ABOVE: SEDGIE OGILVY AND MAX HEATH.
Pulsing electronic beats layered over wistful pop songs, Child Actor is very much a collaboration for the 2010s. Composed of cousins Max Heath and Sedgie Ogilvy, the band writes its songs long distance—Sedgie will sit at her piano, sing, record, and send her songs to Max, who will then inject them with danceable beats. They live in different cities, work in different spaces and at different times, and yet somehow are able to create a cohesive record. Their songs, such as "If You Loved Me," which you can stream bellow, are both soothing and utterly danceable —pop at its most cathartic. "Max does tap right into the emotion that I put into the song," Sedgie tells us over the phone. "It's kind of cool, because we've both had really different experiences in our lives but we can relate on all these songs and actually feel like the same kind of weird emotions," she continues.
Child Actor's debut album, Victory, comes out in two weeks, and the cousins have yet to perform their songs live—but they'd like to, and we'd like to hear it. Here, we speak with Sedgie and Max about their musical families, their early days as child roadies, and, of course, their favorite child actors.
AGES: 28 (Sedgie Ogilvy); 27 (Max Heath)
HOMETOWNS: Boston, MA (Ogilvy); Middletown, CT (Heath)
DESCRIBE YOUR STYLE OF MUSIC TO A FIVE-YEAR-OLD... Max Heath: We both have a lot of experience with five-year-olds, so this is a really hard question. I mean, if I was to explain this to an actual five-year-old that I know, it would be enough to even introduce the concept of electronic music and what that means. Then if you tell the five-year-old, "Well, it's kind of R&B/indie; bloggers like it." [laughs] We'd need a really hipster five-year-old.
Sedgie Ogilvy: An ironic [five-year-old]. [laughs] The one thing about it that I've come to realize is it definitely is electronic music. I think it's pretty ambient, but the melodies come through and they're actually pretty simple melodies. I kind of do that on purpose, because it's a nice contrast with everything that's accompanying it—all the crazy beats and sounds—so I try to keep that nice and smooth.
FIRST MEETINGS: Ogilvy: [laughs] We met when we were still in diapers, because we are cousins. We are first cousins, so we've known each other our whole lives.
Heath: I'm an only child. Sedge has a brother and a sister, but to me, my cousins were like my siblings.
Ogilvy: Our moms were in a band together, so they would get together to rehearse and then we would all hang out and basically were just raised like as siblings, yeah.
MUSICAL MOTHERS: Heath: We can plug them; their band is called "The Heaths."
Ogilvy: Oh, yeah, The Heath Sisters. Are they the Heaths? They dropped the "sisters"?
Heath: They've gone through a few phases; I've got to say it's pretty cool that we got to witness what it's like to be in a band from such a young age. It's kind of surreal because we take it totally for granted—we didn't even have to have any idea of collaborating with family, because the family already did that. There are three sisters—our moms and their other sister. They have three different influences, I guess. There's a Joni Mitchell element, I think that would kind of be [what] my mom would represent, then Sedgie's mom would kind of be a pop/R&B element, oddly enough, appropriately enough, and then Lucy kind of brought a Celtic folk element to the mix. There's new age in there.
Ogilvy: We grew up going to coffee houses, selling their CD at the table, and being roadies. We thought it was totally normal that that's what you did when you get together with your family: "Oh, we gotta go do the show like a normal weekend." They mostly just play around New England, that's where they all live, but they are still performing.
Heath: They would break up and then have a reunion concert. Just like any other band.
FROM COUSINS TO COLLABORATORS: Heath: I visited Sedgie in 2010. She always has something that she's working on, and she often doesn't show it to anyone. I happened to be there and she was like, "Oh, I just made this song," and she played it for me on Garage Band and I just really liked it. It was really quiet, very Sade, mellow. At the time, I was really into making hip-hop beats, and I was also looking for a way to connect that with a more song-oriented approach. I heard the song and I was like, "Wow if this had really big drums or something..." I could just imagine it being really something new, not a remix, just becoming something else. That song was "Window." It became our first song and then we just did a bunch after it like that and it developed into an actual thing.
We've played together quite a lot, [but] this is the most we've ever talked about our music. We never actually talked about it [before]. Sometimes she'd send something to me, I'd send something back and it'd be like, "Oh that's cool," and we'd never talk about it again.
Ogilvy: I [was] always just like, "Oh my God, you're a genius. I love it."
COMING UP WITH A BAND NAME: Heath: I will say that [our family] was really against the name Child Actor. They really implored us to change it; they had a campaign for us to change it. My mom wanted it to be Firefly.
I was watching the movie There Will Be Blood, and it was right on the time when I was trying to think a name for this. I felt some pressure: We've done like eight songs now, and we're probably going to do an album; I should probably name this so we can start talking about it. I don't know if you're familiar with the movie, but the character H.W. comes out, he's like a 12-year-old kid or something, and I was thinking, "Man this kid is a pretty good child actor."
Child Actor has all these connotations, usually negative, because child actors often turn out to have crazy lives. [But] to me it pops out, Child Actor has this cool, fun, '90s image—like a kid in a Jell-O commercial smiling, like that's the right thing to do, eat the Jell-O and be happy. There's an innocence about it too.
Ogilvy: There's a little sentimental element, when we would get together as kids, as cousins, we always did plays for our family. We took ourselves seriously as actors; we would perform for our parents and spend whole weekends planning it out and memorizing our parts. The joke is kind of like we were child actors, we put ourselves in that role from a young age.
LONG-DISTANCE BEATS—DIFFERENT STATES, DIFFERENT STATES OF MIND: Heath: A lot of people tell me that [our music] is really mellow, really laid-back. I have a totally different perspective, because when I make it—I remember the second one we did, the song "Fame," I was almost afraid to show anyone, 'cause it seemed so aggressive and abrasive because [of] what I did to the song. I mean, if you think this is mellow, you should hear the original, they're so relaxing. My approach for this is really maximalist, I stuffed a lot of things in there and usually the feeling of making this music is pretty intense and unstable.
Ogilvy: I find it to be really relaxing and really low-key. I usually go into it with no plan of what I'm going to sing or what I'm going to write or what chords I'm going to use. For me, it's kind of the opposite of I think Max's experience, which is bringing so much life to these songs, a new kind of life to the song. I almost quoted one of our songs' titles ["New Life"], I didn't want to say it. [laughs] It's like my outlet, like my happy, quiet time. Or my time to lament about all of my troubles in the ways of love.
FAVORITE CHILD ACTORS: Ogilvy: Oh my gosh, I think I have to say Kevin Arnold. What's his name?
Heath: Fred Savage, I believe his name is Kevin Arnold, actually. [laughs]
Ogilvy: He was so cool; he was like a little man. Definitely Fred Savage from The Wonder Years.
Heath: I'm just going to say Macaulay Culkin. He's the quintessential child actor to me.
VICTORY, CHILD ACTOR'S DEBUT LP, COMES OUT TUESDAY, OCTOBER 16. FOR MORE INFORMATION, VISIT THEIR FACEBOOK PAGE.