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Brother Duo Eighty Ninety Talk Their “808s and Telecaster” Sound, Production Process, and RSVP Link For Upcoming Show


Brothers Abner and Harper have been making music almost their whole lives. With their first single, “Three Thirty,” they formed their current project, Eighty Ninety. Receiving a spot on Taylor Swift’s, “Songs Taylor Loves” playlist, with their single, “Your Favorite Song,” the brothers have been on a steady trajectory to success. Writing and producing all of their own songs which have elements across all different genres from pop to indie rock to dance, the duo has crafted their own sound that they self describe as “808s and telecaster.”


Eighty Ninety will be  playing a small in-studio show on March 30th at Douglass Recording that will be filmed and live streamed on YouTube / Facebook. You can RSVP here to go in person or RSVP here to watch the live stream.  


Listen to “Your Favorite Song” here: 


Cliché: How did you get your start creating music together? Was this something you both always knew you wanted to do?

Eighty Ninety: We’re brothers, and have been playing music pretty much our whole lives. We always knew that we eventually wanted to be in a band together. It’s something we talked about growing up. So unofficially, we’ve been playing together for a while now. But Eighty Ninety started when we moved to New York and began working on what would become our first single, “Three Thirty”.


I recently saw you perform at the Ludlow House. It was awesome and the crowd was really engaged! What’s your favorite part about performing live?

Thanks so much for coming to the show, and glad you had a good time! Playing live is great because it’s a chance to just channel the emotions of the songs (rather than perfecting them, which is what the studio is for). It feels great and gives us a new perspective on the music that we can take back to the studio. Because of that, playing in-progress songs live sometimes is the final step before we finish producing them. Also, nothing is more motivating and incredible than meeting the people who come to the shows. We did an east coast tour last fall and saw our first Eighty Ninety tattoo — hard to put that into words.


You’ve been receiving recognition across the industry, including Taylor Swift putting you on her playlist, “Songs Taylor Loves.” What does it all mean to you and for your continuing success?

Taylor Swift adding “Your Favorite Song” to her playlist was a totally surreal moment for us in a lot of ways. We have so much respect, admiration, and unabashed fan-love for her and her music music (Abner once saw her two nights in a row) that it was definitely a pinch-me moment and also so motivating and inspiring to keep going and trust ourselves to keep making the music we want to make. And having “Three Thirty” connect and go viral the way that it did was amazing in a different way — seeing how many people across the world have listened feels like real evidence that writing and making something so personal can resonate in a universal way. That was really moving. It would be an understatement to say we didn’t expect any of this – we’re so grateful every day.


Describing yourselves as “808s and telecasters” is such an interesting and perfect way to describe your sound. Can you tell me a little more about your instrumentation and style?

When we’re in the studio we don’t really think about genre and as a result there are elements of pop, electronic, country, dance, and indie rock in our songs. “808’s and telecasters” felt like a good way to get that across – but also highlights the two things that show up the most frequently. Live, we’re a three piece band (vocals, guitars, drums + samples and tracks) that comes across a little more rock — so that dichotomy is also in there.


You write, produce, and mix all of your songs right out of a small space in NYC. What does that process look like for you? How do your songs come to life?

We usually finish a song before we start to produce it. We think of production as doubling down on a song’s emotional core — so we need to be clear on what that is before we start producing. Once the song is finished we talk about a big-picture vision and how we imagine the song coming across. Then we’ll get down the basic (main guitar part or pad) and do vocals until they feel right. After that we slowly build up around the voice and keep pushing until we feel like it’s finished. That last part of the process sometimes takes an afternoon, and sometimes takes weeks.


Who are your own musical inspirations, and who are you listening to now?

We’re really inspired by the new artists we see around us – so those two things are one in the same. We have a constantly updated playlist called “Our Favorite Songs” (get it!) that right now has artists like FINNEAS, Muna, Phoebe Bridgers, The Band CAMINO, Yoke Lore, lovelytheband, Des Rocs, pronoun, LANY, Queue, Sorcha Richardson, Aaron Taos, Mallrat, Loote, The Japanese House. And of course Taylor Swift.


You’ve said that you love collaborating. Is there anyone specific in mind you want to have the opportunity to collaborate with, and why?

If anyone from that playlist that we just listed wants to collab in any way – our studio door is always open!


What can listeners expect from you coming up in the near future?

We’re in the final stages of finishing a new EP. The plan is to start releasing singles soon – and not to stop.


Read more Music articles at Cliché Magazine. 

Brother Duo Eighty Ninety and Their “808s and Telecaster” Sound, Production Process, and RSVP Link For Upcoming Show: Featured Image Credit: Mallory Turner 

An Interview with New Wave Electro Synth Project: The New Division


A prominent player in the new wave electro synth genre, The New Division, alias of John Glenn Kunkel, has already released three critically acclaimed albums and four EPs. He is able to combine the themes of happy and sad into one piece of music in a way that works so well, with melodies that get stuck in your head in the best way. He answered some questions for Cliché about his writing process, interest in juxtaposition in his songs, and how working on other projects allowed him to come back to The New Division with a fresh take.


Watch The New Division’s latest music video here:


Cliché: Can you talk a bit about the instrumentation that you choose to use? What does your creative process look like when writing your music?

The New Division: 90% of everything I do is “in the box,” meaning I work almost entirely in Ableton with a wide range of synthesizers, samplers, and effect plugins. The only things I do outside the box are vocals, guitars, some drum elements, etc.


It changes but one thing that’s always remained consistent about my creative process is I write a lot of demos – and I mean a lot. For every LP or EP that I write, I usually end up with about 50 to 100 demos, out of which only 6 or 12 are selected as the ones that will make it on any given record. Some of these demos either end up as b-sides or they end up being used for other projects. Others will probably never see the light of day.


As far as how I approach writing – generally speaking, I love starting with synth lines rather than drums as I’m much more melodically driven, as opposed to being beat driven. I love trying out ideas as fast as possible. The moment I lose inspiration or get stuck on an 8 to 16 bar loop for too long, I lose interest and move on to starting another idea. It’s a bit ADD, but it keeps me excited, and I’d rather be working on something I’m in love with in the moment rather than be bored with fixing a kick or a snare for 2 hours.


Did you always know growing up that music was what you wanted to pursue, or did you ever consider any other careers?

Yeah, I always knew from a young age that music was my thing. There’s a picture of me when I was about 3 or 4 years old picking up a guitar and trying to play it. It was something that I always had an affinity with – definitely god given.


When I was in college, god, I considered everything. From being a nurse to becoming a lawyer. I did work as a political consultant for a while after college and did government relations, but neither of those things were ever going to cut it for me. I was making music on and off the job constantly.


There tends to be a juxtaposition in your music between somewhat somber lyrics, and upbeat beats. What is your motivation behind this?

I think it’s a bit reflective of my personality. I don’t know if being a Gemini has anything to do with it – I don’t really believe in that sort of thing – but I’ve always felt drawn towards music, and specifically, artists that can blend happy and somber elements into one piece. I think that’s why I was always attracted to New Order. They had these songs that felt dark but could sometimes contain an emphatic message, or they could write a happy-sounding song that was dark lyrically (Love Vigilantes). That always fascinated me and I think to some extent I’ve tried to blend those elements into my own sound.


Your video for your song, “Jealous,” just came out recently and reading the comments for it on YouTube, people are loving it! What was your inspiration for this music video?

Well, given that I didn’t write it, it’s hard to say, but I know that the director, Brad Bischoff, who by the way did an amazing job with the rest of his crew, mentioned it was really how he felt the song came to him visually. Granted, the story blends a lot of different themes but I suppose the main one he wanted to portray is best described in his own words, “the static study of isolation contrasted with a dizzying handheld series of intimacy.”


In an interview last year you discussed how you feel more pressure now writing as The New Division than when you first started and how you thought you might need to work on some new projects. Since then, you collaborated with James Meays of Missing Words on the Moonraker EP. Would you say that you still feel that pressure now or is it feeling more natural again?

That pressure has definitely been relieved. Around the time when that interview came out a lot of bad things had recently happened which were all related to the inner workings of trying to get the previous record released. I was feeling pretty discouraged by a lot of stuff that was going on which placed me in a negative state of mind for quite some time. I really needed to step away from writing as The New Division, which I did, and focused on a few other projects in the meantime. Moonraker EP, albeit not the most successful project I’ve worked on, was incredibly fun and I loved every minute of it. It helped me focus on music that wasn’t exclusively my own and it was a lot of fun to work with James on that record. Ever since then approaching music for The New Division feels like the days when I first started.


What’s been your favorite city to perform live in? Do you have a favorite venue?

I think New York’s Rough Trade was really exceptional. This last tour we played a lot of great cities but few could top that one off.


My favorite venue is the Doug Fir Lounge in Portland. It’s the right size, right sound, and after you’re done playing your hotel room is only 100 feet away.


What can listeners expect from you in the near future?

I have a new LP coming out this year which will feature 10 songs that draw inspiration from some of my earlier work but with a very distinct modern sound. As with every new record you put out, this one will be my “favorite.”


Read More Music Articles at Cliché Magazine. 

An Interview with New Wave Electro Synth Project: The New Division: Featured Image Credit: Mora May Agency