SHEL are a perfectly and beautifully confusing intersection of classical, modern, and post-modern… SHEL are four Nashville-based sisters who grew up on an abandoned-trailer-park-converted-farm in Colorado, studying classical music, loving the best pop singing/songwriting of the 1960s, and embracing contemporary electronic modes of musical production (in addition to beatboxing). Last week SHEL released their second full-length, Just Crazy Enough, which is equal parts John Lennon, PJ Harvey, Jewel, and Haim, with alt-pop production… The album was actually co-produced by the Eurythmics’ Dave Stewart, who helps to highlight the spectrum of the girls’ musical interests and competencies beyond the easily categorizable “indie folk pop” of so many of their peers. (The album even includes a brilliantly delectable, part-ethereal-wave-part-baroque-pop, cover of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman.”) SHEL are currently on a tour that will take them through most of the summer, which includes a stop on June 15th at World Café Live at the Queen in Wilmington. The band recently took a few minutes to tell me about their latest release and what’s on their minds at the moment.
Izzy: So I realize this is a bit cheesy, but I always have to ask it to bands for whom it applies: Considering that you’re a sister act, I’m curious if you have any particular favorite “sister acts,” whether past or contemporary?
SHEL: Strangely, we were more fascinated by brother acts. The whole band had an obsession with The Marx Brothers growing up, and these days we listen to a fair amount of The Everly Brothers.
Izzy: I’m curious how you think your new album, Just Crazy Enough, compares to your debut full-length, both in terms of the sound and the process of writing and recording. Were you trying anything new on this one, or did it just feel like a natural evolution? Do you feel like a significantly different band than that which recorded your debut?
SHEL: I think it’s only natural for a band to evolve. Our goal as creatives is to stretch our abilities and invent something exciting for ourselves and our audience, so we’re always trying new things. This album was significantly different because we had the opportunity to collaborate with Dave Stewart, which opened a portal to fresh inspiration.
Izzy: What would you consider to be the most significant influences behind Just Crazy Enough, whether musical or otherwise?
SHEL: Thematically, the challenges and questions of existence in the real world and in your own head. Musically, the innovative and imaginative bands of the ‘60s and ‘70s, as well as 1800th century classical and romantic composers.
Izzy: “I Know” is one of my favorite songs of the year (Not nearly as good as Fiona’s song of the same name, but very few songs ever written are, haha.) Anyway, how did that particular track come about?
SHEL: It has a history of reinvention actually. I think the programming Dave’s engineer, Ned Douglas, did made it one of my favorite tracks as well.
Izzy: I really like your cover of “Enter Sandman.” I really like when an artist can appropriate a song from a completely different genre and not only make it sound good, but not make it sound ridiculously novel. So I’d love to know if you have any particular favorite covers from music history.
SHEL: Probably Led Zeppelin’s reinvention of Kansas Joe McCoy and Memphis Minnie’s “When the Levee Breaks.”
Izzy: I really love your own personal style/s. What is it that inspires the visual elements of SHEL? Do you have any favorite “style icons?”
SHEL: A mash of thrift and vintage finds inspired by Edwardian children’s stories and androgynous women’s ware. Probably Harpo Marx, The Beatles, Bob Dylan, and Audrey Hepburn.
Izzy: You have a ton of upcoming live shows. Are there any cities you’re especially excited to visit?
SHEL: Most of them actually. It’s inspiring and exciting to set foot in a new atmosphere and community.
Izzy: And what can be expected of the live shows on these upcoming dates?
SHEL: We try to create a listening experience that carries people away into our world. It’s dark and strange at times, full of questions, but ultimately it’s a journey of overcoming and finding hope. The sound is very musical, we create an intricate arrangement underneath every song using mandolin, violin, beatboxing, piano, guitar, drums, etc. along with four part harmony.
Izzy: Finally, what are you planning for the second half of 2016, after these dates wrap? Anything you’re especially excited for?
SHEL: Well, we film, direct, and edit our own music videos, so we’ll be busy location hunting and filming for the remainder of the songs on the album in our spare time as we travel. And of course we’re very excited to come home and spend some time with our family and friends.