In the early hours of March 27th on the Interstate 10 in Arizona, both members of Her’s, Stephen Fitzpatrick and Audun Laading, as well as their tour manager, Trevor Engelbrektson, were tragically killed in a car accident. Her’s were on their way to a show in Santa Ana, one of nineteen stops on their first major US tour after releasing their critically acclaimed debut full-length album, Invitation to Her’s, last August. Heist or Hit, the band’s record label, confirmed their passing in a tweet about a day after the accident and the international music community has been deeply affected. Her’s radiated warmth and positivity, whether it was the lively spirit they brought to each and every performance or uploading tutorials on how to play their songs for fans to see. As amazing musicians and wonderful people, Her’s were just beginning to grow an international audience who shared their love of music, years of hard work and dedication finally coming to well-deserved fruition. Stephen and Audun shared their selves with us, and the world is better off having heard their music and felt their passion. We feel very honored to have been able to spoken with Stephen and Audun, and we grieve with the music community knowing that we’ve lost such bright, passionate men.
Below is the conversation we had with Stephen and Audun the day of their show in Boston, March 10, just under three weeks before their passing, as well as photos taken on that night.
In loving memory of Stephen, Audun, and Trevor.
On an uncharacteristically warm night for early March, two figures take the stage of the intimate, almost cozy Sonia in Cambridge. Slowly ascending the steps with drinks in hand, they assume their positions and stand silhouetted as they fidget with the Ableton machine atop a table on stage. Within moments, the previously-dull crowd is cheering and the band is off and running, filling the small room with their catchy hooks and sweet vocal melodies, breaking up each song by cracking jokes with the audience.
The band is Her’s, but listeners will quickly find there is no “her” to be found in the group: the duo consists of Stephen Fitzpatrick on guitar and vocals and Audun Laading on bass. There is no drummer. Instead, the pair bring their trusty Ableton Launchpad onstage, and with the help of a Mac computer and some music software, the band can play their hits with no problem, sans drummer. What Her’s lack in numbers, they make up for with their charisma, combining the whimsical, quirky charm of your favorite uncle with a musical maturity beyond their years.
Hailing from across the pond—Liverpool, England to be exact—Stephen and Audun have released two records under the moniker Her’s, first in mid-2017 with Songs of Her’s, nine tracks of what they refer to as a ‘collection of songs’ rather than an album, followed up about a year later with Invitation to Her’s, the band’s debut full-length album. Stephen and Audun have jumped into the music scene with what they refer to as their ‘oddball pop’ style, pushing the limits of what we know as indie-rock by developing a unique sonic presence that pleasantly blends traditional rock and roll with elements of contemporary rock and pop.
As Her’s traveled to America to embark on their first headlining tour around the US, I got to catch up with them for a quick phone call. With shows from East Coast to West Coast and a slew of performances at SXSW, the boys have been busy. I caught them on their way up from New York to Boston, where they were stopping for a quick bite at Chipotle and took some time to update me on the state of Her’s.
I know it’s only a few shows in, but how is the tour going so far?
Stephen Fitzpatrick: It’s going really well. We’re stopping in at Chipotle, it’s our first time actually. We’ve been eating Mexican food every day because we don’t really have any good Mexican food back home in the UK. We went to Walmart for the first time as well!
What’s the biggest challenge of touring overseas?
Audun Laading: Everyone’s really, really nice and have been so great. The only thing that’s tough is the jet lag. When we’re performing we have the computer running with the backing track, so we see the UK time on there and it messes with us.
How do you pass time on tour?
SP: Mainly chatting, getting to know each other better. That’s one of the best parts of tour, fostering the human connection. We have some books and a Nintendo DS. You would think we have a lot of strategies, but we just zone out! It’s interesting to tune into the local radio stations to hear what’s going on.
Do you have any pre-show rituals?
AL: Nothing too crazy, we do some arm windmills to get the joints going. We realized it’s more professional to warm up. Being on stage is over an hour of physical activity, so it’s important to prepare for that [laughs]. Other than that, it’s just having a drink and calming the nerves.
How have the shows in America compared to European shows?
SF: It’s different because in America people are actually at the show to listen to the music. In the UK, everyone’s just getting smashed and having a boisterous time. It’s always refreshing to be in front of a new crowd. We played a show in Bangkok, and it was the quietest crowd ever. After we’d finish a song and the applause died down, it was totally silent. It’s always different country to country, continent to continent, state to state here in America.
Can you take us inside the writing process for Invitation to Her’s?
SF: We demoed the entire album in Audun’s flat, and then we went and recorded it in a studio with a friend. We like to call it the debut album even though [Songs of Her’s] had already been released. With Songs of Her’s, we were just holding onto dear life trying to release music, but with Invitation to Her’s, we felt conceptually a bit more sound and like we’d found our feet. We were more confident and aware of what was influencing us at the time. We were watching a lot of Twin Peaks, Twilight Zone, David Lynch stuff, listening to a lot of MGMT and 50s stuff, and we were able to inject all those influences into the album.
Has living in Liverpool shaped your progression as artists?
AL: I’d say so. We’re good friends with Trudi and the Romance from Liverpool. Their live shows and their recordings are amazing. They’re one of our favorite UK bands and we’re lucky enough to be friends with them. We pass around tracks and all that stuff, so we’re really happy to be there.
Can you walk us through the process of creating the video for “Harvey“?
SF: It was one day of shooting, and it was a concept that we came up with in a phone interview. We like playing antagonists, or anti-heroes maybe [laughs]. We wanted to do something light-hearted and fun that wasn’t just a giant bunny-man walking around. It was supposed to come out on Halloween, but we did a lot of editing and it came out later than anticipated. It’s definitely meant to be spooky.
You both have great energy and presence when performing, is that something that comes naturally?
AL: I’d say the journey of the band has been quite organic. We started off just playing for our friends, so that was a great opportunity to get a sense of performing. At the shows, no one in the audience wants to be the first one out there moving around, so moving around on stage can break the ice for the crowd. We think it’s important to not take yourself too seriously.
What are your goals?
SF: We’d love to play a show in Japan. We’re focused on this tour right now though. When we get home, we’ll chill for a few weeks and then see what happens. We’re really just rolling with the punches, and we try not to worry about what we need to achieve. The pressure can be a bit suffocating at times, so we know if we just chill and relax everything will work out in time.