some reason, but they don’t sound cliché. That’s kind of what I think of when I think of a great song.
CDM: One of our writers saw him play Firefly Festival last year and said it was incredible – he played for two-and-a-half-hours. JOE: I bet it was unbelievable.
CDM: What is your spirit animal? JOE: Probably, a moose – at least right now. I think a moose would be a good spirit animal for me.
CDM: If you were a country, what would be your national anthem? JOE:‘Glory Days’ by Bruce Springsteen.
CDM: Tell me something not many people know about you…? JOE: I played hockey for like, eight-and-a-half years.
CDM: And lastly, what’s on your bucket-list that you’d really like to achieve? JOE: Hmmm, I’d really like to go to… In high school I was fortunate enough to go to Italy, but the other place I’d really like to check out before I die is the Great Wall Of China. Also, my friend Kevin in Atlanta took this wonderful motorcycle trip across East Asia, and he said it was the most unbelievable thing. Since he told me that, it’s always been in the back of my head, to just fly over there, buy some cheap sort of motorcycle, and then ride around for like two or three months, and then come back to the States.
CDM: Can you please come to New Zealand? Tame Impala are headlining a music festival we have here in 2017 called Laneway Festival, so Post Animal should definitely headline in 2018! JOE: Let’s do it! I’ll come! I would love to go!
Post Animal’s ‘The Garden Series’ EP is out now – click here to purchase.
On august 19th, ET sat down with Steve Harrington himself, actor Joe Keery, to chat about the incredible response the show has received, what he hopes for Steve in season two, and of course… #Justice4Barb.
ET: What was life like for you pre-Stranger Things?
Joe Keery: I went to DePaul University Theatre School in Chicago, Illinois. I graduated in 2014 and just started auditioning out there and booked this and shot it, and this all kind of came out.
What was it about this role that made you want to audition?
I read the script and I was like, “This is one of the best scripts I’ve ever read.” It was great. It was just an amalgamation of all these great movies that I really grew up loving, and they attached this really cool trailer that they cut together of all these source movies. I think it was pieces from Jaws and Goonies and Super 8, Stand by Me — they made this kind of trailer of what the vibe of it would be […] I guess that was when I was most excited about starting this.
Are you being recognized everywhere you go?
It’s been pretty wild, it’s been fun! One person at most places will at least give me a sort-of look.
You are still sort-of rocking the Steve hair.
I had the Steve sort-of hairdo before I did [Stranger Things]. People have always been like, “You’ve got a wild head of hair!”
How long does it take to get the Steve ‘do down?
We got it down to I think 30 minutes actually, towards the end. It was good. It was a lot of shampoo, and then we would blow dry it out and then hairspray it back and then they had to get the little curl going. It took kind of a while.
(Psst: Keery told us during our live Q&A below that he doesn’t use any product in his daily life)
We assume you’ve heard the comparisons to Jean Ralphio from Parks and Rec… and the theory Steve’s his father?
Yeah! That should be a whole spinoff, just me as Jean Ralphio’s dad. That would be a hell of a show.
What has been your favorite meme or reaction to the show that you’ve seen?
Someone edited a picture of me with no hair, totally bald! And also, the Barb mural. That’s so cool.
Did you anticipate the entire Internet would be talking about Barb and Steve?
It’s crazy! No, I didn’t really expect it at all. I went to set and saw some of the other stuff, but for the most part, I wasn’t around for everything that they shot and I didn’t see the show or anything before it came out. I was really pleasantly surprised. I sat down, watched it like everyone else. It was really cool.
So many celebs have tuned in. Was there anyone that shocked you?
The whole Stephen King tweet was the sickest ever. The Long Walk is a book he wrote a while ago, but I’ve read a couple times and I love it. I can’t even imagine being Matt and Ross Duffer. They were probably freaking out.
Let’s talk about the ending. What were your thoughts on Nancy going ‘Team Steve’?
I remember reading that. Me, Charlie [Heaton] and Natalia [Dyer] all sat down. We got the final scripts and we read it and I remember just being like, “What? Really?” I was pretty shocked.
But I think it’s a really interesting direction that they went in. They kind of built on this trope, at least for Steve’s character for the first half of the series — and then towards the last two or three episodes, they kind of turned this character around and it’s a refreshing take on the ’80s bully I guess.
Are you Team Steve or Team Jonathan?
First and foremost, I’m Team Barb.
What do you hope for Steve in season two?
I really like the whole, like what we were talking about, reversal at the end.
I’m interested to see [what happens] now that everybody knows what’s been going down with the whole supernatural elements, because Steve was in the dark until the end of episode eight. So the entire time, I was kind of playing catch up with all these other characters.
I’m just interested to see, now that everybody’s in on it, what happens now and where do we go from here?
And obviously, his relationship with Nancy as well. I think it’s what got him into the whole thing and I think he really cares about her.
Welcome to Joe-Keery.com, your best high quality source about the american actor Joe Keery, you may know him from Henry Gamble’s Birthday Party where he played Gabe, his most recent project, the hit Netflix Original Series: “Stranger Things” where he plays the role of Steve Harrington or perhaps for his guest starring roles such as Emmett on Chicago Fire or Tony on Empire. Here you can find the latest news about Joe, photos, interviews, and a lot more! We invite you to visit our sections, such as our photogallery where you can find photoshoots, candids, appearances, and more! Thank for your visit!
After talented architect, Alex Reaves, achieves the impossible - transforming the long- abandoned Fairmont Meat Company slaughterhouse into the ultramodern high-tech Lofts - his family and tenants are faced with a deadly secret that's patiently spent the past 30 years within the aged brick building.