We introduced you to SHEL the other day – a band with a style that’s hard to put your finger on – part Americana, part Electro, and parts Rock and Pop. Definitely Indie. We had the opportunity to see sisters Sarah, Hannah, Eva and Liza Holbrook perform the other night at The Hospital Club, an exciting hub of creativity in London’s Covent Garden. SHEL were introduced by their co-manager Dave Stewart, and then proceeded to lead us through a fantastic evening of modern and traditional instruments, accompanied by gorgeous ethereal sibling harmonies. Although SHEL hadn’t long arrived in London from their home in the United States, they showed no sign of jet lag and held the audience in their collective palms. A showcase of their considerable collective musical talents (including Liza beatboxing on their latest single, ‘You Could Be My Baby’), SHEL definitely won us all over – a gathering of press and Hospital Club members.
We had the extreme pleasure to interview the Holbrook sisters after the gig. Here’s how it went down…
EP: What’s the SHEL story…in a NUTSHEL…
SHEL: (Sarah) Haha SHEL with one ‘L’! Well we’re sisters and we grew up playing to music together, Hannah who is the H of SHEL started on the piano when she was 10, and then the next year Eva, and myself, I’m Sarah, and Liza started playing music as well, and you know, the rest is history!
EP: So you’ve been home-educated, and your parents are hippies – your Mom’s an artist and your Dad’s a singer – what does he sing, what’s his genre? Is he folky?
SHEL: He goes down the Americana genre.
EP: So it was an easy move to Nashville really because you’ve got that background…
SHEL: And we visited Nashville a lot over the years, so it seemed like the natural place for us. Our whole team is there, apart from Dave, who’s in LA, so it seemed like the natural place for us to be.
EP: We asked Dave for a selfie earlier!
SHEL: Did you get it?
EP: YESS! I was a bit fangirly – “OMG IT’S DAVE STEWART”! But he was great, very obliging. How did you find Dave? Or did he find you?
SHEL: Our manager Dianna Maher is good friends with Dave’s publicist, and I think she came to one of our shows, and saw we had a sort of circus thing going, and she said, “Oh you really need to see Dave”, so she introduced our music to him, and he really liked it so we started collaborating, and he co-manages us with Dianna.
EP: That’s really cool – it’s the area he’s going into these days, mentoring new artists. We’ve interviewed some of his other acts, and it’s great to see.
SHEL: Yeah! Dave’s really interested in the younger generation of musicians, seeing a lot of potential.
EP: Putting back into music – everyone should do that. If you get something out of something you should equally put back in. OKAY! Your classical training is really evident – what genre do you feel you fit into? Do you have a genre?
SHEL: (Sarah) What do you think Eva?
Eva: You know, we usually let people say what it is. People say all kinds of different things…but I would say it’s umm…
Sarah: Electronic Americana!
Eva: Nooo! Indie Folk?
Hannah: Indie Pop?
Sarah: We were Americana until we started working with Dave, now we’re heading down a more Rock, maybe Pop…Indie Pop is where we’re going.
EP: There’s a real rise in Americana at the moment! We keep getting bands coming to us who play Americana…not just the US, but the UK, Ireland…
SHEL: I think it’s more an open genre. You have pop that’s just pop, and you have electronica, then you have Americana that embraces a lot of stuff, so that’s where we’ve found the most support is, in Americana. Like we do Americana in Nashville, and having the Americana music scene here in the UK accept us, it’s been a very open genre, and that’s why we like it.
EP: I’ve been immersing myself in your music – ‘Vinyl Memories’ – damn I love that video! Who’s responsible for that?
SHEL: Sarah and Eva!
EP: That is so cool! You have a particular interest in videography and photography – do you have a favourite camera?
SHEL: (Sarah) Any camera! I’ve never worked with film or anything, but all of ‘Vinyl Memories’ was shot on a Nikon D7000 with a 50mm lens. What was intriguing about that was we took over 10,000 photos here in Europe, and we lost 3,000 of them somewhere between Heathrow and Denver and Nashville, and so we had to re-create something…which is when Eva created ‘Vinyl Bug’…
Eva: He’s this little character, we had this idea of having lots of places in Europe in the video, then we lost half of our footage, so we had this little prop vinyl record player, so we added it to the footage, and ‘Bug’ kind of came to life, so we thought of a story line that would go along with it. So I told Sarah about it, and so the storyline became about this Bug…so we shot the rest of it in Nashville.
Sarah: Which is really cool, because when she told me about it, I didn’t really believe in it, I said, “you’ve got to be crazy but I’ll do it, even though I don’t know how it’s going to work” but the more that we did the more we realised what a fantastic idea it was, and we were actually able to, between the four of us, make it come to life. But – as far as our favourite camera? We don’t really have one. We use what we can afford at the time.
EP: You are very DIY aren’t you!
EP: I like DIY! What are your lyrical influences?
SHEL: (Eva) Literature. And The Beatles. I really like the concept of Rock Logic. There’s a point when your writing, whatever you’re writing, where you just feel a connect, almost like you reach a deeper vein of truth, which is underlying everything that we talk about, and things that we understand universally, there are a million ways to say those things, and Rock Logic to me is this wonderful secret world where you can go and you can express yourself with outrageous analogies, but they have meaning, but the meaning is so broad, they can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people. So, I love The Beatles, for that reason.
EP: Liza! Drumming! You started out on harp – but now you’re a drummer – how did you make that decision to go to drums?
SHEL: (Liza) When I was playing on the harp, if I wasn’t playing on the song, I’d get kind of bored, I was, you know, six or seven years old, so I’d start tapping on the soundboard of the harp, and this was noticed, and it was pointed out to my parents that I might be polyrhythmic, so maybe they should get me a drum. So they got me a hand drum, and I really loved playing it, and so they tried me out on a kit, and I was terrible at it! So uncoordinated, I was 8, and so I gave up, until I was about 13, and I started picking up forks and knives and anything I could find, and I was banging and tapping on everything, so I was like Mom and Dad please, I would really love a drum kit! I’m going to start working for it, and all that…and for my 13th birthday I got surprised by my friends and family with a drum kit. After that I was pretty much over the harp.
EP: How did you get your music featured in films and TV?
SHEL: That’s through our publishing company and our manager Dianna Maher. We have a part-venture with Network Music in Canada, they pitch our songs, and that’s how it works out.
EP: So you have how many albums out?
SHEL: We have our debut album out, ‘SHEL’, and we have another album coming out soon that we’ve been doing with Dave.
EP: Who gets on better with who?
SHEL: (Sarah) It depends. It cycles through. Right now it’s Eva and me, and Hannah and Liza, but usually it’s Liza and I are on pretty good terms because we’re the younger sisters, and the two older ones, but it just switches up depending on what’s going on. We also have an older sister and brother.
EP: What is one question that you wish that someone would ask you in an interview, but nobody ever does?
SHEL: That is a really good question!
EP: It’s my favourite!
SHEL: That’s the question we’d ask someone would ask! We’ve not ever thought about that!
EP: You have to prepare for that answer just in case someone asks you again!
SHEL: (Sarah) I like that you asked which siblings were on good terms, because we don’t get to talk about that much, and people kind of think that we’re always fighting.
EP: But look at you! We’ve seen you on stage! You obviously get on!
SHEL (Sarah): We really appreciate that you didn’t ask if we fought, because that’s our most asked question! You took it from a positive angle! It’s because you’re a Mom.
EP: Exactly! You all get on, you have to! Oh! I was going to say – sibling harmony – vocally – I was listening to how your voices fused together – when all four of you got up to sing – that was so beautiful. Also – listening to how Eva’s voice melded with Sarah’s violin – exactly the same pitch – how do you do that!
SHEL (Eva): Well, we stand next to each other, and if one of us is out of tune, we can spot that.
EP: Thank you so much for talking to us!
SHEL: Nooo thank you for writing about us!
SHEL will be performing on Monday 13 July at St Pancras Old Church, London, at 7pm. Tickets are available here.