An Introduction to the Electro-Pop Trio SHAED
Based out of Washington D.C., Chelsea Lee and Max and Spencer Ernst met in high school floating in and out of various music projects until finally solidifying as the atmospheric, moody electro-pop trio SHAED.
While the twin Ernst brothers formed folk-rock duo The Walking Sticks in 2012, lead singer Chelsea Lee worked as a solo artist until she joined the brothers after the release of their first EP. In late 2013, after the addition of Lee, the group changed from folk-rock to dreamy electro-pop, and in 2016 their style change was followed by a name change as the group became SHAED.
Lee’s powerful vocals paired with the Ernst brothers’ production create eerie and expansive soundscapes, pairing little sonic details and layers with catchy lyricism, resulting in music that appears simple at first, but slowly pulls you in.
SHAED crafts mystical and mysterious sounds on their newest EP, Melt, with songs like “Trampoline” and “Melt,” but show their diversity on the groovy summer pop song “You Got Me Like” which features indie R&B artist snny. Lead singer Lee has a hypnotic yet soulful feeling to her voice, lending herself easily to different genres within SHAED’s discography.
Melt, released in September 2018, showcases a more mature, darker approach to the sound they introduced on their first EP, Just Wanna See. “Silver Knife” is a haunting track where Lee sings in a higher register than usual, giving the song an unnatural, unsettling feeling.
Lyrics like “I’ve been talking to myself at night / It feels good, it feels right / Mental pictures of a silver knife / In your chest / It feels right,” reveal a story of fatal attraction set to a backdrop of light, sonorous chimes, and upbeat percussion. The subject matter of the song feels at odds with the instrumentation, which makes the song feel even more peculiar and intriguing to listen to.
Another standout song is the aforementioned title track “Melt.” “Melt” is trancelike with its steady pulsating beat, continuously building alongside Lee’s raw vocals. The song tells the story of Lee’s struggle working as a solo artist, with honest lyrics like, “Now you’re beggin me to smile, but I can’t fake / Thought the point was to create / I can barely feel myself / Like I’m frozen in the ice / Wish I could melt.”
“Melt” feels cold and lonely and the music video showcasing Lee wandering around an abandoned factory exacerbates the feeling. The end of the track is particularly noteworthy for how the music changes course, going silent and then switching to twinkling piano and chimes while Lee’s whispery voice repeats the “Wish I could melt” line over and over. It’s creepy and phenomenal all at once.
SHAED manages to capture a subtle strangeness with their music. While some of it is familiar— the typical structure of a pop song for example—or the warmth of Lee’s voice, the trio manages to throw the listener off in surprising and exciting ways. Whether it’s reverting that standard song structure, or playing around with vocal tones, SHAED is bringing something new to energize listeners and challenge their expectations.
SHAED will play this Saturday (4/20) at 7:30pm-8:15pm for Culture Shock 2019 at Dunn Meadow!