Eighty Ninety, the project of Brooklyn-based brothers Abner (vocals, production) and Harper (guitar, production) James, fuses intimate storytelling, sticky melodies, and minimalist pop productions built on acoustic instruments and electronic sounds in a style they call “808s and telecasters” — a shorthand for both their music and their anything-goes mentality in the studio. In our newest Q&A, the band talked about their new song “Face Like a Sunset”, their creative inspirations, and being featured on Taylor Swift's playlist.
What is the inspiration behind “Face Like a Sunset”?
It’s a song about the little moments when you realize you’re falling in love, and how the very moment you realize you want to spend forever with someone, you begin to feel the press of time.
How did you come up with the idea to link that experience to sunsets?
I really wanted to find a metaphor for something that was beautiful in part because it was ephemeral. Ultimately, we're all here for a short amount of time. When you fall in love, suddenly 100 years doesn't seem like enough.
What was your writing process like for the song?
We'd been talking with our good friend and incredible writer/producer gian about working on some music together (we've since done a lot!) and he sent me this loop he'd made. This drum groove with this synth tone over it, and I had my guitar, and that acoustic guitar riff kind of just poured out. The whole song was done in an hour or so. We sent it back and forth and it went through a few different iterations and lyric changes before finally settling on this more intimate, organic feeling version.
Will there be a music video? And if so, can you give us an idea of what to expect for the visuals?
There will be! Right now we're keeping it under wraps though!
What can we expect from your upcoming album? Do you have a release date set yet?
We're really excited about this record because it feels like in some ways the most personal one yet. The lyrics really dig into some more difficult emotions and experiences, and we really try to transform those into cathartic songs. It's also probably the most organic record yet as far as the production. The songs felt so human to us, we wanted to lean into real, performed instruments (rather than tones of programming or midi etc). We don't have a date yet, but music will be coming steadily down the pipe!
You’ve called your style “808s and telecasters.” How did you find your sound and how do you feel it has changed over time?
We really wanted to merge classic, story-driven songwriting with more experimental production. We felt like those two sounds signified those different aesthetics, as well as serving as a literal description of our first song "Three Thirty". That song had almost a country-tinge to it, but it was produced very much in a contemporary pop genreless way.
Do you have a favorite song you’ve written? If you do, why is it your favorite?
That's really hard. In some ways, the song that Taylor Swift added to her playlist holds a special place in my (Abner) heart. In some ways the song itself felt like a message in a bottle to her — the fact that she got the message still blows my mind.
Who, or what, has most influenced your music and artistic style?
We grew up in a small coastal town and ended up in NYC. In some ways I think that the meeting in our music of more classic, acoustic guitar based songwriting with contemporary experimental pop production is a reflection of our upbringing and our current circumstances. Bringing nostalgia and now together.
What are you listening to currently?
Fred Again, MUNA, Bartees Strange, Chet Baker, Jensen Mcrae, Taylor (obv) are in our recently listened to spotify history!
Listen to Eighty Ninety's single "Face Like a Sunset" now.