If your’e not familiar with brothers Abner and Harper James, better know by their musical moniker Eighty Ninety, you’ve been missing out on a wholly unique music-making experience that has been slowly swelling to substantiated success. Self-described stewards of “808s and telecasters,” the deviceful duo broke onto the scene with last year’s viral sensation “Three Thirty” only to follow it up with the well-received Elizabeth EP.
Today they’ve released “Your Favorite Song,” the first preview off of their upcoming EP Bowery Beach Road so I thought I’d check in with the brothers James to get a little more insight on what they’ve been up to and where they plan to take their sound next.
First, can you give me a little background on the new single and EP? What was its genesis? What are you aiming for sonically? Any special/standout cuts?
We wanted to expand on the themes and stories we began to explore in our first EP Elizabeth. While Elizabeth spent a lot of time reflecting on the past, Bowery Beach Road explores what happens when you carry those feelings and memories — some bittersweet, some straight up painful — with you into the present. We like how “Your Favorite Song” sets that up. The song begins as a kind of nostalgia trip that arrives, by the last chorus, in a more conflicted present.
This sounds like a cliche, but we’re really excited about all of the new songs. When we were writing and recording we were thinking of the songs in context with Elizabeth, so we’re trying not to repeat ourselves — lyrically or musically — while maintaining a cohesive feel and continuing the story. “Your Favorite Song” is in many ways is as pop as we get (note the dance feel buried in there somewhere) which was really fun to just go for.
The new single sits nicely in your “808s and telecasters” brand. Where did this sound stem from?
“808s and telecasters” started as our shorthand for the music we were making — minimal, experimental pop production combined with a more traditional songwriting approach. A lot of the songs have these timeless widescreen themes — love, loss, longing, nostalgia, hope — and once they’re written we try to express them in as personal a way as possible, which means making the sonic and production choices as specific as possible. What sound can we create that helps articulate or clarify this feeling or lyric? If we chase those answers, the results frequently don’t fit into one specific genre.
Elizabeth was a viral success thanks in large part to debut single “Three Thirty.” How are the new single and EP going to capture that same impact?
When we were making “Three Thirty” we didn’t even have a band name. We just gave ourselves the freedom to chase whatever crazy ideas we had (Nashville guitars over 808s…) because it was fun. Rather than try to distill and recreate “Three Thirty”, we try to approach all our material with that same sense of fun and looseness.
What are your plans to promote the new material?
We’re doing an instagram stories takeover for one of our favorite magazines Local Wolves today [Friday, September 29] starting at 3PM EST to celebrate the release. Come check it out!
We’re going to be playing some shows this fall for sure — no announcements yet though. Keep an eye out!
What have you two been up to in the downtime between EP releases?
We’ve been playing shows, writing and recording. We like the EP form because it’s long enough to make a cohesive statement but short enough that individual songs don’t get lost. A lot of time was spent deciding which songs should go on the EP, in what order. We produce our own videos, so we spent some time making those and planning some more.
When you’re not making music, what’s a ‘day in the life’ like?
We do production (music and video) as well as remixing collaborations with other artists. It’s a lot of fun, and a great way to get new creative perspectives to bring to our own work.
What was the last television show you binged?
Abner: Mad Men. Harper: Bloodline.
Favorite song or artist out there right now?
That’s a hard one. Excited about the new Wolf Alice.
And If you could collaborate with any current act or artist, who would it be?
Loote! Check them out.
It’s only big things ahead for these two, as you could probably tell; give “Your Favorite Song” a stream below!