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A legacy of Her’s: one band’s lasting mark on the music scene
November 15, 2022
In just less than three years, Stephen Fitzpatrick and Audun Laading of the Liverpool band Her’s managed to make a big splash in a growing pool of indie artists through their unique use of twinkly guitar tones, driving bass lines, and resounding vocals.
Her’s musical take on jangle pop and dream pop has received comparisons to older artists like The Smiths and contemporary ones like Mac Demarco. During their musical tenure, Her’s only released a compilation album and a full-length album, but that still does not minimize their musical impact.
In promotion of their debut album, Invitation to Her’s, the band embarked on a 19-show North American tour. After a performance at a sold-out show at The Rebel Lounge in Phoenix, Arizona, Stephen, Audun, and their tour manager, Trevor Engelbrektson, had to travel some 360 miles to Santa Ana, California to get to their next gig on the following day. However, at approximately 1 AM, the band’s van crashed head-on with a wrong-way pickup truck driver on Interstate 10, according to CNN. Both vehicles subsequently set on fire. Stephen, Audun, Trevor, and the wrong-way driver were all killed. Stephen was 24, and Audun was 25.
However, the tragic details of their death should not overshadow what the band was at its core – two boys that just loved to make music.
Stephen Fitzpatrick (vocals, guitar) and Audun Laading (backing vocals, bass) met at the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts, which was the school they eventually graduated from with three-year degrees in music. During their time there, they formed Her’s and released their first single, “Dorothy,” just after graduating. For just the band’s first single, “Dorothy” shows that Stephen and Audun had no trouble finding their sound. The repetitive guitar riff and heavy emphasis on the bassline, accompanied by Stephen’s shape shifting vocals, immediately set the tone for the future material that Her’s was to release.
The second single the band released, “What Once Was,” is their most popular song with a total of over 140 million streams on Spotify. Similar to “Dorothy,” the catchy and quick guitar melody, strong drum-bass backbeat, and the echoey yet powerful baritone vocals all culminate to create one of the most iconic pieces of the Her’s songlist.
“Such a timeless track. You’d expect it to be in the 80s but this is the kind of music this generation is missing. So much nostalgia and a different feeling to it,” a fan commented on the YouTube audio for What Once Was.
“Marcel,” the band’s third single, ditched the upbeat feel of their previous two releases for a more beachy and soft tone that sounds like it was being carried to the listener by a soft wind. The lyrics of the song are about the early stages of love (and the confusion that comes with it), but the name of the song came from a random wallet that Stephen and Audun found.
“We were introduced to Marcel in a vintage shop whilst shopping for a new wallet, one of the wallets had an early 80’s ID card in it, so it probably hadn’t been opened since then,” the band said in an interview with HRMNY Presents. “It was Marcel Müller, a moustached middle aged courier (apparently) from Luxembourg. We thought we’d try and give the ID back to him, but after some research, we discovered he’d passed away a while back, so we wanted to dedicate a song to him instead.”
After releasing five singles, the band released Songs of Her’s, a compilation album composed of the five singles and four new tracks, on May 12, 2017 through the label Heist or Hit. In an interview with the British Council Arts, Audun said the decision to release a compilation album was because the band did not feel ready to commit to a debut album, and they released Songs of Her’s to serve as a time capsule for all that the band accomplished in their first year together.
However, just over a year later, the band released their debut album, Invitation to Her’s, on August 24, 2018 through Heist or Hit. Invitation’s eleven tracks dramatically expanded the band’s sound repertoire, ranging from the soft, 50s sound of “Blue Lips” to the upbeat, embarrassingly blunt nature of “Love on the Line (Call Now).”
Similar to Songs of Her’s, the band’s debut album kept the themes of lyrical content relatively similar. Across both albums, most of the songs are clearly about love and identity, but Invitation masks the usual straightforwardness of the lyrics for a more open yet convoluted approach.
The first half of “She Needs Him,” the eighth track on Invitation, sounds like it could easily be on Songs of Her’s. Starting off with a strong 80s-sounding drum machine beat, “She Needs Him” feels like a back-to-basics track for the band. With no other prominent accompanying instruments, it mainly features a guitar, a bass, and a little touch of a synth. The Morrissey-esque lyrics sound naive as if they were from the perspective of a jealous teenager that likes a girl who is in love with another boy.
“My heart takes up all my strength
No more can I think of them
No more can I hold her in my thoughts
Don’t say that she needs him
That she needs him.”
The second half of the song seamlessly transitions from an upbeat, confessional song into a slow-tempo, ethereal sound with sliding guitars and airy vocals from Stephen that envelop the listener like a warm blanket. “She Needs Him” is a flawless display of the musical diversity of Her’s, capturing their old sound and a new musical direction in just one song.
“Mannie’s Smile,” the second track from Invitation, could easily be thought of as another reflective, 80s-style song about love. The lyrics of the chorus express a bittersweet feeling that could easily be generalized to a breakup. While the song is about love, it is actually not about a person. In actuality, “Mannie’s Smile” is about a childhood cat that Stephen had to give away when he went to college.
“I moved to uni, my dad had got a new job and my sister had moved out. So it was just my dad living there, and I was coming home fairly often, but not often enough for the cat [Mannie] to be happy. I think maybe the cat felt like we’d abandoned him a little bit, so my dad put out an ad on Facebook and found this old man who’d recently lost his wife who said he was looking for a cat,” Stephen explained in an interview with The 405. “So my dad took Mannie to this old man, and the next day the cat managed to find his way all the way back to my family home, which is on the opposite side of town. I’ve no idea how, I guess it’s just one of those things cats have in their brains. Then my dad had to take him back again. It was pretty tragic hearing about all that stuff, so the song is kind of like an apology, a send-off, an ode to Mannie.”
The album’s closing track “Under Wraps” takes a dramatic shift from the usual sound of Invitation. The tempo is considerably slower, Stephen does not reach for any high notes, and the guitar riff is lulling, as if the album was letting out a final breath before ending. The song itself still maintains the theme of love but not in the usual sense; it dives into the theme of helping someone you love find happiness.
“So you can’t act content
And who’s to say they’re gonna push you away?
It means more to you, then it does to them
So don’t justify
Living silent, under wraps.”
The emotional weight of “Under Wraps” is exacerbated by the fact that it is the final piece of music that Her’s released. It almost feels like a goodbye from Stephen and Audun.
Regardless, it is a fitting end for the discography of Her’s.
Perhaps the earthly mission of Stephen and Audun was to help their listeners find happiness, and once they felt they completed that goal, they went elsewhere in the universe to help others.
On March 27, 2019, just over seven months after the release of Invitation to Her’s, Stephen and Audun passed away.
“It’s so weird because they didn’t seem to blow up the same way other passed artists have. Their death didn’t turn them famous overnight. Everyone has seemed to learn about this really cool band only to find out what happened to them,” a user commented on a YouTube performance of “What Once Was.” “Instead of one big response to tragedy in the case of Lil Peep or Juice WRLD, it’s like every other day there’s a new person discovering the same band and having the same immediate heartbreak for a band they only found out existed a few minutes ago, the exact same way that a lot of us did.”
Despite an abrupt and unjustified end for a band with such musical promise, Her’s still managed to find a distinct sound while simultaneously expanding the genre of dream pop. In roughly three years, Her’s only released twenty songs, but the love and appreciation that fans have continued to show keep the music of Stephen and Audun in the hearts of many.
And so the legacy of Her’s lives on.
In loving memory of Stephen Fitzpatrick, Audun Laading, and Trevor Engelbrekston.