Guest article by Lauren Lyman
Austin is a sonic hub that houses a huge variety of sounds. If you are looking for a powerhouse of sounds, I highly suggest listening to 80H Project. The band combines R&B, rock, jazz and Latin American beats in the instrumentation. Their flawless, three-part harmonies top this giant wave of resonance.
80H Project just released their debut album, “Spectrum,” in November 2015. This record was long-awaited by fans, as their live performances have been that compelling. In fact, their shows are basically the album content on steroids, with a hearty bass shaking the room (Nick Casillo) and tight beats every step of the way (Meo Soul). When this group performs, they perform, and when they gig, they do it at full attempt.
“You can’t really give anything one hundred percent if you’re not doing it one hundred percent,” lead singer and guitarist Ady Hernandez said, “at any job, any capacity…so for me, it’s always been music. Occasionally when I get really bad financially…I’ll go grab a job, or I’ll work with somebody else, or I’ll run the studio. I’ll do something. But, yeah, I’ve always felt that way. If we’re going to do this, we have to do it one hundred percent. ”
At full capacity and full sound, the group aims to be a full-time touring band. The album already reflects what they can do on a wide spectrum; pun intended. Its title can refer to colors, or to sound frequencies that produce wavelengths. From beginning to end on the album, each member explores the frequencies of their instruments, all for the benefit of expression. It is best to listen to “Spectrum” on CD, as four of the tracks tie into each other.
80H Project Album Tracks
The album was recorded in Austin. Let’s go over the music. It starts off with “Intro,” an electro-acoustic bit that builds up to “No Mistaking,” a sea of power vocals (Hernandez, Soul and Curtis Lee), where each one can trade off, or come together in perfect unison. The outro of this song sells the track. When 80H Project plays this one live, it’s like a gospel awakening!
“Possible” emphasizes one of their positive themes in lyrics, key and simple electronic beat. “Pop 101” is a sweet lullaby to a lover on acoustic guitar, with piano and baller three-part harmonies. “Meo Jam” is a symphonic rock interlude that leads into “Last Day,” a songo mix (Mikel Urdy) that is ornamented with flute melodies (Mitch Quintanilla, also on sax for “Cry”). This track is symbolic of the transition from the past to the current success of 80H Project. Vocalists Lee and Hernandez have both persevered from previous acts: Dahebegebees, The Everyday People and finally to 80H Project.
Following this emblem, we hear “Sky Bound,” a smooth jazz interlude that leads into a more personal anecdote called “Family.” This one can appeal to everyone. We go into different stages of our lives, but family ties will always be there to ground us. The last interlude, “Just What You Needed,” segues into “When the Clock,” which is the definitive R&B classic of the bunch. “Hold” and “Cry” close the album, each having a different message and feel, but both having strong optimism persevering through sadness. This seems to be 80H’s recurring attitude, as they deliver at full force during the rough patches of gigging life.
Gigging It and Making It
In fact, it seems that the reason 80H Project does not often get to sit down and speak about the lifestyle of Austin musicians is because they are busy being Austin musicians! Lee opened up about the hardships, and also the blessing, of their residency at One-2-One Bar on South Lamar: “Every time Free Week comes up, they put this big thing about ‘Why are we doing this?.’ They make a big stink about it, and that’s good, because they care about musicians. [Bar manager Gregg Ware] is like, ‘look these people are working hard; they’re trying to make money.'”
Making a living doing music in Austin has been always been a topic of discussion, but especially since the Austin Music Census was released to the public last year. This is all the more reason why these musicians would love to be a touring band in the end. Taking 80H Project as an example, if you continue to do the work and follow your passion, the rewards will always be within.
@theAustinot wants to know:
Have you seen 80H Project perform live?
Lauren Lyman is a freelance writer, flutist and singer. She is a graduate of Texas State University, where she attained a Master of Music in music history. She wrote her master’s thesis on the sisters of Heart, as well as Fiona Apple, Madonna and Janis Joplin.