For those of you thinking longingly of spring break, look no further than the college-age duo Jack and Eliza. Picking up on the trend of She & Him, the New York City natives bring elements of indie, pop, and surf to their self-described “nostalgic” sound. Eliza Callahan, CC '17, talks about her partner, their music, and what can be expected from Jack and Eliza.
Sarah Roth: When did you and Jack [Staffen, NYU '17] begin performing together?
Eliza Callahan: We met through mutual friends, and I played drums in a band that he sang in. One day, we wrote a song together, and that was that. We went to rival high schools, but we've kind of circled with the same group of people since we were 10. He's a freshman at NYU.
SR: How would you characterize your style of music?
EC: It's always hard to categorize your own music, because I think I would give you a different categorization than other people would. It's indie, pop, rock, surf, a little psychedelic. We're really into music from the '60s, the Mamas & the Papas, the Beach Boys. I feel like our sound is driven by what we've grown up around—a more nostalgic, more retro feel.
SR: Did you have any kind of formal training in music?
EC: I actually started playing classical guitar when I was three, so I learned everything by ear. I moved on to jazz when I was 10 or so, and my love for the Beatles drove me towards that kind of music, and I started rock and roll. I've been writing music since I was, like, eight or nine. Long streams of consciousness that I would record on tape recorders or GarageBand. There are these epic songs that go on for like 20 minutes and they don't have any form.
SR: I know that you and Jack write your own music.
EC: Yeah, we write everything that we perform, and it's pretty much a joint effort. It's interesting writing music with someone else. I would say that I write more of the lyrics, but it's really both of us. We'll sit in a room and strum something out and we'll be in our own worlds and then be like, “Oh, I like what you just played,” and riff off that.
SR: From your Facebook page, it seems that you and Jack are making an effort to perform all over the city. Are there plans to sign with a label?
EC: We're signed to a small, independent label called Yebo. We were, and still are, in the early stages, so we got really lucky. I had met with a music executive years ago about music I had written, and then I happened to be at a dinner and he was there, and I played him one of our demos that we had just recorded in a closet, and he said, “I'm starting a new label.” We met with him and it all started from there.
SR: You have two demos posted on Bandcamp. Does Jack and Eliza have a strong online following?
EC: I don't know if we have that much of a following. It's been interesting, since we're both from New York City, a lot of our friends have kind of scattered across the U.S. and beyond, so hopefully they spread the word.
SR: What can people expect from Jack and Eliza over the coming months?
EC: Hopefully we'll be on tour opening for someone this coming spring or summer. We're going to be playing a lot of shows around the city, maybe beyond the city. We just finished recording an EP over winter break with Chris Zane, a really amazing producer at Gigantic Studios in TriBeCa, that will hopefully be released at the end of the spring.
Jack and Eliza will open for Total Slacker and Miniature Tigers Wednesday at 8 p.m. at the Music Hall of Williamsburg.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.