Walking into Queens Brewery in Bushwick, Brooklyn, Iris James Garrison, Alex Harwood, and I grab matching iced coffees and sit down at the big wooden table in the middle of the room. The table is complete with the giant Jenga set, of course. Iris comments that they approve of the coffee, an assessment made with their serious barista sensibilities.
Although the band’s debut album is now out via Bayonet Records, I had the pleasure of meeting with the duo leading up to the release. Even with just a few singles released so far, it was already clear that the album was one to keep watch for. ‘Phase’ and ‘ISO’ offered up dreamlike invitations into the indie-rock world that their music was just beginning to tease. When asked about how they were feeling with the release so close, guitarist/vocalist Garrison described it as “momentus, especially since it’s been, not only a long run for us making it, but even the rollout has felt really cool, inching its way out.”
Adding to that sentiment, guitarist Harwood explains: “We’re just really confident in it, and everything that happens now is like, really positive…we’re no longer in the stress period!”
The pressure cooker of recording the first album is an extremely unique experience, especially doing it DIY-style as Bloomsday has. Garrison reveals: “We recorded [the album] before the label. Oh, yeah, we signed with this record totally done, which was really a special thing. I got more knowledge through the production process and was kind of inspired by that. We worked with a few friends and it goes beyond tracking each instrument and each part, and it adds the textures of production, which can be really weird.”
Even with the band’s relatively short history, their evolution is one in which that emotion, texture, and style has always been clear in the music. Their very first demo single, placed on Spotify in 2019, found a new life on Place to Land. “That was the first song we wrote as a band,” Garrison says. Right at the beginning of their run, the pair got together in the studio for only two and a half days to record the song.
“We realised that we were going to benefit from having the recording process be a part of the writing process,” Harwood says. “We liked the result, but we were like, ‘let’s go deeper.’ The studio is a big part of the process now. We do it in the guerilla-style, DIY, which allows us to have a lot of time to produce ourselves. To make it sound like we’re dreaming of sounding.”
But the sound does so much more than the sum of its parts, as the technical side and the emotional side are purposefully enmeshed on this album. Garrison explains: “Ultimately, I really wanted each song to convey its meaning. The two songs that are out, ‘Phase’ and ‘ISO’ have totally different worlds around them in terms of sound. There were deliberate choices, sonically, that matched the meaning behind the songs, which is where I think it was all coming from the whole time. It’s a very feelings-oriented process…You can create a world in a song.”
Harwood adds, “We weren’t necessarily going for a sound. We were pursuing the appropriate sounds for each song.”
And it seems that they couldn’t help but deliver, as the record was born of an emotional metamorphosis. It’s one of those unique lightning-in-a-bottle time capsules that captures the artistic expression of a full range of experiences. You can hear that in its softness, its darkness, its grit. Speaking specifically on the emotions and experiences behind the record, Garrison says: “It’s really my emotional perspective. A lot of this record was really what I was dealing with internally while I was going through a gender transition, which I sort of saw in hindsight. While you’re writing a song, you’re not just like, ‘Well, I’m going to write about my gender now’, but I met Alex just when I was starting to identify as non-binary, and we finished the record when I had gender-affirming surgery.”
They continue, “Looking back at the songs, there were some really dark moments of transition and transformation, and wanting to feel connected to others and to myself. What I’ve kind of realised is like, the record being Place to Land was kind of like the journey of finding a place to land within my own body, and how that all felt, and trying to grasp places, and people, and things that I could hold onto when ultimately it just comes back to finding a centre.”
Specifically, they talk about ‘Howl’ and ‘ISO’ as songs that give a sense of space and emotion, but also transformative darkness. And that was present all throughout the creative process, from the writing of the guitar parts to the mixing. “It’s deeper than it might seem!” Garrison says cheerfully, which admittedly caught me off guard, as the depth is one of the main attracting factors to such an enveloping debut as this one.
To me, their sound is reminiscent of emotional, resonant, indie-folk powerhouses like Big Thief, who they actually named as one of their biggest influences—among others like Lomelda, Phoebe Bridgers, and Palehound. At the same time, their sound is unique and ever-evolving, with both the emotional and the technical growth that they experience as a band. Place to Land truly is a world you can get lost in, and I recommend you hop to it as soon as you can.