Q&A: The Shades

Only two years of writing songs together and the trio behind The Shades have already established an impressive musical resume. Their song “Take You Home” has been featured in American Songwriter Magazine and was chosen as one of ten finalists in NewSong Music’s International Songwriting Competition. They’ve performed on local morning shows such as WGN and have even gained national recognition when vocalist Andrew DeMuro was selected as a member of Adam Levine’s team on the eleventh season of NBC’s “The Voice”.

Now, after spending time perfecting their acoustic pop sound built on 3-part vocal harmonies and rhythmic guitar lines, The Shades will be able to add an official release to their list of accomplishments with their debut EP out Thursday, October 5th after their release show at The Elbo Room.

LLL: How does it feel being only days away from your debut EP release?

Phil Jacobson: It’s crazy that we’re finally getting to share this project. It’s only six songs but when you’re doing everything DIY, you really have to be patient and do it the right way.

Andrew DeMuro: It was actually right around December 2015 when this whole process started happening. At the time, we had been a band for almost a year. I mean, we’ve known each other for 10 years. Well, they’ve known each other for even longer than that because they have the same mom and dad, but we met in college in Miami about ten years ago. We were playing live around the city and people would always ask us “Where can we find your music online?” and at that point [our] Fiat video was the only professional looking material we had. It was an exciting concept for us when our friend Michael came out and on a whim was like “Let’s record all of these songs that you spent the last couple months writing.” At the time they were new songs and now they’re really polished. The album is called Miles Made of Inches [because] there are several milestones that made up the culminating release of this record. I think the coolest one of all is about every piece of this record, like 98 percent, was recorded in living rooms around the country. Not in a professional studio per say or with the most incredible equipment, but it captures a sound that we’ve worked really hard to develop. It started in my living room in Chicago. Then the acoustic guitar and vocal tracks got sent to New York, LA and to Miami. All of our musician friends and connections that we had made in college that had moved out to different places have a presence on this record.

LLL: There’s a special reason you’ve decided to hold your release at The Elbo Room. Can you explain what that is?

Mark Jacobson: We’re excited to have our official album show at The Elbo Room, specifically because we hold it in a high regard. We kind of view it as a bit of a homecoming show. We use to play there once a month. We started this thing called The New Month Party. It was an acoustic show. It got really sloppy, but it was a blast every single month. That’s just kind of how we formed our sound and our stage act. Our friends would come out, but we really started building an audience through that.

AD: It was the first place in Chicago to give us a residency and give us a chance.

LLL: Of the six songs on the EP are there any that have a special meaning or story?

MJ: They each kind of have their own backstory. Our most recent release is called “Only For A Moment” and that one came about [when] we were kind of being beaten down at work and frustrated that it was starting to get cold, so we wrote more or less a summer anthem that’s about that fleeting summer feeling; that it’s there and then it’s gone and then you’re really angry that it’s gone because it’s so cold here. We grew up here, but after spending four or in Phil’s case, eight years down in Florida, we were just bitter about how cold it was.

AD: I like that song too because 3-part harmonies are what we do, but that’s the only song on the record, “Only For A Moment” where each of us has a lead vocal and a verse. The reason why we all sing is because we’re all good at singing, but the reason why we each have a lead vocal in that song is because we actually sat in a room and each wrote a verse at the same time and then shared it with each other and realized that it kind of reflected our personalities. The opening verse is the optimism of it being summer and the sun is out for a long time and you can be outside in shorts and it feels great. Then in the winter you just feel so chained up and there’s this pessimism about it feeling like it’s going to last forever. It’s dark when you leave in the morning and it’s dark when you go home and it seems like there’s no end in sight. Then at the end, the last verse is this kind of realization of [how] sometimes things need to get worse before they get better.

LLL: A lot of bands rely on lead singers or instrumentalists to do a majority of the songwriting, but with The Shades, each member has equal vocal and instrumental parts. How does that influence your songwriting? 

MJ: I think it makes it very democratic and collaborative. One of us will have an idea and we’ll just kind of snowball and play around with it as a group.

AD: It forces us to work together because even if I have an idea that I think is good, I know I’m going to need them to sing on it so I have to sell it to them. That involves getting input from other people and that involves tweaking ideas that you thought you had on lock because it takes three to make our sound. I prefer writing in a group, or at least taking ideas and fleshing them out in a group, because you always end of with something beyond what you thought was there.

LLL: How have you guys evolved as musicians since becoming a band?

MJ: We continue to get more in tune with each other. You can kind of see a glimmer in Andrew’s eye when he gets an idea. He’ll just start smiling, but now we know where to jump in and can sense each other’s movements and anticipate things on stage. Or even when we’re writing, we can kind of see where someone is headed with an idea and beat them to the finish line with more ideas.

PJ: I wish we would have been able to record more songs because by the time we got to the sixth tune, we got a nice timing down and things were really flowing and I was like, “Man, I wish we had a couple more.” We’ve each had individual recording experiences before but that was our first time as a group trying to put together a set of recordings. I feel like singing with both of them has made me a better singer individually as well by just listening to each of their voices. I don’t know if you guys feel the same way.

AD: No. We don’t.

PJ: Well I figured you didn’t.

AD: We also all teach kids in some capacity and I would say our etiquette has evolved in some ways, just as bandmates and in the way we care for each other because we have to hold ourselves accountable to the standards that we teach.

MJ: The sixth grade kids that we started teaching are now in eighth grade and they might be the most excited people to hear this record because we’ve been talking about it for two years.

AD: Them and our moms.

LLL: With the official release of your debut EP only days away, do you have any future projects underway? Maybe a music video or tour?

PJ: We do have a music video coming out for “Only For A Moment”. I don’t want to give away exactly what happens within the video, but we spent a couple of days out in New Jersey shooting and I think it’s going to be really cool.

AD: It should be coming out pretty close in conjunction with the record. Ideally, we’d like it out a little bit before, but I don’t know if that’s going to be the case. It’ll be out very soon after.

PJ: We’re also looking to continue to build our regional act and following. We played along the East Coast because that’s where Andrew’s from, but we haven’t really ventured west too much. That’s something I’d like to do. And maybe into the south, like Nashville and Texas.

The Shades’ next performance will be on Thursday, October 5th at The Elbo Room. The night will also include a performance by Shiny Penny.

Photo Credit: Melissa ‘Missi’ Jacobson

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