(Photos: Veronica Habacker)

I first met Laundry Day in October. That morning, the band had hit a million streams on Spotify. With around 50,000 monthly listeners, they’ve been steadily rising in popularity since the release of their first album, Trumpet Boy, in March of last year. All of this before they graduated high school.

The plan was to meet in Hells Kitchen, during their free period. On my walk from the subway, I found myself jittery and nervous. I’m a huge fan.

They’re in high school, I told myself. You are 22. Grow up.

I texted one of them to let them know when I arrived, and I saw a group of four boys chatting and laughing as they strolled across the street towards me. Breathe, idiot. 

As they got closer, I noticed one of them had a keychain hanging from his belt loop – it was Woody from Toy Story. I unclenched a little. They each shook my embarrassingly sweaty hand as they introduced themselves – Henry, Jude, Etai, and Sawyer. I asked about the missing fifth member. They told me Henry #2 (or, as his friends call him, HP) wanted to be there but had a soccer game to play

As we walked the half-block to Pinkberry, two girls waved hello to Henry. “He knows everybody,” I heard. At 4pm on a Monday, it wasn’t particularly busy, so we claimed a corner by the door and unloaded our backpacks under two small round tables.

Only Sawyer got yogurt, and he was quickly made fun of for getting the smallest possible size. After a few seconds of this, we talked a bit about the making of Trumpet Boy, which entailed “a lot of staying up late,” according to Etai. They’ve since released an EP and another full-length album. On Friday they’ll release a single, “CHA.” But they don’t plan these things out. They don’t feel any obligations – they produce as they want to. It motivates them, but keeps them fluid, Jude said.

Officially, they describe their sound as pop alternative. Unofficially, they’re doing their own thing. Their music is mellow, and a little soulful – often featuring a trumpet or saxophone. Their lyrics are engaging; often relatable, but usually including nods to their young age, with lines like “I ain’t even 16” and “we ain’t kids for nothing.”

Much has changed over the past year. “Around a year ago, the majority of people at our shows were our friends,” Etai said.

Now, Sawyer said, “we play a show and promote it and 200 people who we just don’t know come…”

“And they all know the words,” Etai continued.

Laundry Day formed largely unintentionally. Sawyer released an EP on his own their freshman year: “I thought it was so cool,” Jude said. “I’d always written random songs, but I’d never recorded anything because I really couldn’t do anything else but sing and write.”

Jude had written a song for his girlfriend and asked Sawyer to help him produce it. They began working on it after classes in the basement studio at Beacon High School. Over time, a small crowd began cramming into the tiny room to watch – including Etai, Henry, and HP, who stood out by actually contributing to the song’s production.

People were curious. “I was eating lunch down there one day, and I was like, ‘Damn, I’m really trying to do this too,” said Etai, who was in the same after-school band program as Sawyer and HP.

The next song Jude and Sawyer worked on had more help from their future band members. Eventually the guys decided they needed a group identifier. They turned to inside jokes. A friend of theirs used to come to school dressed in “these trash outfits”… “baggy sweatpants”… “the worst outfits.”

Naturally, they would make fun of him: “Yo, Nicko, is it laundry day?” Name: check.

As we talked, they chimed in randomly and waterfalled over each other. Each one went in and out of talking to me and talking to each other, teetering in between the bubble of the interview and the distractions of the world outside.

Laundry Day is more like a very strong friend group. “I love having these four guys in this building with me,” Jude said. “It’s like having your brothers in your school. It’s really cool.”

“Except I have my sister in our school and it’s super annoying,” Henry added.

On stage, the guys have defined roles: Jude sings up front, Sawyer sings and plays guitar, HP plays bass, Henry plays guitar, and Etai handles the drums. Off stage, it’s more of a healthy free-for-all; they’re all musically inclined, so any piece you hear is a toss-up of who is doing what.

“When stuff comes out, we’ll go to school and be like, ‘Yo, Etai, you sounded so crazy on those drums,’ but then we’ll find out Sawyer did it,” Henry explained. “We write songs as we’re recording. So, it’ll start with someone coming up with drums, for example, and recording the loop. And then someone adds a layer, and then someone adds another layer and when we have enough, we play it on loop for a while. Then we start writing lyrics for it. It usually just comes down to someone having an idea and recording it,” Jude said.

With all the talk of who plays what, we got on the subject of music lessons. Etai likes them, not because virtuosity is important to him, but because he feels a responsibility on stage and in the studio to be the best that he can. “Realistically, playing is just expressing your ideas, and I want my hands and my feet to be able to keep up.”

When making Trumpet Boy, they would work together for 14 hours straight without meaning to. The focus on music removed them from their social lives outside of the band. “We left the social scene, and when we came back, it was almost like we had been gone in a different country,” Henry explained.

Laundry Day exists in a music space that’s changed drastically over the last few years. Streaming music is becoming ever more popular and has allowed for more people to release their music independently (I discovered them on a Spotify Discover Weekly playlist). The internet and social media have changed the way people interact with music; Jude describes it as the wild west. Sawyer taught himself how to produce his own music using GarageBand and watching Quincy Jones videos. The ability to create music and share it with people all over the world has never been more accessible.

“Having your debut album out on Spotify, it’s a milestone… and getting there is not as hard as it used to be,” Sawyer said. “Now, some of the greatest albums are released on TuneCore and AWAL, and other streaming services.”

Coloring Book [by Chance the Rapper] was uploaded through TuneCore!” Henry added. This shift has both ups and downs: “It’s easier than ever to put out music, but that makes it harder than ever to get traction,” Jude explained.

Laundry Day is starting to get that traction, and they recently hired a manager. With interesting offers coming in, they wanted guidance on what is legitimate and which opportunities to chase. “Especially being kids, it’s so easy to get manipulated by the music industry, so it’s scary…” Jude mentioned.

“Our parents are definitely scared of us getting abused,” Etai added. There are echoes of agreement.

Having a manager also proves to help in other areas, like booking shows: “No one wants to book 16-year-olds,” Etai explained.

“Especially when they’re the ones e-mailing you,” Jude chimed in.

“We can’t sell drinks, so everyone wants to give us daytime shows. Like I said, no justice for high school bands,” Etai concluded.

They’ve come a long way since they first started, and they all agree they’ve gotten better and better. They’re growing together, and as Jude said, “If we stay on our grind, it’s going to work out how it’s supposed to.”