Quarters of Change Search for Light

When Quarters of Change formed in 2017, finding its alt-rock sound was somewhat of a covert operation. The band, which consisted of vocalist Ben Roter, guitarist Jasper Harris, and drummer Attila Anrather– cut classes and stayed late after hours to make music secretly in the basement of their New York City high school.

“[We were] pissing in water bottles because we couldn’t leave the studio or else we’d get kicked out by after-hours security,” Roter tells SPIN. It’s here where Quarters of Change would master covers of The Strokes and Red Hot Chili Peppers before recording original music of their own. All the while, they were building what Roter calls a “soul bond”. 

He remembers “talking about our childhood traumas and how music would be our light to overcome.”

The band — which added guitarist Ben Acker in 2019— leans on this “soul bond” with their sophomore LP Portraits. Composed of vignettes from each member, the album intertwines their individualized perspectives into one cohesive story of who they are now.

Released last month through 300/Elektra, Portraits arrived after a year-and-a-half whirlwind of writing and recording between three national tours. The band first supported Bad Suns in 2022, where they adapted their live sound from underground Manhattan clubs to theaters nationwide.

“We were pretty naive on our first opening tour but I think we caught on pretty quickly,” Acker says. “Our mentors, like Bad Suns, have given us a lot of opportunities to learn through the maturity with which they play. It’s been a lot of absorption that’s gone straight into the music.”

Quarters of Change
Quarters of Change (Credit: Zachary Olewnicki)

Portraits is the latest release in Quarters of Change’s ever-evolving catalog. After dropping out of college to pursue music full-time during the pandemic, the band toyed with an upbeat modern indie/pop sound in the vein of early COIN or The 1975. With earworm guitar riffs and catchy refrains, tracks like “Kiwi” garnered millions of streams on streaming services and the attention of 300/Elektra with whom they signed in 2021.

The band released their major label debut Into the Rift with 300/Elektra soon after, incorporating a 2000s post-punk edge to their already palatable sound. Throughout, the band specializes in bright, energetic songs with lyrics pondering the less sunny facets of love, loss, and longing. 

Writing their punchy and pleading single “T-Love” was a pivotal moment for Acker, stating “It was the fastest a song had come to fruition…writing and completing that song so quickly was when I realized we were getting really good at this.”

Merging their previous songwriting style with what they learned on the road, the band returned to New York to produce Portraits alongside producers Mikey Freedom Hart (Bleachers, Taylor Swift) and Dave Tozer (John Legend, Jay-Z).

The result is a journey through the murky darkness of addiction, grief, yearning, and past mistakes. From the grungey brooding opening track “What I Wanted” to the soaring restorative epic closer “Keep My Blood,” Roter’s gravelly croons act as a guide through a soundscape of hazy synths and crunchy guitar tones. 

Despite the darkness, the album isn’t necessarily bleak. “[Portraits] has a little bit less despair and more introspection on life as a whole,” Roter says.

At its heart, hope cuts through the darkness. “If I’m gonna live, let the old ways die/time to sing a new song/time to face it head-on,” he sings on the sanguine soft rock ballad “Turn It Away.”

The line a manifesto, Quarters of Change barrel forward head first as a unit, chasing a collective dream. “It’s been our dream forever to make music for a living and to be this band for a living,” Roter says.

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