The Upside Down of Stranger Things Streaming with Actor Finn Wolfhard

When facing a demonic energy-feeding monster of unknown origin in its cold underground world, it’s best to hum The Clash. Or at least, that’s what the characters of Netflix’s Stranger Things do.

Since July 16, 2016, listeners have spent more than 17 million hours listening to music related to the show on Spotify—and yes, that includes the thematic “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” which increased 30% globally after Stranger Things premiered on July 15, 2016, compared to the two weeks before.  

The series, a true tribute to ‘80s classics, features plenty other beloved songs from the era, including Toto’s “Africa,” DEVO’s “Whip It,” and Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time.” Fans were quick to jump on these themes in their user-generated playlists, which include the above artists as well as The Police, New Order, and Joy Division in large numbers. 

In all, listeners have also created more than 3,500 Upside Down-themed playlists, listened to 4.6 thousand hours worth of Stranger Things podcasts (the top being The Stranger Things Podcast by Addi and Darrell Darnell), and created playlists based on the show’s characters. 

Ahead of the July 4 release of season three, For the Record talked to Stranger Things star Finn Wolfhard, who plays team ringleader Mike Wheeler, about his own take on the music from the show.

Besides being an actor, you’re the lead vocalist and guitarist for the rock band Calpurnia. Would Mike ever join a rock band? What would he play?

I don’t think Mike listens to much music, but through his dad Ted, he gets a monster dose of Perry Como, and maybe some Beach Boys when Ted cracks a cold one. I just don’t see Mike ever being in a band, but he might play around with a synth to provide soundtrack music for home movies.

How does being a musician influence your work as an actor and vice versa? When you’re making music/getting into character, what are the similarities or differences in the process?

I have a set routine that involves listening to particular songs on my way to set, and then again when I am finished work and driving home. I usually wear headphones, so this really sucks for my parents, who have to drive their silent boy home. But they get that I need this as part of my process. They know that I would go insane without it. When I make music, I often watch movies for inspiration, but I don’t think that’s come through in any songs yet—at least not released ones.

The soundtrack to Stranger Things is filled with 80’s jams. Were you a fan of the genre before working on the show? How has your listening habits changed since playing a tween in the ‘80s?

My parents introduced me to a lot of different types of music, including music from the ‘80s, and especially new wave stuff. I think the show has made me love it even more, and the ST3 (Stranger Things 3) soundtrack, supervised by Nora Felder, is incredible. She found a song my dad knows well [from that period] that still has less than 1000 listens on Spotify, yet it kills where it’s used in the show. 

Anyway, for the last couple of years, I have definitely been more indie rock driven. I don’t listen much to anything that’s too polished because it just sounds fake to me. 

Between Stranger Things and It, you’ve spent a lot of time being in the world of the ‘80s. What modern music—if any—do you listen to?

Check out my playlist for the answer to this one. My ST3 list is made up of ‘80s and ‘70s songs and a lot of modern songs that I listen to on the way to and from set.  

If you could go back in time to any time period, what would it be?

Early 1970s, because I like the style and the music and films.

Any podcasts you love listening to?

H3 with Ethan and Hila and If I Were You with Jake and Amir.

You competed on lip sync battle against your cast members. But what would be your go-to karaoke song?

Sabotage by the Beasties.

Stream Finn’s playlist for his favorite songs from the ‘70’s to now. Also check out our Stranger Things playlist, based on and inspired by music from the show.

Header image courtesy of Netflix