Lead singer of The Shacks, Shannon Wise, is like a perfect caricature. If Minnie Mouse were a person, this may well be her… but Shannon is more elfin, prettier, ethereal. Max Shrager is on lead guitar, Evan Heinze on drums and Ben Borchers on the keyboard. Watching the band is a bit like being Marty McFly – time traveling right back to 1950.
Not your stereotypical rock band there is a distinct 50s doo-wop-slash-surfy vibe in both their sound and aesthetic.
The story goes that Max brought Shannon (the pair were high school pals) 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. The Shacks were born. And the rest, I guess, is history…
But it kind of isn’t because Shannon and Max are just in their 20s and there’s no doubt a hell of a lot more to see from them. When we go to watch them play the JägerHaus stage, at All Points East Festival, the boys are bedecked in boxy driving jackets, black suit-trousers and retro brogues. Shannon is in all-white; an off the shoulder top, cropped trousers, and bare feet, of course.
They’re instantly enthralling, toe-tappingly, hand-clappingly good – Shannon’s breathy vocals and spellbinding melodies are cut through with Max’s electro-rock guitar solos that have the crowd up in arms.
You can tell that Shannon and Max have been ‘vibing off’ of each other for four and a half years. The other boys joined the band a little later, but their friendship, just like their talent is palpable, ‘When we turned up to rehearse with the boys for the first time’ says Max ‘we were all wearing pretty much the same suit, it was incredible, that’s how we knew we were meant to be together.’
Despite having been the face of an iPhone ad, that aired in the US at the end of last year the band pulled out a suitcase at the end of their set and flogged cool Shacks merch to adoring fans, who ranged from 16-60.
It’s 26-degrees backstage and they’re stripping out of those driving jackets and black pants. They have that easy-going vibe about them, they’re young, talented, cool as fuck.
They bond over music – surf, r ‘n’ b, country and rap plus a passion for vintage shopping ‘when we’re in London we head to Hunky Dory in Brick Lane and Shoreditch – we’ve bought such good raincoats, (faux) fur and shearling coats there, ‘there are just so many cool kids around, kids with great style.’ Says Max.
‘New York is dark and cruel and the crowds aren’t as receptive as the London set. The music is cooler here, fashion is cooler here,’ chimes in Ben.
‘Today, at a London festival we just channeled the stones – Hyde Park ‘69.’ Max adds.
What advice would you give to young people trying to break out into music?
Ben: Don’t do drugs! And DON’T drink and drive.
Shannon: With writing songs you’ve just got to keep on showing up to the plate because sometimes songs just don’t come and you just have to wait for them to come.
Evan: It’s good to have a girl in the band – there are so many bands that are just dudes, it’s good to be around creative girls, no one wants to see a band with just boys, no one wants to see that, my advice is if you’ve got a band of all boys, get a girl.
What’s your goal as musicians?
Max: ‘We want to introduce our 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.
The Shacks will be playing this weekend at Best Kept Secret Festival.