Fast-emerging indie electro-pop trio SHAED’s innate musical chemistry comes from a fascinating family dynamic. Lead vocalist Chelsea Lee, Spencer Ernst and Max Ernst share a rambler ranch house with a home studio in their hometown of Silver Spring, Maryland that they moved into in 2017. Spencer and Max, who each play keys, drums and guitars and contribute vocals, are twin brothers. Chelsea and Spencer got married in October 2018. SHAED is currently riding high on the explosive success of “Trampoline,” the first single from their second EP Melt, that was released last September.
Though the track was originally released last May, its inclusion in Apple’s global MacBook Air commercial that debuted at the end of October has set its streaming and chart numbers soaring. A press release in November mentions 1.6 Spotify streams. It now has close to 54 million, along with nearly two million YouTube views. Impressively, “Trampoline” has now reached Top 5 on Billboard’s Rock Airplay and Alternative Songs charts. The trio paved the way for all this with their 2016 debut EP Just Wanna See, whose single “Name on It” was later the featured track for a Victoria’s Secret commercial.
With a live show that continues to get tighter and more powerful, SHAED has also toured and shared stages with the likes of Bishop Briggs, Marian Hill, Charli XCX, St. Lucia, X Ambassadors, VERITE, Jacob Bank, Sir Sly and more. Their sound is anchored by Chelsea’s soulful vocals and intensely infectious melodies, while the super-versatile Spencer and Max alternate between keyboards, electric guitar, percussion and bass to recreate the unique production of the band’s recordings.
“The three of us had all been really excited about the way our careers were going,” Chelsea says, “but the Apple ad catapulted everything for us to a whole new level in record time. The song came about in a pretty cool, unexpected way. We had been in the studio, working on beats and pieces of a melody for a song that basically had no title. We often write songs in stages. Then one night, we were watching a cool, grainy video of Spencer and Max jumping on a trampoline around age four. Because of the ancient style of the footage, it’s very dreamlike. One of us just started singing, ‘I’ve been havin’ dreams/jumpin’ on a trampoline’ and we looked at each other like, ‘That’s it,’ that’s the song.
“Having a whole back room of the house as a studio is amazing because we can quickly translate that spontaneous energy into something we can record,” she adds. “It didn’t take long to get in there and continue working on the tune until we felt like we had something meaningful. As it developed, the song became about a girl trapped in a nightmare, experiencing a deep moment of dread and loss. It’s interesting how a piece of family nostalgia could lead us there, but that’s common with the three of us. Sometimes, we start our writing sessions acoustically, other times we do the beats first work the melodies and lyrics around them. The fun, unexpected part comes when we toss in some unexpected instrumental touches like the whistle in ‘Trampoline.’ We just let these connective moments take us where we need to go.”
Here’s the video of SHAED’s hit, “Trampoline.”
The concept of Melt relates perfectly to the way the band—and the trio’s personal relationships—have evolved. Max and Spencer formed a band in middle school that played around the Washington, DC area. Then in high school, they formed a pop duo called Trust Fall and began touring. During this time, they met Chelsea, who began dating Spencer in 2009 and signed as a solo artist with Atlantic Records. While attending the University of Maryland, the twins formed an Americana/acoustic roots rock band called The Walking Sticks. When Chelsea’s contract with Atlantic ended, she joined that group and was featured on their second EP, Send the Night.
Chelsea’s influence led them to shift from folk/rock to more of a dream-pop aesthetic, and in early 2016, they changed their name to SHAED to reflect these new sensibilities. The word is a reference to a fictional cloak woven out of a shadow. They signed with Photo Finish Records that year and released their EP, Just Wanna See. With twins and a romantic couple dynamic, the trio was always uniquely close, but their personal and musical bonds deepened once they moved into the house together in Silver Spring.
After months of touring the country, pinging between venues and vans and Airbnbs, the group found peace and creative rebirth in their new surroundings. This is where the EP Melt came to fruition and their previous lives of day jobs and exchanging song files across longer distances literally melted away. The studio they work in looks out at a big, lush backyard and Chelsea says the calmness of nature just beyond the windows helps fuel their creativity and ultimately, the group’s evolving vision.
“It’s like Spencer once said,” Chelsea says. “For the first time, we had the opportunity to wake up every day and make music together without time or space limitations. That changed everything. The same way we evolved from the American vibe to what we do now, our music from song to song can be very different, and that’s part of what excites us as well—just the opportunity to pursue music on our own terms, even if it varies from track to track and our next EP, which we are currently gathering songs for, is a bit different from the last. That’s what I tell aspiring songwriters, too. Don’t be afraid to be a little eclectic, and please don’t worry about conforming to fit other’s needs and expectations. Just write what you love, and chances are, a lot of other people will love it, too.”