How SHAED Brought Its D.C.-Influenced Electro-Pop Offerings to the National Spotlight
Chelsea Lee, lead vocalist of D.C. electro-pop group SHAED, likes to say that she ‘has twins.’
“They definitely have telepathy,” she jokes about her bandmates, twin brothers Max and Spencer Ernst. Together, the trio delivers sprite, synthy sounds in the vein of CHVRCHES or SZA. Their latest single, “Lonesome,” shows that besides producing dancefloor-worthy tracks like “Too Much,” SHAED can stretch towards moodier, more introspective meters.
“D.C. has a ton of roots in soul music, so that’s an honor to embody the kind of sound that D.C.’s known for,” explains Max.
After hearing about each other through the D.C. music scene in high school, the group began hanging out and eventually started writing and collaborating together.
“At first our sound was much more organic,” Max says, “more like acoustic guitars, piano and a lot of harmony.” Then, in 2013, Max and Spencer bought a Casio synthesizer, and, Max continues, “it was sort of a snowball effect from there.”
In 2016, SHAED recorded a cover of The Weeknd‘s “Starboy” for a Spotify studio session, which became a breakout hit for the group. The song racked up nearly two million plays on the music platform.
“We just kind of chose the song on a whim and did it pretty fast, so we were actually really happy and surprised by the reaction,” recalls Lee. “I love that we’re being streamed… The fact that we have that now and we have the ability [for] a lot of people to check out our music from different countries, from wherever, is really cool.”
Even as their music reverberates in far-off corners, D.C. continues to be a nurturing homebase for SHAED. At the 2018 Women’s March, fans signaled their political discontent by repurposing SHAED’s lyrics into protest signs.
“That was really very humbling to see people using our lyrics for the rally, from our song “Thunder,”” says Spencer.
Written in the heat of Bernie Sanders’ 2016 Presidential campaign, “Thunder” is a rally cry for Americans to speak out against injustice and condemn political silencing.
“Just being from D.C., and with all the crazy things happening in politics, it definitely influences your thought process and it’s always kind of back-of-mind when you write,” says Max.
After spending the last year on tour and signing with New York label Photo Finish–home to indie pop stars like Marian Hill and MisterWives–SHAED has returned home to the D.C. area. “We’ve just been working like crazy and writing and recording a lot of music,” says Lee.
Still, SHAED’s itching to get back on the road. “We just want to keep touring and make people feel something,” explains Spencer, “our favorite thing is playing for people.”
SHAED will perform at D.C. Music Download’s anniversary show on Saturday, Jan. 27 at Union Stage. Doors 8 p.m./Tickets $16. One dollar from each ticket sale will benefit D.C. LGBTQ resource center Casa Ruby.