Sat May 26 2018
The Shacks — equal parts Max Shrager and Shannon Wise singing in her soft whispered voice — sound like they’re playing alone with nobody watching. This dreamy, voyeuristic sound was born in a Queens, NY studio in 2014. And while they describe themselves as a rock band, don’t expect the conventional kind.
The story goes that Max brought Shannon to the studio. Max was playing guitar on a track produced by Leon Michels — the producer and co-founder of Big Crown Records — and Michels needed a vocalist. They put Shannon in the booth to try it out. It was her first time ever recording. Then, in one take, the song “Strange Boy” had a singer who completed the vibe. The Shacks were born.
There are elements of doo-wop and early, pre-Elvis rock in their musicianship. Combine that with a deeply personal songwriting approach and it’s a familiar-yet-fresh sound. Like The Five Keys met Neil Young and cut a record with Brigitte Bardot — but in English.
Here’s the thing: Max and Shannon are barely in their twenties. Most of their musical influences are from before they were born. It’s contradictions like this that signify something intriguing is happening with The Shacks.
Max and Shannon met while going to the same NYC high school. By that time, Max was already a musical wunderkind.
Raised in Princeton, NJ, at fourteen Max emailed Gabe Roth of Daptone Records with a rough, home-recorded demo. By seventeen, he had penned the lead single, “Sinner,” on Naomi Shelton and the Gospel Queens’ 2014 Cold World LP.
Shannon comes from a strong musical pedigree. Her father, a producer, ran a Manhattan recording studio, and her mother is a singer-songwriter. Artists and bands of all stripes passed through her life growing up. While her history isn’t yet as extensive as Max’s, she’s writing it right now. Her infectious, eclectic voice and songwriting skills are testaments to her remarkable natural talent.
Their first record together, entitled Haze and forthcoming on Big Crown Records, is jointly produced by Shrager and Michels. Each song sounds both like an exploration and reflection of the relationship between Shannon and Max. You can hear a kind of invigorating creativity between them — songs written for and about each other, trying to express the inexpressible aspects of youth and love.
“We just want people to get excited about real music again,” says Max. “When we record we try to capture what’s happening — in our lives, things between us, something in the studio that day, just something honest. Not something pieced together and hyperreal.”
In a modern culture where most music is manufactured and artificial, Max Shrager and Shannon Wise want to introduce their generation to a more honest kind of music. A kind that’s written from life and made with integrity and value. And all this before either of them can rent a car.
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