Penn Badgley on his band MOTHXR, Brooklyn and his future in acting
It’s been over two years Gossip Girl ended, and Penn Badgley still lives in Brooklyn. But with his Dan Humphrey days behind him, Badgley now serves as the frontman of MOTHXR, a Brooklyn-based band he started with friends Simon Ocroft, Darren Will and Jimmy Giannopolous.
“The second we sat down, it just immediately became that band,” Badgley told EW at De Nolet Presented by Ketel One Vodka. “We worked in an incredibly fluid and spontaneous process. It was purely electronic, and also purely organic.”
The group wrote one song a day while holed up in a California Airbnb rental, and shared their first song “Easy” on Soundcloud last February.
Since then, MOTHXR have played shows in Vancouver, Paris and throughout the U.K., but Badgley continues to call New York home. “I lived here shooting Gossip Girl, and I stayed because I was meeting like these guys [his bandmates] and developing relationships that were both friendship, romantic and creative,” he says. “Williamsburg — New York in general — even though it’s being sucked out day by day, it’s still a creative mecca.
“I’ve stayed because it keeps inspiring me.”
MOTHXR had a residency at Lower East Side bar Pianos in December, and joined Patti Smith at a concert benefitting victims of the East Village 2nd Avenue fire last month. They have gigs lined up throughout the five boroughs this summer, and will even venture out to Long Island in August.
But Badgley isn’t too quick to define MOTHXR’s sound. “I like to say that this music exists somewhere between D’Angelo and Arthur Russell,” he says. “It’s true, but it’s also irrelevant. If somebody were to say that independently of us, I’d think, ‘We did it!'”
Badgley doesn’t like to label himself, either.
“I’m both,” he says of being an actor or musician. “I kind of hate using the word ‘artist’ because I certainly wouldn’t expect anyone to consider me as such at this point. I enjoy making all kids of different things and different creative projects. I’ve continued acting — I’ve been in three films since the show ended that have all been strange, rewarding independent experiences. None of them were big, but I’m going to keep doing my thing.”
The Baltimore native also appeared in two episodes of NBC’s miniseries The Slap in February, and says he’s interested in making anything ” genuinely good,” whether that’s a TV show, movie or music.
“If I can make a great anything, I want to participate,” Badgley says.
So far, that includes heading to Dallas to take the stage with MOTHXR at DMD Fest this weekend, and appearing in The Paper Store, slated for releaselater this year. And, of course, spending time performing in New York, where Badgley’s lived for nearly a decade.
As a devout Brooklynite, Badgley must be anxiously awaiting the 2017 opening of Wegmans, right? “I don’t know what that is,” he says of the grocery store slated to open in Brooklyn’s Navy Yard — a reveal almost as shocking as when we learned Dan Humphrey was behind Gossip Girl all along.
But he’s not going to get up in arms about his neighborhood in Williamsburg, or New York in general, potentially losing its flare. “That whole thing with people complaining about neighborhoods — I mean, I of course have been guilty of it myself,” Badgley says. “But what am I going say? ‘This neighborhood’s really changing?’ I’ve lived in it for eight years. I’m an actor. So that’s my thoughts on that.”