Do you believe in destiny? For brothers Abner and Harper James, playing in a band together has always been written in the stars. After reuniting in New York City after college, the James brothers debuted as Indie-Pop band Eighty Ninety in 2016 with their EP Elizabeth and have steadily produced beautifully crafted music since then.
Ask Eighty Ninety how to describe their musical style and they’ll hit you with a genre they’ve coined “808s and telecasters.” It’s clear, if you can’t already tell, this band is not hesitant to go their own way. In a music scene saturated with so many different artists, Eighty Ninety is already setting their own golden standard. What will their brilliance bring us next? They’ve already got your answer!
Excitingly, Eighty Ninety released their latest EP The Night Sky on June 10, 2022, and it has already further solidified the innovative nature of their stand-out discography. Their eight tracks are a sweet blend of previous singles and brand new songs for their fans to love. With The Night Sky, Eighty Ninety continue to explore their sound and we are stoked to be along for their musical ride.
We had the incredible chance to talk with Eighty Ninety about one of their fans, Taylor Swift—yes, you read that right, the founding of their band, their song creation process, and, of course, their new EP The Night Sky. They even gave us a sneak peek of which of their favorite songs are currently on their playlist rotation! So, keep reading to get your fix of this amazing band and listen to The Night Sky wherever you stream music right here!
Hello, Eighty Ninety! We’re excited to chat with you but first, let’s get a bit of your backstory. A brother duo band doesn’t come around often, so take us all the way back to the moment you two knew that you wanted to create music together. What sparked that dream for you two? What are the upsides and difficulties of working with your sibling?
Thanks so much for talking with us! Our parents were musical and we grew up surrounded by instruments. By the time we were in middle school, we were playing in bands of our own. There was always a sense that we would play together someday, but in high school, we were busy with our own friends, haha. When both of us ended up in NYC after college it seemed like the perfect time to start this band.
Deciding on a band name is a big decision, it’s like a reintroduction to the world as an artist. Eighty Ninety is a unique name, is there a particular meaning behind it? What band name was the runner-up?
We wanted a name that didn’t have many pre-existing ideas attached to it and wouldn’t encourage any kind of genre expectation. Something that our music could grow to fill. We also knew that our music would be a hybrid of more organic, traditional songwriting with contemporary pop and some experimental productions. So the idea of having our name be a number written out felt like it mirrored that contrast. All the other connotations that have come up—eras of music, decades, radio station, highways—we like too.
Abner, you have beautiful vocals, and Harper you kill it on guitar, but as producers, what is your favorite part of the creative process? Is it the start of a song when there’s nothing but endless musical possibilities or is it the end when you add the last few fine details to a track?
Thanks so much! They’re all really fun and also challenging in their own ways. When you’re beginning a song or production there’s a sense of freedom but also it can be daunting – with so many possibilities, how do you choose? We try to let the emotional arc of the song dictate those choices, but there are still so many directions you can go. The finishing touches can be really satisfying because you get to witness this idea come to life—but also, listening to a bounce for the 500th time trying to make sure there aren’t any tiny pops in the production can be exhausting, haha!
Your singles have over 30 million streams! First of all, congratulations on an amazing accomplishment. Second, what was your first reaction to hearing how many people have connected with your music so far? What do you hope everyone who listens to your songs walks away with?
Thank you so much. That is so surreal to us—we just feel overwhelming gratitude. For us the point of music is the connection, so to know that so many people out there have heard our music is the greatest gift we could get. That’s really our hope for the music, too: that the people who hear it connect to it in some way that’s helpful to them.
You added to your stunning discography with your recent EP The Night Sky. Where did you get the inspiration for your title track of the same name?
When we were making this EP we felt like all the tracks were connected by a central theme: the feeling that some things are meant to be, and how that feeling affects the choices we make in our lives. It got us thinking about the push-pull between destiny and choice. “The Night Sky” both as a title and a song felt like a perfect metaphor for that theme: some people look up at the night sky and see destiny written in the stars, others see all of the possibilities of the universe.
Your EP explores several topics such as love, friendship, hope, memories, and dreams. For your fans who are chasing their own dreams, what is one thing you would like to tell them since you are successfully chasing yours?
The things that have turned out best—both musically and career-wise—have come from the moments when we’ve been able to shut out the noise and focus on making things that we love for the fun of it.
Of the new songs making their first appearance on The Night Sky, is there a specific lyric you were most excited to share with your fans? Which track came together the easiest and which one took the longest to finish?
We love ‘The Night Sky’ because it feels quintessentially Eighty Ninety. But we were really excited to include ‘Walking You Home’ and ‘Thinking Of You’ because we feel like they are connected to our other music but also show different dimensions to what we’re hoping our sound can grow into. A little bit more experimental, a little bit more widescreen.
Each song you write has its own unique color and identity. How do you decide which tracks blend together, make it to the EP, and which ones are set aside?
When we’d finished them, we felt like these songs really told a story together. Maybe not quite literally, but there was an emotional arc to them exploring that central theme that just wouldn’t exist if they were all on their own.
As live music makes its way back, we’d love to know if Eighty Ninety have plans in the works for shows or a tour. Can fans get excited about hearing your music live this year?
We are currently designing a show around the EP and absolutely plan to play this year. We will keep you all posted on our socials!
It’s already time for our last question! To say goodbye, we have to bring up how Taylor Swift added your song to one of her playlists, but we really want to know which artists are on yours! What are the top five songs you’ve had on repeat lately?
That was one of the most surreal moments of our lives. We were such massive Taylor fans already – the idea that she connected with one of our songs is something that we’ll never truly get over. She is certainly on our list, right now it’s ‘gold rush.’ Other artists we’ve been loving recently are Lord Huron – ‘Ends of the Earth,’ MUNA – ‘Silk Chiffon,’ Sam Fender – ‘Seventeen Going Under,’ and Bartees Strange – ‘Heavy Heart.’
Well, Honeybee, are you a fan yet? Because we’ve already added Eighty Ninety to our playlists! Now is the time to dig into their music so you can sing along with them on a stage near you when they play their upcoming shows. We already fell for their lyrics and now we can’t wait to hear them live on stage!
Still need more new music? Check out these live performances you might have missed!