ABOVE: ELIZA CALLAHAN AND JACK STAFFEN. PHOTO COURTESY OF JACQUELINE HARRIET.
Taking cues from The Beach Boys, The Mamas & the Papas, The Kinks, and other bands from the ’50s and ’60s, Manhattan-based duo Jack + Eliza put their own modern twist on surf-rock, tinged with nostalgia and melancholic memories. Less than a year after the release of their debut EP No Wonders, the college juniors are set to release their debut full-length Gentle Warnings in August, and here we are pleased to premiere the album’s third track, “Quarter Past the Hour.”
“As far as lyrics go for this song, we played with the concept of a body being a closed or open location,” Eliza Callahan explains. “In terms of a relationship, we were thinking about the on-and-off-ness, how quickly feelings toward someone can change.”
Their voices join in a unique harmony, singing the chorus “I guess I don’t have time, hold me, baby, up / quarter past the hour and my body is closed,” accompanied only by guitar and the occasional tambourine. With production by Chris Zane (Passion Pit, Mumford & Sons, Holy Ghost, among others), no drums or bass are necessary. “We were both listening to The xx when we first formed the band,” Jack Staffen continues. “Their stripped down sound and setup definitely made us feel like the two electric guitars and two vocal setup was something we wanted to go for.”
The pair met as kids, growing up alongside each other in New York City, where Callahan now attends Columbia for visual art, art history, and English, and Jack Staffen attends NYU for political science and art history. While Callahan cites Jim Hall, the jazz guitarist, as her “life guide” (and next door neighbor as a child) and Anne Carson as one of her favorite writers, everything eventually circles back to making music. “We like to think of ourselves as songwriters before anything else,” she says. “Everything else follows.”