After years of honing down their sound, The Shacks had a fateful year that led to their debut LP Haze. Blending their wonderfully retro influences into magical songs that feel just as modern as they sound ripped from the past. We caught up with the band to talk about Haze, their Apple ad and how they’ve grown since their album’s come out.
Northern Transmissions: You’ve been kicking around as a band in some capacity since 2014 so what made you decide to hold off your debut until now?
Shannon Wise: It wasn’t intentional, things just happen like that and it takes longer than you think. We wanted to take a while to get it right, but we’re glad it’s finally out.
Max Shrager: Each year we said it was coming out in April, and then four Aprils passed since it just wasn’t the right time. We were honing things during that time and we were definitely honing the live act while recording music. This year felt like the right time and things really lined up so we just went for it.
NT: What did Leon Michels bring to the table as a producer for Haze?
MS: There wasn’t so much a philosophical reason, but just when we had first started, I was working with Leon on several projects playing guitar as a session player. We ended up bringing Shannon into the fold since he was looking for a singer on a couple tracks, and then after she sang on that her and I produced some stuff together until the project came together. He produced some songs, I produced some songs and we co-produced some together. He definitely brought a lot of personality into it, because we were more of a studio project before but now we’re a full band. This said, Haze definitely feels like more of a studio album.
NT: You’ve referred to Haze in the past tense a lot, so where exactly is your next album going and do you feel like Haze was a process of getting it out of your system?
SW: We’ve grown up a little, and our music has grown up a little. One of the songs on Haze is the first song we wrote together, and I really like it because it’s the beginning of my growth as a writer. Our music is definitely different now, it’s older but it’s still us.
MS: It’s not necessarily dramatically different, it’s just more live-oriented. It’s also becoming a lot more psychedelic. There’s been a lot of self-reflection over the years on how to change ourselves.
SW: Our music is very based on our lives, and we were 16 and 17 when we started working together. Now we’re 20 and 21 so I think that it’s natural for things to be different.
MS: One of the things I love about bands is how they change and mature over the years, which you can see in the music. Our new music is really focused, and we’ve also stretched things out a little bit which we’re doing in the live shows as well. Some of the new music we worked on this past summer, when I listen back to them I wonder where they came from. This one song I wrote “Sunday” I think of like a child because it’s a perfect expression of myself.
NT: What led to your new version of “Audrey” and what did you want to change about it?
MS: You play songs from a record, and the energy changes as you play them live. You try to keep them fresh, which can be a challenge sometimes. With “Audrey” it was slower and more orchestral on the record, but we made it funkier live. We tried to replicate that on the new record to make it a single. We reworked and tracked it with a 12-string to give it a folk sound. You want to move forward and change things, so we’ll be looking to do that with another song.
NT: It’s interesting how many people heard of you through that Apple ad, so how did that come about and what side effects did it have?
SW: A lot of people heard that song through the commercial which is great. Maybe a lot of people hadn’t seen us or didn’t know us. It was cool though because we were on this tour last fall and when we would play that song you would see people in the crowd connecting with it. People would whip their phones out and take videos. It was good though because it definitely got people to notice us and recognize our work. The only thing is that it’s not our song, so it can be a little weird.
MS: Yeah, I mean it’s a cover of a Kinks song, but whatever because if you look at the Rolling Stones’ first records, they’re all covers. There’s no shame in doing covers that become popular, though it can be a little weird at first. Corporations definitely have power in our world, so it’s kind of a necessary evil to get your music out there. You can tell Apple is spying on the up and coming music in the scene, because we didn’t have that many followers online at the time but they found us. We’re flattered it was definitely a vote of confidence.
NT: Max I know back when you started with Big Crown you had an EP out, so do you see yourself going back to that?
MS: My EP was definitely a compilation of what I did in high school, because I would just record my own stuff before I met Shannon. There was stuff in there that I had always wanted to put out, so Leon and I thought it would be good to put it out before the shacks material so I could move onto the next phase. I don’t think I’ll do more solo stuff because I’m focused on The Shacks now.
SW: I think what’s also cool about our band is that I have my own style of writing, and so do Ben and Max. The combination of all those styles always turns out to be cool.
MS: I don’t know how bands do it with one songwriter, that’s crazy to me. We all contribute our own ideas so it’s crazy that one person could do all that.
Words by Owen Maxwell