NoCo’s break-out indie-folk sister-band recently returned home from Nashville.
With a whirlwind schedule of writing, filming, recording and touring, we love when this foursome comes home to roost. SHEL (named for sisters Sarah, Hannah, Eva and Liza Holbrook), paid a visit this spring to the newly renovated Washington’s to play for an adoring group of local fans, from sign-toting grade-schoolers to young-at-heart seniors. We caught up with the band’s most senior members, Hannah and Eva, over coffee to discuss issues ranging from mining creativity to the separation of music and #MeToo to the possibility of someday trading a mandolin for a garden spade.
When you’re writing and playing music, do you have a creative need you’re satisfying, or are you catering more to your audience?
Hannah: I think it’s a bit of both. There’s a feeling that I’m going for, and trying to communicate. Sometimes I’m writing a song that’s therapeutic, and I need to express an idea or tell a story, and sometimes I’m thinking about the audience and what I want them to feel. It sounds kind of selfish—This is what I want you to feel! Ultimately I want inspiration to flow through me when I’m on stage, and for the people that come to the show to take that inspiration home with them.
Where do you find the creativity to evolve?
Hannah: We all have a lot of different influences. Liza is really into techno music, for instance, and I have more of a classical background.
Eva: I think what you create has to do with whatever you’ve ingested. Like, if you’ve listened to Queen, you’re going to have an ear for harmonies; if you’re listening to Supertramp, you’re going to have a bizarre ear for arrangement.
Every member of SHEL is involved in more than just making music, right?
Eva: We own this business together. There are a lot of hats that you want to wear when you want to do business that way. Someday we’d be excited to expand to a larger team, but they’d have to share our dream, and not the other way around.
Hannah: And they have to have the same kind of vision. In this industry there are giants that we’ve worked with, record labels and bigger management and booking agencies that have made a lot of promises and nothing really happened, because they weren’t our champions. The smaller businesses are the ones that have stuck with us and helped us develop.
A lot of artists nowadays are using their influence in the political arena, like with causes such as #MeToo. Is that something you see yourselves diving into?
Eva: These are huge issues and they’re important to us, but we’ve noticed that the solutions are so hyper personal. Sometimes when you use your larger platform, you can take away the opportunity to have a one-on-one conversation with someone to understand why they believe what they believe. It’s so inflammatory at this point, you don’t want something you say to be taken out of context. We don’t usually dive very deep into that because we don’t want to ruin an opportunity to have a conversation with somebody.
If you weren’t playing music for a living, what else do you think you’d be doing?
Eva: Have a family and a farm, something really ordinary, probably.
Hannah: I would get into some sort of nutrition and exercise thing. I’ve always been interested in how diet affects your health. I love that Eva wants to have a farm; then we can grow our own nutritious food!