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Stranger Things Cast Members You Didn't Know Had Music Careers

When "Stranger Things" premiered on Netflix in 2016, no one predicted the show would become the cultural phenomenon it is today. Its charming cast of adolescent actors and screen veterans made it the perfect '80s horror throwback for the modern era. So much of the show's appeal is down to its main cast members, who have skyrocketed to mainstream appeal. This has allowed the biggest stars of "Stranger Things" to pursue personal endeavors, like music.

Some residents of the fictional Hawkins, Indiana are no stranger (pun intended) to the art of musical performance. Gaten Matarazzo, who plays Dustin, and Sadie Sink, who plays the scene-stealing Max, have had successful careers as Broadway performers. Other actors, like Noah Schnapp, Winona Ryder, and Sink again, have even made appearances in music videos for successful artists like Panic! At the Disco, Annie Lennox, and Taylor Swift. Some of the actors who have traversed the Upside Down have even become actual musical artists in their own right — and there's probably more of them than you'd think.

Some have joined forces with musical collaborators in bands, while others have placed themselves front-and-center as solo artists. Read on to find out which "Stranger Things" stars are musicians on the side.

Finn Wolfhard

Finn Wolfhard was one of the breakout stars of the first season of "Stranger Things," much of which centers around his heroic character Mike Wheeler. It wasn't long before Wolfhard jumped from television star to rock star. In addition to showing off his guitar-playing chops in a music video for comedy band Ninja Sex Party, Wolfhard pursued his own musical endeavors in 2017 with the band Calpurnia. He served as the band's lead singer and guitarist, with Malcolm Craig on drums, Ayla Tesler-Mabe on lead guitar, and Jack Anderson on bass.

The band's first EP, "Scout," dropped in 2018 and spawned the singles "City Boy" and "Greyhound," the second of which became their most popular original song on Spotify. Their cover of Weezer's "Say It Ain't So" for Spotify Singles also got them recognition from the iconic band, who cast the foursome in the music video for their cover of "Take On Me." While Calpurnia's future seemed promising, the band announced that they had split up in 2019, as the demanding tour schedule conflicted with Wolfhard's burgeoning acting career.

"Part of the reason why Calpurnia began to become a chore instead of [making] fun music is that we had to tour in order to make the label money," Wolfhard told the Alternative Press. "Obviously, that's how they make money, and they need to survive. But I can't always tour because I act, and that is first and foremost and the reason why people give me the opportunities."

He wouldn't let that stop him from creating music, however. Shortly after Calpurnia's dissolution, Wolfhard and longtime friend Craig formed a musical duo called The Aubreys. "We're releasing music on our own accord," Wolfhard explained. "We'll play DIY shows when we're free." Their debut album, "Karaoke Alone," dropped to positive reviews in 2021.

Joe Keery

Actor and musician Joe Keery slowly but surely became a favorite among fans of "Stranger Things," thanks to the redemption arc of his character Steve Harrington. Steve began Season 1 as the careless boyfriend of Natalia Dyer's Nancy Wheeler, but he's changed a lot over the years and is now very much one of the gang. However, Keery's popularity isn't just down to Steve's recurring role as a reluctant babysitter for many of the younger characters in "Stranger Things." Keery has also built a fanbase with his active music career, which began long before his "Stranger Things" fame.

Keery's first musical project went by the name Cool Cool Cool. It didn't last very long, but traces of it still exist online. He went on to become the guitarist and drummer of Post Animal, whose debut album was released in 2015. They continued to release music with Keery until 2018, though the "Stranger Things" heartthrob has since parted ways with the band as a result of his growing career in acting. "It can help initially with exposure, but those guys don't have any connection to the show and they don't want to be labeled as, like, 'Stranger Things band,'" Keery told NME. "I think we realized that right out the gate."

In 2019, Keery began releasing solo music under the name Djo, starting with his first single "Roddy." Later that year, Djo's debut album "Twenty Twenty" debuted, earning plaudits from publications like NME, which compared the sound to Tame Impala and praised its lack of repetitiveness. "Let's just hope [Keery] can carry on juggling acting and music so we can enjoy his talents in both fields," the music mag said in its review.

Charlie Heaton

Charlie Heaton being from Yorkshire, England isn't the only surprising thing about this "Stranger Things" star, who has already perfected the American accent. Though the Brit gained recognition for his role as Jonathan Byers — the loner brother of Noah Schnapp's Will and oldest son of Winona Ryder's Joyce — acting wasn't his initial passion. Heaton began his career as a musician first and foremost, until a need for money sent him jobbing as an extra in commercials, eventually leading him to his breakthrough role on "Stranger Things." Before long, "acting kind of took over," he told W Magazine. "I just got these opportunities and wanted to run with them, I guess."

Heaton moved to London at age 16 to pursue music full-time as a drummer. He played for many bands, most significantly the noise rock group Comanechi. He played with the band on their 2013 release "You Owe Me Nothing but Love" and toured with them across the world for over a year. "It wasn't glamorous," Heaton told Screen Daily. "We were roughing it and I got back and I was skint." Around this time, Heaton also briefly played drums for a band called Half Loon, who he continued to promote in his spare time after turning to acting.

Although Heaton's drumming work is in the past, it turned out to be more fruitful than one would anticipate. Heaton and his former Comanechi bandmate Akiko Matsuura reportedly had a child together in 2014. "Charlie became a dad when he was just 20," a source close to the rocker-turned-Hollywood star told The Sun. "He met Akiko when he was just a teen and fell head over heels in love. They're no longer together but they have an amicable relationship for the boy's sake."

Maya Hawke

Maya Hawke, the daughter of Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman, joined "Stranger Things" in its third season as Robin Buckley, the sarcastic co-worker of Steve Harrington. She tags along with Steve and his friends on their escapades after they discover a hidden Soviet base underneath the mall in Hawkins. She has since become a future movie star with impressive turns in films like "Mainstream" and shows like "The Good Lord Bird." In 2019, however, she began pursuing a career in music, albeit with a different approach to her "Stranger Things" co-stars.

With the release of her first single "To Love a Boy," Hawke's solo music proved she could hold her own in the world of singer-songwriter folk and rock. Her debut album "Blush" dropped in 2020 following the release of singles like "By Myself" and "Generous Heart." Reviewers compared her style to the likes of Joni Mitchell and Taylor Swift, with Pitchfork praising her "refreshingly thoughtful" voice and "emotionally incisive songwriting."

Thankfully, Hawke has shown no signs of slowing down her music career anytime soon. In 2022, she released the first single from her upcoming sophomore album "Moss," titled "Thérèse." The song's release was accompanied by an incredibly vulnerable music video. This time around, Hawke has leaned even further into her Swiftian influence, citing the Grammy winner's lockdown album "Folklore" as a primary inspiration for the upcoming release. She even went as far as recruiting Swift's mixer Jonathan Low to achieve a similar sound. "The idea that you can both run to it and also fall asleep to it on an airplane is how I feel about 'Folklore' and what's so amazing about that record," Hawke told Billboard. "I don't necessarily know that we achieved it, but I aspired to achieve that with this record."

Caleb McLaughlin

Caleb McLaughlin has a lot in common with several of his "Stranger Things" co-stars. He got his start on Broadway, much like former "Les Misérables" star Gaten Matarazzo and "Annie" herself, Sadie Sink. McLaughlin, however, had big shoes to fill on the stages of New York City, performing as Young Simba in "The Lion King." His commitment wasn't questionable, as he filled the role for three years while taking on smaller roles in TV shows to get his foot in the door.

It was fairly recently when McLaughlin returned to his singing-and-dancing roots following his success on "Stranger Things." Joining forces with Mary J. Blige producer Rashad, McLaughlin released his first single, "Neighborhood," in 2021. The song's release was a long time coming. "I'm truly excited for my fans to hear what I've been cooking up in the studio for the last five years," McLaughlin, who was 20 at the time, said (via AllHipHop). He followed up "Neighborhood" with "Soul Travel" in May 2022. The release of this song was a huge moment for him.

"It's so special to me that the world gets to finally hear 'Soul Travel,'" McLaughlin told Complex. "It's a fun song, but also means a lot to me. 'Soul Travel' is more than just a song. It's a love story and a film. I also want people to know that I'm not just an actor who enjoys music, this is a spiritual thing for me. I never wanted to just be an artist and be in the industry, I've wanted to be a lot of different things but this is my calling." It seems as though he plans on balancing (and blending) acting with music going forward, and we're all for it.

Jamie Campbell Bower

By the time Jamie Campbell Bower made his debut as the orderly who turns out to be Henry Creel/One/Vecna in Season 4 of "Stranger Things," the English actor was no stranger to Hollywood. He featured in the "Twilight" movies, appeared in the film "The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones," and he even had a role in the pilot for a canceled "Game of Thrones" prequel with Naomi Watts. He's been into acting for a long time, but he's just as passionate about making music. In fact, his very first role in film was in the 2007 musical "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street."

In 2017, Bower released his first album as the frontman of the punk rock group Counterfeit, titled "Together We Are Stronger." The group quickly rose in popularity, netting themselves an AIM Award for Best Live Act and getting signed to Republic Records in 2019. Following their signing, they released singles like "It Gets Better" and "Getting Over It," which garnered them more attention. Things appeared to be going very well for the band, until Bower announced that they had split up in the fall of 2020, disappointing fans eagerly anticipating their second album.

Thankfully, Bower has no plans to walk away from music anytime soon. He began releasing solo music under his own name shortly after Counterfeit's split, abandoning the punk rock noise for more low-key piano ballads. "I feel creatively in the best space that I've been in for a long time, if ever," he told NME. "I want to be cautious here because I don't want to be like, 'Oh, well, I'm the lone wolf and I don't need anyone', but there is certainly something to be said for just going with your gut and going with intuition."