nyc duo jack and eliza make 'naked' surf rock

The new video for their track ‘Quarter Past the Hour’ will fill your winter with beach-y West Coast vibes.

by Hana Beach
Dec 11 2015, 2:55pm

New York City surf-rock duo Jack Staffen and Eliza Callahan don't remember their first meeting. It took place when they were so young that all they have are vague memories of a family friend's living room, the West Village, and a young Eliza playing guitar on a friend's bed.

Despite this early introduction, Jack and Eliza wouldn't say they were destined to be friends. "It's not that I wasn't a fan, but he was not someone I wanted to be friends with right away," explains Eliza, laughing. But maybe their shared love of music made their collaboration inevitable. They floated in and out of each other's lives and bands, Eliza playing drums for a band Jack sang in, before deciding to team up. "When we started writing music together, I had never written a song with anyone and neither had Jack, and we kind of just hit it off," says Eliza.

Now, roughly 12 years after their first meeting and five years after the founding of their eponymous band, Jack and Eliza have had a whirlwind of a year. They released their debut album, Gentle Warnings, had their first tour, and played at SXSW. But even with their mega success of 2015 — complete with a SXSW Fetty Wap run-in — neither Jack nor Eliza consider themselves professional musicians. Perhaps because they're also both still college juniors. In between putting out their first album and releasing their second, Eliza is taking classes at Columbia (in visual arts and writing) and Jack is studying at NYU's Gallatin School, with a focus on "audio and visual politics."

"I think it's really weird to think of music as a job, as being professional. I mean it's for pleasure really," explains Jack. A pleasure which has underscored their entire lives. Eliza picked up classical guitar at the age of three, and Jack started piano at five.

Neither of their parents are very musical but, as Eliza explains, her parents' music taste has influenced her style. "My dad is a huge Beatles fan. I grew up on a lot of Beatles." Jack and Eliza look closely at the songwriting of the Fab Four as well as Elvis and Patti Smith, who all feed into the laid-back 70s aesthetic which characterizes their video for their single "Secrets," shot entirely on Super 8 film. It's not to say that they don't listen to contemporary music. They list Tame Impala, Plums, and Justin Bieber (or at least Jack does), as great acts from 2k15.

Photography Jacqueline Harriet

Their eclectic music taste has encouraged them to play around with genre. "I guess I like to think about our music as more, I don't know how to say this, more elemental. It can be interpreted as many genres at once because it's so stripped down," says Jack. The duo is consistently categorized as beach-y west coast indie pop, despite their New York origins. But Eliza prefers "naked," a genre that she invented to describe their exposed sound. "I think the music that we listen to is pretty eclectic and that informs our song writing. So it's hard trying to fit ourselves into a certain niche."

Musically, the band keeps things bare. The setup is usually two vocals and two electric guitars. But the intricate harmonies that define their songs come from a truly collaborative writing process. The duo try to write four or five times a week at Jack and Eliza HQ — aka Eliza's parents' living room.

Hear them in action in the Louise Glück-inspired video for their track "Quarter Past the Hour," premiering exclusively with i-D. Filmed in the Hamptons over the summer by photography duo Wiissa, and complete with PG-13 rated make-out scenes, the visuals float somewhere between Moonrise Kingdom and Dazed and Confused. And, sticking to their 70s aesthetic, the video was shot entirely on Super 16 film.


Text Hana Beach
Photography courtesy Jack and Eliza

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