Lately I’ve been haunted by Her’s.
The haunting started at second 28 of their Paste Studio’s Performance; there’s this seamless moment of chemistry when the duo leans forward, synchronizing their body movements. The unity of their oscillation is both serious and full of jest. Stephen Fitzpatrick takes on a Donald Duck-like nature in his voice while Audun Laading (bass) goes for this wicked credit-card-swipe-move with his head. These dichotomous, “bromantic” mannerisms are characteristic of their debut album: Invitation to Her’s, a project that dapples in both the real and the fictitious, moving from an overtly melodramatic farewell to Fitzpatrick’s cat to exploring love and loss through the perspective of made-up characters.
As Daily writer Jonah Mendelson covered in April of 2019, Her’s died in a car crash while driving to Santa Ana for their North American tour. Fitzpatrick was 24, Laading was 25. At this brief moment when they drop into the bass line, it felt like they were alive. I watched their souls at the control booths of their physical bodies as they bop away to the bass — and they’re exuberant. In the video, they’re performing the track “What Once Was,” a song written in reference to a family member who passed. As these spine-chilling lyrics left the space of the screen and soaked into my brain, I found myself seeking explanations for the artist instead of myself. I can’t help but think they are now what once was instead of what is, as if they spoke their own fate into existence.
And so the haunting began. This following has nothing to do with ghosts (although the eerie connotations are certainly there). Her’s showed up everywhere, refusing to let go of me.
My roommate and I were dancing in our shabby, compact kitchen. We leaned towards each other to bounce with the music. She looked up at me, all five feet of her, and scrunched her face to the bass. We’re a dancey duo, bouncing like Her’s did with these little idiosyncrasies that come alive with the music. The dancing continued across the kitchen tile and I thought about how duos develop and wonder if our duo gives, receives, teaches and grows just like the duo of Her’s did.
My days seemed touched by Her’s. It’s a curious and confusing notion, that listeners seem to unite in solidarity when an artist’s creativity is cut short, only listening once an artist has died, as if we seek that specific post-death obsessing. Attaching to artists like Her’s after their death, I feel like everything is liable to higher penalties. Any sort of polarization seems to drop away from online comments sections. Perhaps Her’s now displays a vulnerability in their music that isn’t preferential to a certain type of listener. It might be a universal woe that they were only permitted a launching pad, and nothing more.
I don’t intend to reconcile the repercussions of Her’s tragedy. I don’t know how to do that. But I think by situating music as a beseiging of the mind, I suddenly create a creature that has a lot to teach me about the persistency, magnetism and unification of music.
The personal, spine-chilling lingering of Her’s jangle pop sound took me over, and in doing so it presented lessons as to the experiential roots of listening. I listened to the bop and it showed up, braiding itself into my things, my people, and my objects. And we lean into music’s supernatural ability to draw parallels into our own realities. That unearthly quality of music showed up while dancing in my shitty kitchen, while swinging on the porch with my friends, while walking up to my apartment after an awful day. And simply put, Her’s ability to hit a bass like Johnny Cash and then seamlessly soothe the listener with an Ariel Pink sound deserves to be carried and weaved.
With Invitation to Her’s we were invited to only glimpse Her’s potential. But now more than ever, music seems nostalgic and nagging, as if Stephen and Audun have invited me to feel music’s most gripping traits. October is the month of haunting, so let the music creep in.