The relationship between Abner and Harper James is a brotherhood like any other— but bloodlines and growing up under the same roof are not the only things that keep them bound together. Ultimately, it is their passion for music that makes their relationship so special. After recently relocating to New York City, the two established their collaborative work as the indie pop project EIGHTY NINETY (EN). Made up of haunting drum machines and Nashville-resonant guitar sounds, their music exists outside of one specific genre, whilst still encapsulating the sensibility and sincerity made necessary for heartfelt, genuine pop music. Since their inception, the band has released their debut single “ Three Thirty”, which has rightfully been making waves on streaming services and music blogs with its infectious tune and universal sentiment of influential moments and former relationships. EIGHTY NINETY released their debut EP on July 22nd, find out more here. Be sure to keep the band on your radar— their music is sure to be your thoughtful companion on lazy mornings and lonely nights.
As brothers, you must have a long history of making music together. How has music influenced your brotherhood?
EN – Everyone with a sibling knows that there are ups and downs. You can be best friends but you’re going to fight and have differences. We’re no exception— but we discovered our favorite bands together, we played in battle-of-the-bands together, we left home, moved to the city and wrote songs together and we formed this band together.
What inspired you to establish yourselves as EIGHTY NINETY after years of making music together?
EN – We lived on different coasts for a while but were always sending songs back and forth and working on production ideas. For a few years it was about writing the songs, and then producing them— which meant figuring out the world we wanted to create. In March, we looked up and realized we were ready to share the music.
Did coming together in the specific place of New York have any influence on the creation of this project and sound?
EN – Totally. It’s impossible not to be inspired and motivated. There’s a love for every kind of music here. That encourages us to experiment and have fun when we’re making our songs.
Your music is very much a hybrid of genres. How did you come about to capture the sound that you have?
EN – We let the songs lead us, and we intentionally disregard genre. The goal is always to surprise ourselves. That approach led us to a sound we’ve affectionately nicknamed “808s and telecasters.”
Why is it important to you that you exist outside of one genre?
EN – We like to be free to use whatever sounds a song calls for in the moment we’re producing it. If we have an idea, we want to be able to dial it in without worrying about if it’s outside our genre.
Do you both contribute to the production and song writing, or is production solely Harper’s role and song writing solely Abner’s role?
EN – We both produce and write. One of the best parts about working together is knowing the other guy has your back when it comes to making the final call— whether it’s about the sound of kick drum or which verse melody to use.
Your single “Three Thirty” is very much about moments. What moments have most influenced your lives and love for music?
EN – Absolutely. “Three Thirty” is about how moments— not stories we tell ourselves— define our lives. Big ones for us: driving down the highway with our dad blasting Tom Petty’s greatest hits; watching “Yellow Submarine” with our mom; discovering the Casio keyboard/drum machine in our childhood home’s attic.
“Three Thirty” also evokes that resonant feeling of a lonely New York night. Have nights like these influenced you as a musician in any way?
EN – It’s cool that you got that, that’s what we were going for. For whatever reason, those nights seem like they’re especially easy to have in New York. They generally begin and end with reflection, some self-indulgent regret— and then maybe some songwriting.
In what ways has being immersed in the local scene in Brooklyn impacted your experience as a band?
EN – No one is afraid of anything, which makes it a really energizing place to create, collaborate and find inspiration.
What can new listeners expect from your debut EP?
EN – We like intimate songs about big emotions. We want to be as direct as possible in getting to the emotions of the songs. We’ve tried to keep out the clutter.
What do you hope to bring to pop music?
EN – Our debut EP is a lot about exploring who we are as musicians, and we want to keep doing that. We hope to make pop music that feels personal and reveals something true about ourselves. We don’t want to build any walls between us and the people who are listening.