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Photos: Catie Laffoon

SHAED Creates Colorful Music That Moves

SHAED, though only a year old, already has a compelling story to tell. The band has a vibrant sound that sticks – one formed not just through talent, but through deep comradery.

“We’re all best friends,” says Max Ernst, one of the band’s multi-instrumentalists. “Our strong connection to each other shapes our music.”

Their friendship is deep-rooted. The group, also made up of vocalist Chelsea Lee and instrumentalist Spencer Ernst, Max’s twin brother, has written music together since high school.

“Chelsea heard about a band Spencer and I played with, and came to one of our shows to check us out,” Max says. “She introduced herself, and the rest was history.”

So, why SHAED? (Pronounced “shade”).

The name comes from Patrick Rothfuss’ The Name of the Wind, a fantasy novel they read when first forming the band. “Shaed” is a magical cloak that contrasts shadow and light – a difference they aim to create in their music.

The group also loves the word’s literal meaning. Shade, though usually in reference to color, also describes nuances in sound. It’s where their tagline, “Colorful music,” comes from.

“We want every song to be a different shade,” Spencer says.

Fans have described SHAED as “psychedelic city pop,” according to the Ernst brothers. It’s true they’ve got a certain ambient, pop-like feel to them. Lee, the band’s frontwoman, also adds a hint of rhythm and blues. Her voice is smooth and soulful, an uncommon balance that defines the band’s sound.

Take “Perfume,” for example. The song opens with a steady beat on drums and keyboard, overlaid with a bright, four-note melody that’s constant throughout the song. Lee’s bluesy voice contrasts the song’s pop-like feel, creating a melded style that’s 100 percent unique to SHAED.

What really sets the band apart, though, isn’t their sound. It’s how they create it. SHAED is collaborative to the extreme – a byproduct of their close friendship. This translates to an authentically creative approach to their songwriting.

“It’s important for our music that we try things different ways,” Spencer says.

They’ve composed in unconventional places (like the desert), taken turns singing during rehearsal and even used Snapchat as a composition tool. Listening to the band talk about their rehearsal process, it’s clear they get just as much joy out of writing songs as they do performing them.

“We have a great time working together,” Spencer says. “We inspire each other.”

The band is currently on tour with Bishop Briggs, the Los Angeles-based British singer-songwriter, through the end of the summer. And they’ve got a major stop on the East Coast that’s definitely worth marking on your calendar: Firefly Music Festival in Dover, Del. The four-day event runs June 15-18, and features over 140 bands on nine different stages. Other acts include Franz Ferdinand, Muse, OK Go and Weezer, to name a few.

SHAED admits they’re a little bummed they don’t get to perform in DC proper this summer, though. As locals, they’ve got a real affection for the city’s music scene.

“DC has a really eclectic range of music,” Spencer says. “You don’t have to play a certain genre to fit in. People are also really receptive, which isn’t easy to find.”

The group is hard at work on some new songs, which they’ll feature on their first full-length album. No release date yet, though they advise to stay tuned.

So, what is SHEAD all about? They’re about friendship and collaboration. And they’re also about creating music that’s fun and uplifting.

“We want people to dance and move around,” Lee says.

Most of all, though, they’re about moving people. SHAED writes songs that are deeply emotional, yet easily relatable.

“That’s really what we’re trying to do – to make people feel something,” Spencer says. “We just want to put out good music, and hopefully move people while we’re doing it.”

Learn more about SHAED at

Firefly Music Festival: The Woodlands of Dover, DE;


Jamie McCrary

Jamie McCrary is a writer, musician, and educator currently based in Washington, DC. As a journalist, she’s covered everything from science policy to statistics—though the arts is her specialty. She is currently Communications Coordinator for American University’s Kogod School of Business, where she writes articles to promote the school’s faculty, students and events. Ms. McCrary is published in NEA Arts Magazine, Connections Magazine, and Eat-Drink-Lucky. She holds a B.M. in viola performance and also maintains an active performing and teaching career. Learn more at