Got A Girl: A Musical Match Made In Hollywood

Aug 3, 2014
Originally published on August 4, 2014 7:06 am

Chance encounters can lead to profound changes in people's lives. Just ask actress Mary Elizabeth Winstead.

She was shooting Scott Pilgrim vs. the World opposite Michael Cera when one of the film's music consultants befriended her. He'd heard rumors she was also a talented singer, so he checked out a video of her belting out a tune in Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof.

That person happened to be Dan "The Automator" Nakamura, the hot-shot producer known to pop and hip-hop fans for his work with Gorillaz and Del the Funky Homosapien. The two struck up a friendship, and a musical partnership was born: Got a Girl.

The newly formed duo just released its first album, I Love You But I Must Drive Off This Cliff Now, which draws on the members' shared love for 1960s French pop. Nakamura and Winstead spoke with NPR's Eric Westervelt; hear their conversation at the audio link.

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Thanks again for listening. It's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR West. I'm Eric Westervelt. Sometimes a chance encounter can lead to profound change in a person's life. Consider the case of actress Mary Elizabeth Winstead.


MARY ELIZABETH WINSTEAD: (As Ramona Flowers) If we're going to date you may have to defeat my seven evil exes.

MICHAEL CERA: (As Scott Pilgram) You have seven evil ex-boyfriends

WINSTEAD: (As Ramona Flowers) Seven evil exes, yes.

WESTERVELT: Winstead was shooting movie "Scott Pilgram Vs. The World" opposite Michael Cera and she met on of the films music consultancy hotshot producer named Daniel Nakamura - known to fans of the band guerrillas as Dan the Automator. Dan the Automator had Mary Elizabeth singing in the Quentin Tarantino film "Death Proof."


WINSTEAD: (As Lee, Singing) Don't want nobody, nobody.

WESTERVELT: The two struck up a friendship and an unexpected musical partnership was born.


WINSTEAD: Sipping my vodka tonic in your leather-back chair I put on my makeup perfectly. Let down my hair.

WESTERVELT: This is the result. It's a band they call Gotta A Girl and their debut album is curiously titled "I Love You But I Must Drive Off This Cliff Now." Mary Elizabeth Winstead explains.

WINSTEAD: We were writing lyrics in a hotel room and we were joking about kind of how ridiculously melodramatic our lyrics were and how kind of sad and saccharine they were coming out. And we just sort of laughed and we're like yeah it's totally" I Love You But I Must Drive Off This Cliff Now." For like a year we're like oh yeah that's a joke what our album going to be titled and then we realized it was a good enough joke to just make it real. (Laughing)


WINSTEAD: (Singing) I'm sure she's very lovely But aren't I just as nice? I know that I'm so young and naive. You don't have to tell me twice. Did we live too fast in this fantasy? Sandcastles were the walls we made.

WESTERVELT: So just how does Mary Elizabeth Winstead end up making an album with Dan the Automator, one of the coolest producers in the music game?

WINSTEAD: Kind of all happen-stance, really.

DAN THE AUTOMATOR: Everything I do is happenstance. I just kinda go by instincts and whatever I feel about people and Mary had a certain kind of, I don't know, spirit or something. And the interest in singing and everything just made it seem like a good idea at the time.

WINSTEAD: Yeah. Yeah it was an experiment of sorts I think rather than like a let's make an album together. It was sort of like let's collaborate on a song possibly that we might never show anybody but let's just see what it's like to work together. And it just kind of clicked.


WESTERVELT: "There's a Revolution" is a song I really like. It's dripping with this sort of '60s pop production kind of cheeky James Bond homage.


WINSTEAD: (Singing) Say it with me say it with me that the store through the backdoor shake up the third floor.

WESTERVELT: Tell us about this song Dan.

THE AUTOMATOR: There is a French influence to the whole record in general, but it's not a French record so to speak. That it has the influence and definitely calls from that time period. And I think...

WESTERVELT: What do you mean by that can explain a little?

THE AUTOMATOR: ...What I mean by that is in the tradition of like Francoise Hardy or even like a Surge Gaze Borgue(ph) or something like that but also like the whole just a girl period in France basically.



WINSTEAD: (Singing) Saying you want to tell me that you want to take a ride with the wave that's rushing through you never mind the words that came before us and metamorphous arriving at the chorus say there's a revolution on the way.

WINSTEAD: It's maybe one of the things I was most excited about when he sent me that track I was like yes. I really wanted to do something that really represented that upbeat E-E (ph) girl kind of childlike sound, you know. That's really fine and just sort of silly and indulgent in that way. It was one of the most fun things to write lyrically as well. Just go completely in that direction and not worry about if it's simplistic or whatever because that sort of the whole ideas to make it in the make it like a child's rhyme or something.


WINSTEAD: (Singing) And every line the moon will rise intertwine but are you mine?

WESTERVELT: Mary Elizabeth, I mean a lot of actors have had sort of side jobs as singers and have used their fame as actors to pursue music - Russell Crowe, Kevin Bacon Scarlett Johansson. You know, they get beat up a lot by critics. I mean were you apprehend all about that side of this collaboration?

WINSTEAD: I didn't want to be an actress/ singer or I didn't want to try and take her some other category just because, you know, I have some proximity to it as an actor. I wanted it to come just naturally if it did ever come. So I don't think I expected it to happen but I'm really grateful now that I've had the opportunity to explore that because it's been so much fun and it's been really rewarding for me. It's kind of interesting I'm now realizing how many actors I know personally who are also musicians. And how many of them are really good and it sort of makes me a little sad that so many actors get a bad rap. Because it's actually a pretty natural progression I think.


WINSTEAD: (Singing) Take what you can from me, take what you need from me.

WESTERVELT: That's actress Mary Elizabeth Winstead and producer Dan Nakamura better known as Dan the Automator. Together their new band is Got A Girl. Thanks a lot both of you for coming in.


WINSTEAD: Thanks so much.


WESTERVELT: And for Sunday that's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR West. I'm Eric Westervelt. Irun Rath is backnext weekend. Until then, thanks a lot for listening and have a great week. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.