With 2023 off to a great start for indie-pop duo Eighty Ninety, they kicked off their new sonic era with the release of their latest single, 2 Carat, as they prepare for the release of their their forthcoming debut album – set for release later this year. And today, brothers Abner (vocals, production) and Harper are back once again with a brand new single, Stay Alive; the latest offering off of their forthcoming record. Refreshingly candid, and delivering a gentle and emotive acoustic led soundscape, Stay Alive sees Abner give a raw and honest account of his struggle with mental health. With exciting things on the horizon, and a captivating new release, we caught up with the pair to chat about Stay Alive and the year ahead.
TSU: How are you? How has your 2023 been so far?
Abner & Harper: We’re great, thanks! 2023 has been awesome. We’ve been in the studio a lot, getting more and more excited for the record as we finish it.
TSU: Having steadily been releasing music since 2016, 2023 now marks a huge year for you with the upcoming release of your debut album. When you think of your journey so far, what are some of the key memories and moments that stand out?
Abner & Harper: We truly had no expectations when we first started releasing music. It was surreal to go from expecting nothing to reaching #2 on Spotify’s viral chart and Taylor Swift picking one of our singles for her Spotify playlist. We’re so grateful for every day that we’re able to go into the studio to make music. The idea of putting out a full length has been a dream our whole lives, so we’re mostly just excited.
TSU: And heading into releasing your first full body of work, your first full length album, what are your hopes for how listeners will respond to and connect with the record? And what are you hoping people will take away from the record?
Abner: We try to tell stories with our songs. As this group of songs came together, it felt more and more like it was telling a single story. But rather than multiple vignettes or narratives, it felt like it was chapters in the same book. These songs are really about my 20’s, and the struggle/process of taking myself from a pretty low place to a life that has much more room for happiness. And all the people who’ve been important to me along the way.
TSU: More imminently, adding to your stunning and ever growing discography with your upcoming new single Stay Alive, can you tell us a bit about the inspiration behind the track?
Abner: “Stay Alive” is probably the song that deals most directly with the struggle that underpinned my life for a long time with my mental health and anxiety. In some ways I’m singing it to myself — the part of me that knows things will get better, feelings pass —reassuring the part of me that doesn’t. My hope is that by sharing that struggle it can make other people feel a bit less alone if they’re going through any kind of difficulties. I do see it ultimately as an optimistic song.
TSU: With such raw emotion behind the song, what was the songwriting process like? Did it differ in any way from previous releases?
Abner: This song came when I was at a low point, and music has always been where I turn. Sometimes I think I’ve used music to tell stories that create worlds I want to escape into — but in this moment I wanted to face it head on. So I sat at a piano and the whole thing kind of came out. I didn’t exactly know what I was writing until it was done. I was thinking: “who is this about? Who am I singing to?” and then I realized: “Oh, me.” Or anyone else who needs to hear it!
Talking about the track, the band explain:
“Stay Alive is about how our struggles with mental health can affect our relationships and how the things we do to cope and the people we love — and who love us — can help to get us through life’s hardest moments. For my whole life, music has been one of the tools I turn to as a listener and a musician, but I’ve never directly addressed it in a song before.”
TSU: Especially with such poignant and candid tracks like Stay Alive; do you find the whole process quite a cathartic one when it comes to the end of the writing/recording/release process, or is it one that’s more nerve wracking than usual with such a personal offering – and putting that out into the world?
Abner: It’s always a little bit of both. I think with this one, I know so many people who have similar struggles, I’m more hopeful that this could be of some help to anyone going through a hard time. For myself, I know it will be cathartic. Writing it down was — recording it was — I think releasing it will be even better. I’m ready to let it go.
TSU: With your debut album on the horizon, what can we continue to expect from you sonically this year?
Abner & Harper: We’re going to be putting out a steady stream of singles leading up to the album release — you’ll get ballads, indie, pop vibes, singer-songwriter feeling stuff — we tried to make it a cohesive feeling album but not a repetitive sounding one. We’re excited.
TSU: Taken off of your forthcoming record, how would you say Stay Alive fits in, and sonically reflects, the sound and energy we can expect from the album?
Abner & Harper: It’s probably one of the loudest, most widescreen and uptempo songs on the record as well as the most personal and intimate — more on the raw/organic side of what we’re doing. But that felt like those sonic extremes matched the emotional realities of going through those ups and downs, and we’re always trying to use the music/sounds/production to essentially score the emotion of the song (almost like you would a movie).
TSU: Heading into this new era of Eighty Ninety, with a lot of exciting new music on the horizon, what can people expect from you artistically and as a band?
Abner & Harper: We’re going to be releasing more music more frequently. We feel like we’ve really hit a vein of creativity and we’re excited to see where it leads. Both in the studio and live, as soon as we finish this thing!
TSU: And finally, what songs and artists have you been listening to lately that you would say has influenced and/or inspired you either as a band, or sonically?
Abner: I’ve been listening to a lot of Chet Baker, our friends’ band Handsome Ghost, and this song “Set it Free” by a band called Now, Now that came up on my Spotify ‘Discover Weekly’ that I’ve had on repeat. Kind of like boygenius (another favorite!) meets Tom Petty.
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