Things to Do

Silver Spring Band SHAED Talks About Its Big Breakthrough

After scoring with an Apple ad and radio hit, the trio is headlining the 9:30 Club

Photograph by Shervin Lainez.

DC electro-pop trio SHAED is ready for its homecoming. The band has been gaining momentum all summer: After being featured in an Apple commercial, its hypnotic song “Trampoline” hit the top spot on Billboard’s alternative chart in June and cracked the top 40 on the Hot 100, both firsts for the group.

The band has been working towards this breakthrough for a long time. Made up of vocalist Chelsea Lee and twin brothers Spencer and Max Ernst–Lee and Spencer are also married–the group has been friends since high school. This year, it earned a slew of major festival slots and took its first trip to Japan. Now, on October 10, it’s playing its first headlining show at 9:30 Club. Ahead of this hometown show, we met up with the band at the house they share in Silver Spring to talk about “Trampoline,” their upcoming album, and the DC pop scene.

You all met in high school, right? When did you decide to give SHAED a go?

Max: Chelsea was a solo artist, and then she started guest-singing on some of our songs; we were in a more folk, Americana-type configuration. And then Chelsea started singing at shows with us and it kind of evolved. Her influence of, like, ’80s [music] got in there, and my brother and I were doing our own productions. We were quickly moving into this more synth-driven, electronic-leaning, alternative pop thing. We had a bunch of new songs and we’re like, “Let’s start something fresh.” That was three years ago.

How did “Trampoline” come together?

Spencer: We had just moved into this house. This was like two years ago. [Chelsea’s] an incredible cook, so we’ll start every day with an awesome breakfast when we’re home. So we’d just had a great breakfast and went in the studio and we have a couple vintage keyboards. We created the synth line in the song that kind of drives the song and we started passing around a microphone and just wrote a melody to that. The song evolved super quick. We went outside and wrote the lyrics. It was fall, so the leaves were falling and the vibe definitely influenced the lyric. And then, the first lyric in the song is, “I’ve been having dreams, jumping on a trampoline,” and there’s a home video of Max and I as kids jumping on a trampoline. It has a dreamlike quality to it. That’s where the inspiration for the first line of the song came from. The majority of the vocals and a lot of the instrumentation was done in, like, a day.

Max: We spent months figuring out the production. The verse kind of stayed with our production, but we sent the session over to this producer in New York, Alex Mendoza. We finally came up with something that we were happy with. It came out and then a few months later Apple reached out to us. It was this whole thing where we were super excited, and then we didn’t hear from them for another couple months. And so we’re like, “Well, cool, we’re on their radar.” And then one night we just get a contract from them, like, “Hey, we want to use your song, but we’re not gonna tell you what it’s for or anything.”

Lee: They had the big unveiling for the MacBook Air–well, all the products, actually. We’re just, like, [watching the event] on our phones and we’re driving home and Tim Cook is doing this whole intro. And the curtains go, and it starts playing the ad, and I was like, “Oh my God! That’s it!” It was like, “Pull over, pull over!”

What has it been like to see the reaction to the song?

Lee: It’s just been crazy. I mean, especially because it’s doing well on radio, we’ll be in the car and it’ll come on and we’ll be like [gasp]. I went to the grocery store the other day and it came on. It’s just cool that radio stations that we grew up with are playing it.

Max: We were able to play Lollapalooza this summer and all these really big festivals, and we’ll be playing a show and we’ll see people in the crowd singing some of our songs, which is amazing. And then when “Trampoline” comes on, there’s a moment of recognition for some people that didn’t even realize it was us, but then everyone has their phones out and you see the whole sea of people at some shows singing your song, which is just, like–it’s freakin’ awesome.

You’re working on a full-length record now, right?

Lee: Yes, we are. We haven’t gotten much time to sit down and finish it up, so we’re spending November, December, and January doing that.

What’s the process been like so far?

Max: It’s mostly just been trying to write stuff on the road because since the Apple commercial and everything we’ve been gone probably over 80 percent of the time. If we have an off day at an Airbnb we’ll try to write. But we’re looking forward to being in one place for a little bit. 

Does living together have an impact on your creative process?

Lee: One billion percent. I mean, previously, we were living in different spots and sending stuff in emails and in texts, and they would send me tracks and I would give melodies, and it’d just be back and forth. But now it’s like, “Okay, we’re here.” We can write music whenever we want. It definitely helps us. It’s so nice to be able to live together. We just cook and hang out and work on music.

Max: We’ve never gotten a noise complaint out here.

Lee: And we blast [music] all the time.

What are your thoughts on the DC pop scene? Is it easy to find like-minded people making the kind of music you all are?

Max: When we were kind of coming up before SHAED, and building a name for ourselves, there were tons of bands that we were able to play shows with and there were a lot supportive outlets, too, for us to kind of grow a following here.

Lee: Yeah, DC fans are just super supportive. They really come out to shows and they’re, like, super stoked for shows. DC can really get loud and really have a fun time.

 

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Nathan Diller
Editorial Fellow