Written By Kelly Holm
Deeply committed to the independent music scene and to their home city of Chicago, The Shades are definitely a trio to watch.
Former The Voice contestant Andrew DeMuro is on lead vocals, while brothers Mark and Phil Jacobson provide background harmonies and guitar. Like any group of friends, they enjoy down-to-earth activities like fantasy football and watching The Office, yet they’ve also headlined some of the Windy City’s most storied venues and shared the stage with the very heroes they’ve looked up to since childhood.
And they’re only further inflating their image with a new four-track EP, DRAW, which showcases the sound they’ve been honing since their first performance at the suburban bar Beer Market.
“[DRAW] is a four-song project recorded over four days at Gravity Studios in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood… a major departure from our first record, which was recorded largely at [DeMuro’s] pad,” the band relays to Elicit. “The title comes directly from a lyric off the album, draw the shades, which to listeners, could either pertain to the closure of window curtains, or the physical drawing of our band.”
Though recording took just four days, the EP was nearly a year in the works! DeMuro’s brother, Luke, served as Chief Recording Engineer, and Chicago-based artist, Shayne Taylor, created cover art based on thematic elements found in the lyrics.
“It isn’t always easy to be patient when you’re dying to let the world know what you’ve been working on, but knowing that we did it the right way makes it worth the wait.”
Besides those who directly contributed to the project, there’s also all the unnamed individuals who served as inspirations for the quartet of tracks.
“Each song on the EP presents someone at a crossroads in a relationship,” The Shades say. “Our lead single, ‘Great Escape,’ is packed with the most hope and positivity of the four tracks…”
Another favorite of theirs is “Love Me or Let Me Be,” a playful ditty with a rap interlude.
“We always look forward to watching a crowd’s eyes widen in shock when Mark comes out of left field to start spitting his verse,” they say.
The Shades take inspiration from old-school greats such as Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder, but another unlikely influence of theirs?
“Clyde Lawrence [of the band Lawrence] once told us that our harmonies reminded him of Hanson, and he urged us not to take it the wrong way,” The Shades tell Elicit. “Little did he know, all three of us are giant ‘Fansons’ and we were flattered.”
The Shades, after all, wouldn’t be themselves without some killer three-part harmony.
“Because vocal harmonies are so central to who we are, we all have to be present and involved in order to create a song that’s truly our own,” they say. “Our songs typically start with a chord progression idea and end with a few lyric overhauls, with hours of collaborative background vocal and harmonic arranging in between.”
You can catch them harmonizing in plenty of places besides the stage, though. When The Shades aren’t performing, they work together to promote their goals.
“As the playing field for independent artists continues to level, we find ourselves taking on additional work, spending extra energy, and navigating unique challenges from within the incredibly dynamic industry that is DIY musicianship,” they tell fans. Their job has been made easier through an abundance of online platforms like Spotify, Amazon and iTunes (RIP), but they also have to wear many hats that signed artists do not. “Independent artists indirectly sign on as their own booking agents, social media managers, music distributors, and other roles that would typically be delegated amongst a team.”
The Shades also collaborate in giving back to the community. Their nonprofit organization, Guitars Over Guns, seeks to train musicians to serve as mentors for area youth.
“Rather than create the next ‘Shades’ our goal is to give students an opportunity to use the arts to build the skills they need to thrive in school, at work, and one day, as leaders in their own communities,” they say. They’d love to team up with fellow Chicagoan, Chance the Rapper, on outreach aims as well.
“His impact among the independent artist community is enormous, but in a sense it pales in comparison to his [impact] on Chicago’s local scene, particularly as it relates to Chicago Public Schools and youth empowerment. If we were blessed enough to collaborate with Chance, it would be in hopes of finding the intersection where the arts meet Chicago’s highest-need communities.”
For now, The Shades just hope that their music hits home for listeners whether they are packing stadiums like Wrigley Field or Fenway Park or receiving recognition for their work at the Grammys.
“We hope that anyone who listens to our music does so with ears that are able to connect – to an emotion, a specific memory or place – that ultimately makes a positive impact, even if it’s a fleeting one,” they say. “We count every special opportunity as icing on this beautiful cake we’ve made.”
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