Alt-Pop Trio SHAED on How They’ll Continue to Defy Gravity After ‘Trampoline’


“I've been havin' dreams,” vocalist Chelsea Lee growls on “Trampoline,” the lush electro-pop track that has become a cornerstone of sorts for Washington, D.C.-based trio Shaed. “Splashin' in a summer stream/ Trip and I fall in/ I wanted it to happen.”

This turned out to be a rather prophetic sentiment for Lee and brothers Max and Spencer Ernst, who make up the trio. After SHAED released their most recent EP Melt in September 2018 Photo Finish Records, "Trampoline" was chosen to be featured in a MacBook Air campaign, which was unveiled in October 2018. Apple has the power to put bands on the map — see: Marian Hill with “Down,” Cosmo Sheldrake with "Come Along" — and for SHAED, too, the switch was flipped.

“That was definitely a changing point for us,” Lee says.

Fast-forward to March 2019, when “Trampoline” has reached a peak of No. 3 on the Alternative Songs chart. It also continues to climb the Adult Top 40 chart, holding at No. 26 this week. Still, the band knows it’s not smooth sailing from here on out. “We’ve got to keep working and saying yes to things,” Lee says, “and getting out of our comfort zone.” For SHAED, that means touring and writing nonstop, in hopes of completing a full-length debut album in the next year.

SHAED stopped by the Billboard offices in New York City to discuss how “Trampoline” changed their worlds, while engaging in the sort of comical banter that one would expect from three best friends who are also related (Spencer and Max are twins, and Spencer and Chelsea are recently married). Below is a lightly edited account of our conversation.

Did you know “Trampoline” was going to be used for the MacBook Air campaign?

Chelsea Lee: We heard that [Apple] was interested in "Trampoline," but it was very secretive as to what it would be used for — like, when it was going to be released or whatever.

Spencer Ernst: Basically, four months after we heard from them, Chelsea and I were driving — Max wasn't with us at this point — and we were in the car, streaming the big premiere event in Brooklyn they do every year.

Chelsea: Tim Cook was like, "And the MacBook Air commercial!" You know, introducing it. And I looked at Spencer and was like, "Wouldn't it be so cool if 'Trampoline' was on this?" And then it comes on. I yelled, "OH MY GOD PULL OVER!" We were freaking out. Max was home and we just ran home and were jumping up and down all day. The whole day was spent screaming and calling all of our friends. The visibility with Apple is so huge and incredible, and people that wouldn't necessarily be able to hear our music were hearing it.

Max Ernst: It was just cool to see people in all these different countries listening to our music. The Shazam numbers were definitely pretty exciting. We were the second-most Shazam'd song in Japan for like two weeks during the commercial. That's led to a lot of international shows coming up in the future.

Where's the weirdest place you've ever heard “Trampoline” playing?

Max: I heard it in our local supermarket, and I went up to the cashier and I was like, "This is my song." He was like, "Yeah, I dig it too." I said, "No, this is my song." He didn't really know what I was talking about, but that was pretty cool. [Laughs.]

Spenceer: The song was in an NFL playoff game, which was pretty funny.

Max: We actually didn't see it — we were in Toronto at a bar — and then all of a sudden our phones just started blowing up because it was played right when it went to half time at the AMC/AFC championship game. It was a big game in the playoffs. We were really excited.

Have you found any kind of kinship among artists who have broken out similarly?

Chelsea: We’re friends with Marian Hill, and they had [their song “Down” featured in] the commercial for the AirPods, which was such an amazing commercial. I just remember looking at them when that commercial came out, like, that's just such a dream, we're never going to get that. And then we got it!

Did they give you any advice, having been through the same thing?

Chelsea: We've learned that you have to be prepared to stay humble and not be like, "I have the commercial, I can chill for a bit." You’ve just got to keep the momentum building.

Why do you think this song in particular resonates with people?

Max: Well, when we wrote the song, it was kind of like every other song we've written. We didn't realize it would have the impact that it [did].

Spencer: The process of actually writing the song was [that] we did it on this beautiful day, in the fall with the leaves falling down, and we were just in a really good mindset. For whatever reason, I think maybe that just came through in the song. But it’s honestly super surprising to us that this song has just blown up, because it's kind of one of our more —

Chelsea: — Left-of-center songs!

Spencer: At least that's what we thought going into it, and now, it's just kind of crazy to see how it's just continued to grow.

For me, it’s because of the whistling.

Max: It’s probably just the whistling. [All laugh.] The reason why the whistling was used in the track was because the verse was the first melody that stuck, and we were kind of walking around the house, thinking about lyrics and just whistling the song. Then we were like, "Let's just go and track the whistles and throw 'em in there and see how they stick.”

What are your favorite whistling songs?

[Max and Spencer start whistling the Andy Griffith Show theme]

Chelsea: Oh, my gosh. Andy Griffith? Nice. Nice.

Spencer: I mean, that's pretty much the only one besides "Trampoline." For one of the shows, we should just do a medley of whistles when the "Trampoline" whistles come [in].

Max: Oh, I got one. "Dock of the Bay." [Whistles outro.] By Otis Redding. Yeah, he whistles at the end of that song. That's a good moment.

The concept was inspired by a home video, right?

Chelsea: We had had the synth part and some of the melodic track stuff already, and we were kind of looking for a melody. These two were watching home videos of them as kids. And there was this particularly grainy, kind of like very old, nostalgic film scene where they're on a trampoline when they're like three or four, and they're jumping up. And so, "I been having dreams, jumpin' on a trampoline," that became the first lyric. We went from there.

Has there been an artist or a celebrity that's given the song a boost?

Chelsea: Shane Dawson did a huge shout-out to us on Twitter, which was a big thing.

Max: Finneas, Billie Eilish's brother and producer.

Spencer: There were a couple of gymnasts. They posted these incredible routines they were doing to the song. That was pretty cool.

Is this one of the songs that goes off the most with your live audiences?

Chelsea: For sure. We added a little intro to "Trampoline" when we play live. So the intro will come in and people will be like, "Ooh, what's this?" It goes over really well live.

Spencer: We'll throw a couple of the elements in there and you can see everybody kind of whispering, "This is the song!"

What's the biggest sing-along moment you've had on tour?

Chelsea: We just played our first headlining tour D.C. show a couple months ago, and the sing-along for everything was amazing. This is our first headlining tour, and it's been so cool to see people come out and sing our songs, especially "Trampoline."

Max: D.C.'s where we're from, and we hadn't played a hometown show in a while, so there was just a mix of a lot of new people and a lot of fans that have been supporting us for the last few years. Everyone was just real excited about the song and the commercial and what's been happening.

Spencer: Even though "Trampoline" is an incredible moment in the set, it was really nice on this tour to see so many people that have actually listened to the EP as well, and learned those songs. There were just tons of people singing those, too. We didn't really expect that as much, and it was really cool when that happened.

Were there any challenges on your headlining tour?

Chelsea: I lost my voice after [one] show and had to get a steroid shot in my arm. That was fun.

Max: [Spencer and I] took over. I just whistled all of our songs the rest of the tour.

Spencer: Chelsea also got bit by a pig when we were on tour.

Wait, what?

Max: [Laughs] That was terrible.

Chelsea: Our manager, G, lives in this beautiful brownstone —

Spencer: — The only catch is there's a deadly pig that lives there —

Chelsea:  — No, the pig is really cute…[it’s a] cute biter. It lives with the family below G, his dear friend and really nice people, and [it’s] a miniature pot-bellied pig, but there's nothing miniature about this thing.

Max: It weighs, like, 70 pounds, probably.

Chelsea: And he has a little mohawk, he's very cute. Franklin is his name.

Painting quite the picture here.

Chelsea: I'm really trying to. So I wake up in the morning and we're down there and we're petting Franklin and he's just all about it. And then he lunges at Max, and we think nothing of it, because everyone wants to kill Max, you know? No, I'm just kidding. Purely a joke. Anyway, I didn't see it as very threatening, so I go once again to pet the pig, and the pig [makes biting noise].

Spencer: I don't know what Chelsea was thinking. She just continued to pet the pig after it charged Max and then lo and behold, a couple minutes later she got bit right on the stomach.

Spencer: I'm not really proud to say I didn't jump in front of the pig to protect Chelsea.

Yeah, aren't you married?

Chelsea: I think Spencer pushed me into the pig.

Spencer: It was quick, I didn't have a lot of time to react.

Chelsea: But yeah, shout-out to Franklin. Tour’s always fun. We just had the best time. We live together anyways, so it's like, why not live together on the road?

You've got a pretty stacked summer, with some festivals coming up. Which ones are you looking forward to?

Chelsea: "Trampoline" has opened up all these festivals for us, so our summer is packed with a lot of festivals that we've always dreamed of playing but never been able to play. We're playing Hangout Fest, which we're really excited about, and Bottlerock, which is gonna be awesome. We're excited about all the festivals and everything we're doing this summer.

You’ve been on the road with Marian Hill, Bishop Briggs, Sir Sly, and X Ambassadors in the past. Who would you love to tour with next?

Chelsea: SZA's one of my all-time favorite female vocalists; that would be a dream.

Max: Billie Eilish. We’ve already listened to her album a bunch.

Chelsea: Yeah, we love Billie Eilish. Halsey would be cool, too.

What's your writing process like?

Chelsea: We generally make a big breakfast and then we go into the studio [at our house].

Spencer: Truthfully, it's mainly just Chelsea making a big breakfast.

Chelsea: I make a big breakfast and then we try to write something. Just on guitar or maybe try to build a beat or something. Or finish up ideas that we already have. But it's generally eat, and then go to work. Food is very important for me. I don't know about for you guys?

Spencer: It's definitely important.

What’s next for SHAED?

Spencer: We're hoping to do another tour in the fall, and then when we're off, writing.

Max: We hope to have a lot of new music out by the fall. We want to release new music in the summer and we're gearing up for a full-length album at some point, so right now we're just trying to write it, every day that we have off.

We've got a few producers that were heavily involved on the Melt EP. Our friend Grant Eadie [from the band] Manatee Commune. We've been working with Alex Mendoza, who co-produced "Trampoline," on some new material, and have been writing with Jason Gill. It's been fun.

Spencer: We've already worked with a couple of artists and we have some things in the works that we can't really announce yet, but we're really excited.