The group’s electro-pop fusion brings to mind acts like Churches, Wet and Purity Ring -- but they cover Drake’s “With You” live, and singer Chelsea Lee’s voice has a soulfulness and belt-ability that would stand out in any genre.
Despite the rocket ride of the past five months, it’s not as if Shaed came out of nowhere. Lee met instrumentalists/twin brothers Max and Spencer Ernst at Washington D.C.’s 9:30 club when all three were in high school. The twins, encouraged by their singer-songwriter mom, formed their first band in first grade (“We were writing songs on the piano for Santa Claus at the time, so that should give you an idea,” Max laughs) and continued playing over the years, gradually coalescing into a band called the Walking Sticks, which Lee joined in 2013. The group released an EP called Dream Pop (again, which should give you an idea of their sound) but, as Lee says, “We posted our first song as Shaed on SoundCloud in March and everything just blew up from there.” The song quickly clocked a couple of hundred thousand plays and was discovered by Photo Finish founder Matt Galle, who is also a senior agent at Paradigm (where he works with Shawn Mendes, Halsey, Andy Grammer, Fun., T-Pain and others).
“I just stumbled across them on SoundCloud,” he recalls, “I think it was one of those songs that just starts playing after you’ve been listening to another song. I thought they had a unique sound and I liked their songwriting, so I got them a show at [New York’s] Mercury Lounge and I thought they were amazing. The next day we talked about our vision and how to execute it, and we did a deal pretty quickly.”
The June deal came at an auspicious time for Photo Finish -- whose roster also includes the Mowglis, MisterWives and Handsome Ghost -- which is not only celebrating its 10th anniversary, but has taken itself independent after a pair of major-label deals and a distribution deal with Caroline the month before. (The six-person label’s biggest success to date came with 3OH!3, who scored a pair of top 10 Hot 100 hits in 2009 and 2010 with “Don’t Trust Me” and “My First Kiss” -- “We’re kind of a boutique label, but we swing for the fences,” Galle says.)
The plan is to keep the group on the road and keep releasing material. “They’re able to record on the road so they’re continually working on new music, so maybe we’ll put out a new body of work in the spring.” In the meantime the group plans to stay on the road. “Seeing them live is what really sells them,” Galle says, “so we really want to get them in front of people.”
It’s a goal the tight-knit unit shares. “We’re super close,” says Max, who cites Tame Impala, Sylvan Esso, Jungle, Mac DeMarco and Flume as current acts the three admire. “Obviously we’re twin brothers and Chelsea is our closest friend, and we spend about 99 percent of our time together, so the music comes pretty naturally and we all feel comfortable expressing our ideas.”