It’s been two long years without one, and even the most confirmed Scrooges and Grinches have gotten impatient. Now, thanks to UCSB Arts & Lectures, one of Santa Barbara’s most cherished holiday gatherings returns. On Thursday, December 2, She & Him (that’s Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward, plus backup singers and a band) will perform a splendid and comforting set of retro seasonal classics for a festive crowd at The Arlington Theatre. The concert kicks off a national tour for the duo She & Him, who made a significant impact on the crowded Christmas music market with their 2011 album A Very She & Him Christmas, and a follow-up LP, Christmas Party, in 2016. In addition, on November 12, 2021, Merge Records released an expanded Deluxe edition of A Very She & Him Christmas featuring three new numbers — “Holiday,” “Last Christmas,” and “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas.”
In a recent phone conversation, the stars sounded relaxed and relieved to pick up where they left off with this popular seasonal project. While Ward was in Portland and Deschanel was in Los Angeles during the pandemic, the pair traded files digitally to produce the songs that round out the 10th-anniversary deluxe edition. Although this method required a departure from Ward’s preferred analog-exclusive studio technique, Deschanel praised the process, saying that “it was like giving and getting little presents” to send and receive the recordings that came together to create the final mixes.
While “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” follows the nostalgic pop blueprint established at the outset of She & Him’s holiday odyssey, “Last Christmas” by George Michael and “Holiday” by Madonna revive the sounds of the 1980s. “Holiday” in particular did not necessarily present as a Christmas song on first impression. Still, in Ward’s twangy, guitar-and-drums-oriented arrangement, it fits right in alongside the more familiar Christmas standards. Part of the proceeds from the reissued album will support 826 National, a network of youth writing and publishing centers in which Deschanel has volunteered as an instructor.
The artists acknowledged that playing music helped them get through the pandemic quarantine and emphasized their gratitude for the return of live events. Deschanel said she grew up caroling in the holiday season and expressed her willingness to “harmonize on just about every holiday song.” Ward said that he hopes people will dress up for the concert in Santa Barbara and come out wearing their “best Christmas masks.” The show begins at 8 p.m. with a comedian to warm up the crowd. She & Him is partnering with UCSB Arts & Lectures to invite audience members to bring a new, unwrapped toy or gift card to donate to United Way of Santa Barbara County. For more information and tickets, visit artsandlectures.ucsb.edu or call the box office at (805) 893-3535.