Sibling Duo Eighty Ninety Discuss Future and New EP
Photo by Ashley Yu
It’s no surprise that music has the power to make a person feel all kinds of emotions. We’ve all encountered it first hand, whether it be crying in the car to Lana Del Rey’s “Ride” or having an out-of-body experience to Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams”. Brothers Abner and Harper James are masters at creating music that allows its listeners to feel. Known as Eighty Ninety, the NYC brothers are no strangers to those feelings of rejection, pain, and heartbreak. However, their songs also talk of love, beauty, and all of the emotions that come with growing up. It’s obvious that this band is a fan-favorite; even Taylor Swift included their song “Your Favorite Song” on her Spotify playlist named “Songs Taylor Loves”. Featured in notable blogs and publications like Alternative Press, NME, Billboard, and the Huffington Post, find out more about the new, dreamy band in our conversation below!
Where did the idea for Eighty Ninety come from? When did you realize that you weren’t just brothers, but a band?
We grew up in a small town near Portland, Maine. We loved it, but there wasn't much to do there besides going to the beach (which you can only do like three months a year). So we played in bands our whole lives — just never together. At some point in high school the sibling-rivalry stuff became less interesting than the possibilities of collaborating, and so we decided that after school we’d start a band and make records.
Your new single “Got Your Message” is amazing and extremely relatable to its listeners. How was the writing process for the song? Did the inspiration come from a personal experience or from the general feeling of heartbreak?
Thanks, it’s awesome to hear that you can relate to it. All of our songs draw from personal experience — writing music is how we process our lives — but at the same time I think almost everyone’s been through something like this. When part of you knows that it’s just not going to work but you’re drawn to a person anyway. The heartbreak that comes from letting go when you still feel so strongly about someone.
We cannot wait for the release of ‘Bowery Beach Road’. How different is this EP going to be from your debut EP, the charming and iconic Elizabeth?
“Charming and iconic” is an amazing way to hear you describe Elizabeth. Thank you. Elizabeth in a way was us laying the foundation for our music — the sonic space, songwriting, lyrical themes — and it felt very influenced by our childhood. ‘Bowery Beach Road’ is in part about growing up and how relationships change — both to the people in your life and to your own past. I think as a result the sounds are bigger, too. We wanted “10K Summer Nights” and “Got Your Message" to have more a widescreen, cinematic feel. As you grow up the world gets bigger and more complicated. We wanted to evoke that in the music.
Speaking of ‘Bowery Beach Road’, both your recent single and “10k Summer Nights” are such intimate, emotional songs. Will the rest of the EP follow this theme?
Songs like “10K Summer Nights” and “Your Favorite Song” are very much about reflecting on the past. “Dream” and “Got Your Message” explore the turbulence of figuring out who you are and what you want now. We aim for intimate and emotional but also authenticity — this EP really feels reflective of who we are now.
You’ve had an amazing summer with the release of two new phenomenal singles. What can fans and readers of For Hits and Gigs expect from Eighty Ninety in the future? Any exciting plans for Fall 2019?
Thanks so much! We love making records and putting out music but there’s nothing like playing it live. Definitely stay tuned for shows.
So, we all know that you two are brothers. What is it like working with a sibling? Is it easier or more difficult? Any sibling rivalries?
We've gotten most of that out of the way, haha. Working with a sibling is cool because we have so many shared references and contexts that we don’t often waste time trying to explain what we mean. That makes the whole creative process much easier than it typically is, because with any collaboration you need to establish a real relationship on a human level before you can create anything meaningful together. So that’s already out of the way for us.
If you could collab with any musician alive or dead, who would it be and why?
From the outside it seems like Matty Healy from The 1975 has figured something very important out — how to follow creative, political, and personal impulses in a way that is accessible to so many people but still so subtle and authentic. The 1975 also self-produce like we do, so it would be amazing to watch them work. Definitely Finneas and Billie Eilish — another sibling duo that write and produce records together in their own small studio space. Clearly they have figured a thing or two out about how to make great ones.
If given the opportunity, would you ever be apart of a new “Old Town Road” remix with Lil Nas X? What do you think it would sound like?
Absolutely, yes. As far as what it would sound like: we call our genre “808s and telecasters”. Lil Nas X calls Old Town Road “country trap”. So we actually think it would sound pretty good…A natural fit, even. Our studio door is always open if he wants to come by and make it happen.
Thank you so much for talking with us. Any news, advice, or thoughts before you go? Aside from being hyped on Old Town Road ft. Eighty Ninety?
That's hard to top...But we recently signed with Hard 8 Working Group for management — they’ve got an awesome roster (including Billie Eilish and Finneas). We’re excited for the future.
We’re excited for the future, too! Who knows, maybe in a couple of years the new song on TSwift’s favorite song playlist will be Old Town Toad ft. Eighty Ninety? Until then, For Hits and Gigs wants to give a huge thank you to Eighty Ninety for giving us their time and sharing some awesome thoughts. Don’t forget to keep an eye out for ‘Bowery Beach Road’, follow Eighty Ninety on Spotify, and stream their two new, great singles, “Got Your Message” and “10k Summer Nights” out now!