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Writing Good Songs: A talk with Shaed


Shaed is the band that does it all.

Producing, writing, managing… the electro-pop trio has found a way to keep a lot of things in-house. Hailing from Washington D.C., brothers Max and Spencer Ernst, and Chelsea Lee have found their voice through quick synth-pop tunes laced with R&B and alternative. After a successful debut with the Just Wanna See EP, the band is now more well-seasoned and road-hardened going into round two. With three singles out already, fans should stay tuned as Friday the 10th could mark the band’s long-awaited for a second offering.


Interview and Photography by Andy Gorel

Andy: So are you guys all originally from Washington DC?

Chelsea: Yep we are!

Andy: How’d you come together?

Chelsea: We met in high school. We all met in different schools and met through a mutual friend. We became best friends and have been inseparable since.

Spencer: We weren’t able to dedicate all of our time to a specific project until Shaed in 2015 though.

Andy: What was it like coming up in the pop scene in DC?

Max: I would say we definitely got our feet wet playing shows in DC, and the whole community is definitely supportive of the arts. There is a lot of good stuff happening now in DC. A lot of soulful and electro-pop stuff sort of in our vein. Experimental rock things as well.

Chelsea: DC is so supportive of their local artists that it’s a great community to break into.

Andy: You said you were involved in other projects before Shaed..

Chelsea: Yeah, I was doing a solo artist thing for a while. I was signed to Atlantic, and it didn’t really work for me, so we just parted ways, and it gave me the opportunity to do this which is what I wanted to do for a long time, but just wasn’t able to because I was on Atlantic, and Max and Spencer were in a publishing deal. So the stars aligned and we were finally able to make it work for sure.

Spencer: It freed everything up, and we wanted to start fresh.

Andy: Were you writing for other artists when you were in your pub deal?

Spencer: No, we just had our own band. We got signed as songwriters when we were younger, and that company got bought by another company, so we were stuck in it for a bit, but everything worked out in the end.

Andy: Cool, so “Just Wanna See” was your debut single, and you signed pretty quickly right? How’d it all come together?

Max: Yeah, so the record label just found us, Photo Finish Records. Matt Gally heard us on Soundcloud. He’s a beast we love him. He had been booking bands for a long time, and then started this label. It’s a small operation but they have Misterwives, Marian Hill, and a few others.

Andy: Was there management involved?

Max: Nope, we’re actually self-managed.

Andy: That’s cool. Rare to be a band with a record deal nowadays and no manager.

Max: Yeah the label is really hands-on so it works well.

“We did everything ourselves. We recorded it ourselves. These guys produced everything themselves, so it was a very DIY vibe initially.”


Andy: So that first batch of songs for the EP, where’d they all come from? Was there a favorite?

Max: Well we named the EP “Just Wanna See” cause we really liked that song. We all collaborated on the whole EP.

Chelsea: We wrote and recorded all those songs in our studio basement, so they kinda just evolved. We did everything ourselves. We recorded it ourselves. These guys produced everything themselves, so it was a very DIY vibe initially.

Andy: Funny how DIY used to mean like garage rock and now it’s electro pop. Everything shifted so quick.

Spencer: Yeah we had a friend too in the area named Joe Benny who helped a lot with sound design and some production.

Chelsea: Yeah, when we were writing the songs for that EP, Max and Spencer would work on tracks or a guitar/piano part, and we would all come up with a melody. They all just came from that basement and that time when we were figuring out what we wanted to do with our music.


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Andy: Were there any circumstances you found that were most fertile for songwriting or creativity?

Chelsea: I think being able to just walk downstairs and work on music made it really easy to be creative whenever you felt like it. It wasn’t like we were being forced into a situation. When we felt like we wanted to work on music, we would just go downstairs and do it.

Andy: Any artists, songwriters, producers, that collectively really influenced Shaed as a band?

Chelsea: I think we all love the same kind of music which is nice. Radiohead is a collective favorite of ours. We really love Kid A. That kind of influenced a lot of our synths and sounds. We’re always trying to listen to new music. Right now we’re really into SZA like everybody else in the world. Xavier Omar, we’re really into R&B style right now. It just depends on what we’re liking at the moment which is nice.

“We’re just trying to write good songs. At the end of the day, that’s what really matters.


Andy: Any other mediums that inspire Shaed?

Max: Yeah, absolutely. We try to read a lot of books. The name Shaed came from this novel we all fell in love with called “The Name of The Wind.” That spelling of the word was found in the novel. That’s one of our favorite fantasy novels. We try to do a walk or hike every day. We’ve got a creek in the neighborhood that we live in so we try to get down there once a day and be in nature which is very inspiring.

Andy: How about live? Has touring and being on the road changed the dynamic of the band at all?

Max: Yeah, I guess the biggest thing when you’re on the road is how we write music. When we’re home we can do it all together and make music in a really authentic way. When you’re on the road, you really have to find time to set up and work. My brother and I create a lot of sounds when we’re on the road. That’s probably the biggest thing, is our creative process when we’re on the road.

Andy: Is there a certain direction you guys feel the project moving in as opposed to how you felt when it first started?

Spencer: Honestly, not really. We’re happy with how it’s gone, and we’re just trying to write good songs. At the end of the day, that’s what really matters.


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