Two’s Company: Jack + Eliza
by Kristin Chen
Jack Staffen and Eliza Callahan, better known as the musical duo Jack + Eliza, know one another about as well as two people could. They attended high school together in New York City and have since been on a meteoric surge, with profiles in T Magazine, Nylon, Bedford + Bowery, Paste and Galore. Their music, wonderfully self-classified as “soft-core naked psych pop,” highlights their infectious vocal harmonies, and is all at once charming, vibrant and foot-tappingly reminiscent of the 60s. After their EP No Wonders dropped last fall, the two embarked on a tour that took them from the UK to the West Coast. Now, as juniors at NYU Gallatin and Columbia, respectively, Jack + Eliza have just released their debut album Gentle Warnings. Given their years of friendship and hours on the tour bus, we thought they might want to ask each other some highly personal trivia, with topics ranging from their first encounter to their favorite Beatle.
What was your first impression of me?
JACK: Oh man. Well, I’ve known you for so long that I don’t honestly remember what my first impression of you was. I’ve known you since, I don’t know, six...
JACK: Eight years old. So, I mean, I don’t really have a recollection of much of the things that were happening then.
ELIZA: I remember going to lunch that one day.
JACK: But I don’t think we talked. I don’t think we said anything. I don’t think we even looked at each other.
ELIZA: Absolutely not.
In what ways have I changed the most since we first met? In what ways have I not?
JACK: Your hair is shorter now. Um, I don’t know, I guess you are...
ELIZA: I feel like Jack’s style has changed a little bit.
JACK: Maybe, although these Nike socks are staying.
ELIZA: I feel like there are darker tones. Less orange and green, more navy blue.
JACK: There is a lot of blue and black involved in both of our wardrobes I would say.
If you could have dinner with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be and where would you go?
ELIZA: You better say Eliza...
JACK: I have to say Eliza now that you’ve put me in this position. I’ll go to dinner with you sometime. Where are we going? Spotted Pig?
ELIZA: No. That’s a restaurant that Jack likes and I don’t.
JACK: It’s a real problem in our relationship as a band. I guess I’d say we’ve gotta go to Gin Ramen. We both love ramen, we’re obsessed with ramen.
ELIZA: Since I get to go second I don’t have to say Jack. Maybe George Harrison? No. Jack of course comes first, and then George Harrison. He seems like a really interesting guy. I also love and admire his music and he’s also really cute.
If you could compare me to one person in pop culture who would it be?
JACK: I guess I’d have to say Marilyn Manson.
ELIZA: For you, I’d have to say Ed Sheeran.
JACK: Great. This is slowly turning away — this is our break up. This is the band breakup right here.
If you had one day where money was no object, what would you do to live it up?
JACK: Eliza would...if Eliza did not need to think about money for one day, which would be terrible, I think eventually the whole world would be ultimately consumed. Every single plot of land would be purchased.
ELIZA: I’d start a monopoly?
JACK: Yeah, there would be some form of monopoly.
ELIZA: I’d become like a tycoon?
ELIZA: If Jack had one day...I have no idea. You would eat a lot of food.
JACK: Yeah, I would agree with you there.
ELIZA: You would go to the most expensive restaurant and get a lot of nice pork and fish. That’s my guess.
Hypothetical rapper nickname?
Jack: I don’t know. I call you Liz a lot, so Lil’ Liz or Fat Liz? No. Lil’ Liz.
ELIZA: Then you’d be Fat Jack.
Favorite place to visit, last place you visited, and where you want to visit.
JACK: Your favorite place is probably Montauk because you love to surf. The last place you visited was probably Montauk.
ELIZA: Jack really likes Barcelona, I’ve never been there. The last place he visited was probably with me. Outside of New York state we were last in Denver for a show. That was the end of the tour. Somewhere he wants to visit is...I don’t know? Barcelona? You want to go back there. You mention it often.
What restaurant are you always in the mood for?
ELIZA: I feel like we both like Japanese food a lot.
JACK: Yeah we both do. The exception would be Spotted Pig, but that’s just me. Both of us would love some ramen at all times.
ELIZA: You have a pair of jeans that haven’t been washed for three years.
JACK: That’s a lie.
ELIZA: No, it’s been like one year. Go-to outfit is probably a blue t-shirt, a blue sweatshirt, blue pants and blue shoes.
JACK: Honestly, it’s pretty unpredictable with you. You’re eclectic. I wouldn’t say there is one go-to outfit.
ELIZA: Yeah, I mean probably what I’m wearing is standard.
JACK: Definitely some blues. Blue jacket, blue sweater, blue jeans, and the blue suede shoes. Sometimes you’ll come out of nowhere with the yellow corduroy’s or something crazy. You pull some crazy shit out sometimes.
ELIZA: I occasionally pull some crazy shit out. I’m unpredictable.
App of choice?
ELIZA: Wow I don’t even know any apps.
JACK: Eliza’s app of choice is probably Instagram
ELIZA: Instagram, there’s an app. I like that app.
JACK: It’s not even an app anymore; it’s a way of life at this point for Lil’ Liz over here.
ELIZA: Jack’s app of choice is probably followers on Instagram so he can keep track of who’s...
JACK: That’s a lie! I have not used that app in forever! You also used that app at one point. Come on.
Most used emoji?
ELIZA: Jack’s is the poodle.
JACK: Eliza likes to make the elephant fart. So she takes the elephant and you know the cloud poof thing.
ELIZA: I’ve never done that, but I like the poodle fart.
JACK: The poodle fart you’re right. It’s the poodle fart.
Least favorite food?
ELIZA: Jack does not like cilantro. It tastes like soap to him.
JACK: Eliza hates dill.
ELIZA: There we go. I was afraid you weren’t going to hit it but we both hit it.
Late night snack?
ELIZA: I don’t like eating late at night.
JACK: Eliza does not like eating late at night but it’s the best thing. Honestly, I’ve got to go with the burger.
ELIZA: I like plain crackers. I don’t like bland foods. I’m actually a very eclectic eater. I was raised on spicy Asian food, but I love plain crackers. Just, like, bland crackers.
JACK: Like not like saltines; less salt. If you just said “tines” that would kind of get at it.
ELIZA: I’ll go into a bodega and find the most random cracker and I’ll be pretty thrilled.
JACK: When we were in the studio with Chris Zayne recording Eliza would always get bland crackers and we would always be like “what is wrong with you?” We would all be eating cold pizza and Eliza would just be eating the “tines.”
Ketchup or mustard?
JACK: Honey mustard is great.
ELIZA: I think mayo, overall.
JACK: Yeah I agree. I’m a mayonnaise guy too.
ELIZA: We’re just going to break the rules here.
JACK: That sounds really creepy: “I’m a mayonnaise guy.”
Most likely to...?
ELIZA: Jack is most likely to be offended by something I say. I’m most likely to offend you.
JACK: You’re most likely to offend me. You’re most likely to say something that’s offensive.
ELIZA: Jack is most likely to be really sensitive about something he shouldn’t be offended by.
JACK: And Eliza is most likely to say something that she thinks...
ELIZA: Won’t offend someone...
JACK: But ends up doing so.
ELIZA: See, this is hard because John is probably the most legendary songwriter and we admire that obviously. The Beatles are like our touchstone. But George Harrison is probably my all-around favourite Beatle because he was also an amazing songwriter and one of my favorite guitarists, and was good looking and extremely sweet.
JACK: I think I’m going to have to agree with Eliza. I think George Harrison was the real glue of The Beatles and had he not been there The Beatles probably would not have existed for as long.
ELIZA: Wow. I don’t agree with that statement.
JACK: Well, because John and Paul didn’t like each other.
ELIZA: That’s true.
JACK: George Harrison was like the mediator between the two I think. I also love all of the songs that George Harrison contributed to The Beatles.
Sweet or Savory?
ELIZA: I’m going to say savory.
Ice cream flavor?
ELIZA: I like Phish Food, the Ben and Jerry’s flavor.
JACK: I’ve been really doing the Phish Food too. It’s funny that you say that.
Ideal movie for Netflix-and-Chill?
ELIZA: I literally watch no TV and I do love movies but I rarely watch them. So this is a tough one for me. Probably Dazed and Confused or something like that, or maybe Jiro Dreams of Sushi.
JACK: I still have to see that.
ELIZA: It’s so good.
JACK: Ideal movie for Netflix-and-Chill, I don’t even know the last movie that I watched on Netflix. I guess the best movie would be something like...I don’t know. Have you seen Step Brothers, Eliza?
JACK: Well you might have to see that because that’s one of the best movies ever.
ELIZA: Next tour we’ll watch that.
Biggest pet peeve?
ELIZA: I hate it when people chew with their mouths open and I hate it when people are late, which I was today. But I’m never late and I hate it when people are late. This is an apology and a statement.
JACK: I’m always late for everything so I feel like I can’t hate that. It would be wrong. I hate chewing with your mouth open, that is the worst. So many noises that are just terrible.
Something weird/unusual/unique about you guys?
ELIZA: He really likes frogs. He talks about getting a pet frog often. He used to have an aquarium and a vivarium when he was younger. Yeah, he’s a pretty big fan of the amphibian race.
JACK: It’s true. Um, something weird...I mean I really was going to use the cracker thing but we’ve already talked about that.
ELIZA: So I’m just super normal.
JACK: No! I wouldn’t go that far. You’re pretty OCD. I think one thing that’s kind of weird is that when you find something that you really like or enjoy you have to do it over and over again and nothing else can be done until you’re completely over it.
ELIZA: He’s talking about things such as my addiction to dried seaweed.
JACK: Yes. Exactly. So two or three or four years ago, Eliza was obsessed with sea snacks. That’s all she could eat. It smelled terrible. It was bad and then it became more of a medical issue, like, “you’re eating too much sodium, Eliza,” and then you had to stop.
ELIZA: I’m terrified of thunderstorms
JACK: I’m terrified of storms. We have that in common. We hate storms. Literally, when there is lightning outside we’re both like...
ELIZA: It gives me acute anxiety.
JACK: We both start crying.
Coffee or tea?
JACK: Eliza likes tea. She doesn’t like coffee. It doesn’t make you feel very good.
ELIZA: It gives me stomach aches.
JACK: And Eliza likes to take it with...she likes to have more sugar in the cup than tea.
ELIZA: That’s false. Jack likes black coffee
JACK: That’s false. I like milk in my coffee.
What is a staple item in your bedroom?
ELIZA: My bed and probably my guitar, as cheesy as that sounds. My guitar’s usually out. When we end up writing something together it’s usually because we just pick up a guitar that’s lying around. It’s not like a premeditated thing.
JACK: I guess for me there’s like a pile, loads of stuff, like books and papers and clothing. They’re all just in one corner kind of there. And the bed as well. I love my bed. I love sleeping. Sleeping is good.
ELIZA: These are good questions, I like these a lot.
Aisle or Window seat?
ELIZA: I like the window to lean on.
Morning or night?
ELIZA: I love the mornings; I’m just a huge fan of waking up super early. Probably comes from the fact that when I surf I like to wake up really early because usually there is less wind and the waves are nicest and there is no one there. I don’t need that much sleep.
JACK: I’m definitely more of a night person. I can stay up for as long as possible but I don’t.
Watch or read?
ELIZA: Definitely a reader - always have been, probably always will be. I never watched TV not because I wasn’t allowed, I just literally don’t know how to turn on the TV in my house where I grew up. Jack can vouch on that one.
JACK: Yeah. I guess I’m somewhere in between. I do read a lot because I have to because I’m in college, there’s a lot of reading. I like to read New Yorker, the Times and CNN all the time to keep up on the news but I do watch a lot of TV. Homeland has been a fake fixation of mine these days.
ELIZA: My birthday is pretty great; it’s my personal holiday. I like Memorial Day because it means that summer is coming, not because of what the...I mean yeah, it’s nice to remember, but it also means that summer is coming so I like what that holiday signifies.
JACK: That is so weird that you thought of that. I guess I’d have to say Halloween for me. I mean, my birthday is the day before Halloween so I’m still on that high from the fact that my birthday was the day before.
ELIZA: That’s so weird because I would think that would be the most depressing day.
JACK: It’s not because you get a ton of candy on the day after your birthday.
JACK: Eliza, your favorite city is New York City.
ELIZA: That’s probably Jack’s as well.
JACK: Yeah, I don’t think we’d want to live anywhere else.
ELIZA: I would maybe live somewhere for a short period of time like a month.
Browser home page?
ELIZA: Mine is the Apple website because I haven’t changed it since I got my computer three years ago.
JACK: Mine is Ask Jeeves.
ELIZA: No it’s not.
JACK: No, it’s not. It’s Yelp.
ELIZA: It’s Yelp?
JACK: No. I’m kidding. It’s Google.
ELIZA: Mine’s just Apple. It’s pretty sad. It’s actually funny you asked that question because every time I open my browser I’m like “why don’t I deal with this?” Then I’m like, “Nope. Tomorrow.” It should be like The New York Times or something more...
JACK: It should be Etsy.
Got any good knock knock jokes?
JACK: Oh, Eliza has got some good knock knock jokes.
ELIZA: I tell them at our shows when Jack’s tuning.
JACK: When I’m tuning or something and it gets kind of awkward because it’s silent and we’ve got to think of something to say Eliza generally is like “Jack has a joke to tell.”
ELIZA: And then Jack doesn’t tell a joke.
JACK: Because I don’t have a joke. We never plan. We never talk about this!
ELIZA: Well you don’t plan things like your guitar going severely out of tune, although you should because it happens every show. But usually my guitar will go out of tune and then I go “Jack is going to tell a joke while I tune,” and then Jack freezes up and doesn’t say anything and then I have to tune and tell a joke so it’s worse than me just tuning my guitar. But I usually just go with a knock knock joke that’s like: “Knock Knock…”
JACK: Who’s there?
JACK: Olive who?
ELIZA: Olive you!
JACK: There ya go.
ELIZA: That’s a very tame one.
JACK: It’s great. We really keep them wanting more.
ELIZA: Yeah, we’re really known for comedy. It’s why people come to our shows.
Originally published 12/09/15