📷 : Ashley Yu
Eighty Ninety’s latest release Got Your Message has been receiving great reviews with it premiering on Billboard last month, and the band, consisting of brothers Harper and Abner James, also have an upcoming EP, Bowery Beach Road. Taylor Swift included the duo’s track Your Favourite Song on her Spotify playlist, and recently headlining Elsewhere Zone One, they are currently working on new music. Chatting with Eighty Ninety, we find out about Got Your Message, their headline show and appearing on Taylor’s playlist.
What made you decide to put Eighty Ninety together and how did you come up with the name?
We’re brothers – we grew up in a small town near Portland, Maine and were always playing in bands. After high school, Abner went to LA and Harper went to NYC, but we never stopped sending each other song ideas. At a certain point, it became clear to us that what we really wanted was to make records together — so Abner moved back to NYC and we started working on what would become our first single, Three Thirty. With our band name (and songs) we don’t like to definitively get behind one interpretation or another, because that’s part of the fun. But all the guesses we’ve heard — speeds, decades, liquor proofs, radio stations, highways — we like.
Can you tell us about your new single Got Your Message and the meaning behind it?
Got Your Message at its heart is about wanting to be with someone that you know ultimately isn’t right for you. It’s the internal fight between knowing better and jumping anyway — and the turbulence you can endure as a result.
What’s the feedback been like so far to the premiere on Billboard and the release?
It’s been so great to see the response. It’s a bit of a sonic departure for us — someone said we sound more like a “rock” band than we have before — and it feels awesome to see it being embraced. We grew up reading Billboard — so it was surreal seeing ourselves on their homepage.
When did you start writing the single and has it changed much over time?
We wrote the song last year and recorded it a few times. We wanted to strike the balance between intimate and cinematic, romantic but also — angsty.
How long have you been working on your upcoming EP, Bowery Beach Road?
Somewhere between one year and our whole lives, haha. These are new songs, but they also feel like the synthesis of what we’ve been working on for a long time. We’re always aiming for a sound that combines all the genres and influences that shaped us — from old school country to new alt-pop. That’s why we call our style 808s and telecasters. We’re somewhere in-between.
What was the response like to your debut EP Elizabeth?
The response to Elizabeth was something we could have never predicted. That EP got ten million streams in its first months and transformed music for us from a passion into a career. When we released our first single Three Thirty, we had absolutely no idea how people would respond to it. Safe to say we were blown away. We have so much gratitude toward Spotify, especially for giving us a chance and really supporting our stuff since day one.
What was it like headlining Elsewhere Zone One?
We love that venue — we opened for the force of nature that is Des Rocs there last year, and thought it would be a perfect spot to return for a headliner. Headlining is great because everyone there is already on your side, so it feels like a celebration. We jumped right off stage after the last song and started talking to people. We almost forgot to get our stuff.
Since opening for Des Rocs and Savoir Adore, are there plans for another support or a headline tour?
We have a couple of support dates coming up that we can’t quite announce but are really excited for. Bigger shows than we’ve done before.
Have you performed in the UK or are there plans to do so?
It would be a dream come true to play in the UK. Literally – when I was in fourth grade, I had a dream I was in a band that toured the UK with The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. It was fun.
How did it feel having Your Favorite Song added to Taylor Swift’s Spotify playlist?
That is still totally surreal. The thought of Taylor Swift jamming to Eighty Ninety in her own time is completely mind-blowing and, really, impossible to comprehend. She’s such an incredible writer and artist — it’s really humbling and just makes us want to be as good as we can be.
Someone DM’d us about it on Twitter when it first happened, and I (Abner) screamed — Harper heard through the wall and ran out of the producing session he was in to see if I was OK.
What music do you enjoy listening to?
Our favourite thing to do recently is listen to our “Fans Also Like” tab on Spotify to get to know the community that we exist in for our listeners (and to learn from those artists). Right now that includes bands like Nightly, The Band CAMINO, joan, THE WLDLFE, and Valley. Come to think of it… that looks like a pretty good festival line-up we’d like to play. Anybody know anyone?
What are your plans for the rest of the year alongside releasing your EP?
We’re planning some shows we’re excited about to celebrate the new music, and heading to Los Angeles for a little bit to write some more. Not ready to give up on summer yet. Stay tuned!
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