Written by Sara Grace Salley ’18
If SHAED, an up-and-coming alt-pop trio from Washington, D.C., isn’t on a stage or wolfing down Mexican food, they’re probably swapping their favorite books–fantasy novels that inspire their psychedelic music, which mimics the creative use of color, light and shade found in the pages.
“Under the tagline, ‘We make colorful music,’ twin brothers Max and Spencer Ernst and singer Chelsea Lee combine bright and buoyant beats with smooth vocals, resulting in a vivid groove,” says Interviewmagazine.com, the official online spinoff of the late pop-artist icon Andy Warhol’s magazine.
As a part of their second national tour, SHAED will perform at Converse College’s Rainey Amphitheater in an entirely student-produced show at 8 p.m. May 13.
Lee and the identical twins started making music together as best friends in high school in a D.C. suburb but didn’t become a band until March 2016.
“We were all in different projects and then kind of fell out of those projects. We were able to come together and say, ‘We just need to make this a thing,’” Lee says.
Every bit of their creative process, from choosing a band name to writing songs, is ultra-collaborative. Their name, SHAED, represents a cloak of shadows that protects its wearer and is inspired by a book in the Kingkiller Chronicle series by Patrick Rothfuss.
“We first saw the name in the fantasy novel, The Name of the Wind, and we decided that we really like the concept of different shades of color and shade from the sun,” Lee says.
When students in Converse’s Music Business & Technology Certificate program booked SHAED to headline the Saturday concert, they knew they had stumbled across a gem.
“We were looking for an electric-pop-rock sound that people are familiar with. Chelsea has a unique and powerful voice that cuts through a complex sound, which pulls from many influences, meshing together pop, rock, alt and synth,” says Candice Strong, a music business student.
To scope out an opener for SHAED, Converse music business students hosted a Battle of the Bands on March 31. That night, they found the winning band, Anthem, an indie-orchestral-pop group from Greenville, S.C. Students said they knew the two bands were a musical match made in heaven.
Just like SHAED, the members of Anthem–Job Childers, Josh Hall and Michael Gilbert–began playing music together in high school. Anthem’s experimental music marries genres that are often worlds apart.
“The only musical storytelling that I really connected to were film scores. So I recorded three or four songs in my bedroom, with virtual orchestras I found online. In the spring of 2016, I added synths, pop melodies, explosive drum beats and a more personal story,” says Childers, the lead singer.
Creative energy is palpable in both bands’ live performances. Backstage before shows, the members of SHAED prepare themselves with high kicks and center themselves mentally with an affirmation ritual.
“Before our last tour, we created a mantra because we didn’t want to kill each other. We wanted to be able to say, ‘This mantra is to remind each other that we are best friends, and we couldn’t imagine doing this with anyone else,’” Lee says.
The all-ages concert is open to the public.