Listen to Jack + Eliza and you might imagine yourself picnicking in the park with a nice glass of champers. Their plush melodies, perky vocals and youthful lyrics make you feel, well, bubbly. Young, pretty, with a laidback vibe, New York City natives Jack Staffen and Eliza Callahan are what the youth would call #goals. They met around age 13, when Jack briefly drummed for Eliza’s garage band; now he attends NYU’s Gallatin School and she goes to Columbia.
Their debut album, Gentle Warnings, is loaded with hauntingly beautiful guitar melodies and solid beach pop. To celebrate its release today, they’re performing live at a series of locations that, Eliza says, “definitely mean a lot” to them, including Gansevoort and Washington Street at noon (Jack grew up in the West Village), 12th and 7th Ave at 2 p.m. (they’ve been riding the 2/3 all their lives), Canal and Bowery at 4 p.m., and Cooper Square at 6 p.m. (Eliza grew up on Lafayette Street).
We caught up with the BFF duo and asked them about their influences, obsessions, and NYC haunts.
Jack: Well, I think we definitely do love older music for sure, like the Beach Boys, The Beatles, Roy Orbison. But I also do think we do draw on a lot of current bands as well. If it weren’t for bands like Grizzly Bear…
Eliza: The XX
Jack: Yeah, the XX, we probably wouldn’t have continued writing music or wouldn’t have started writing together.
So what is something that you are obsessed with right now?
Eliza: Well we are both very big Tame Impala fans, as I think most of the world is. At first we were both extremely disappointed by the album because it didn’t have that feel that we were used to and they went for a much cleaner, pop sound. But I think we are both pretty into it now and listening to it really closely.
Eliza: As far as inspirations go I like the writer Anne Carson a lot. She is one of my favorite writers and has always been. I almost started studying classics because of her in college and her translations are really beautiful. I think I really like, and Jack really likes, the way she is succinct and to the point and her word choice is very beautiful and we pay close attention to that kind of thing. There are also a lot of visual arts which we love. I don’t know if this is actually relevant but we love Louise Bourgeois and Agnes Martin. I don’t know, the list could go on.
Eliza: The album is definitely a somewhat sentimental album — we are leaving one stage of our lives and moving on to another. The classic graduating high school and moving on and leaving all the people we spent a lot of time with. I think there’s a general thread of that sentiment throughout the album.
Eliza: We both really like the little square outside of St. Mark’s Church. I love the people that go through there and I went to music school since I was three years old onwards until I was like 18 right by there so I spent a lot of time hanging out around that park and I’ve seen a lot of incredible shows inside St. Mark’s Church. That’s definitely a favorite.
Jack: I love Washington Square Park. I know it’s very touristy but I really love it. I’ve had so many memories there. I basically grew up there and now I continue to be in that general vicinity going to NYU. So I’m just constantly in it and I always bump into friends when I’m there. Its just a great, um, magical place.
Jack: I think at times it can be hard, especially during exam week. But in general, I mean, it’s pretty nice actually to be doing school and music at the same time. It keeps me very occupied and the two inform each other a lot.
Eliza: Yeah, I think definitely school keeps me thinking in a different way and I think it is really helpful for our songwriting. And we both really like school. Neither of us are studying music in college, we have both taken music classes, but I think it’s really nice to not just be doing one thing.
Eliza: It kind of varies from song to song but we will kind of be in a room rehearsing and practicing, or we should be practicing, and someone starts playing something and we kind of go off of that. Or we bring in an idea, a melody, a short progression and we will do that. Sometimes we copy paste things from song to song… I’ll send something into my voice memos, just walking down the street, and we will kind of figure out chords to that or Jack will come up with a chord progression and stuff like that.
Jack: We both have about 500 voice memos of ideas.
Eliza: Yeah, we can’t lose our phones.