About

“Ethereal harmonies, out-of-the-box melodies and remarkable musicianship”.M Music & Musicians – Folk Forward – The Next Generation

“(SHEL’s debut) is filled with virtuoso instrumental flights, other-worldly harmonies and evocative, atypical lyrics …”The Tennessean

“Infectious pop-folk-with-a-subtle-hint-of-indie songs.”Lucky Magazine

“They don’t just play the hell out of their instruments with great passion, they do so flawlessly as if they were born mutated with these instruments attached to their hands.”MartianLeaks.com

“Hypnotic arrangements that reward your attention…a debut album that sets the stage for an enticing career.”American Songwriter

Astonishingly precise and complex vocal harmonies and nuanced ensemble playing that picks up on and advances the chamber-grass point of view of Nickel Creek and Strength in Numbers…remarkably fresh and wondrous stuff.”Sting Theory Media

SHEL
by Craig Havighurst

The high-altitude town of Fort Collins, Colorado is abundant in bicycles, awash in craft beer and rich in arts of all kinds. Understanding the town’s unique cultural brew begins (but only begins) to explain the novel sound of SHEL. Four sisters, raised in an atmosphere of creative freedom and diligent study, have honed their musical skills surgically sharp and blended their personalities and visions into a unified whole. They are a vocal group with outstanding instrumental capabilities and an instrumental group with a thrilling vocal attack. From their fetching, unpredictable songs to their whimsical, hand-made top hats, SHEL makes a profound impression, something they are doing to growing crowds and critical acclaim.

Sisters Sarah, Hannah, Eva and Liza were born within five years of each other. Raised and home-schooled by a professional songwriter father and an artist mother, they dove into music young. Hannah was first to take classical lessons on piano. Then it was Sarah on violin, Liza on harp and Eva on mandolin. Liza switched to the drums upon discovery of her passion for polyrhythm. Then in the early 2000s, they started working up and performing songs with their father. Over time, Eva stepped forward as the lead vocalist. Andrew Holbrook with SHEL became SHEL with Andrew Holbrook—and then just SHEL.

A friend of the family made a connection with Grammy-winning producer Brent Maher, an artist development guru with a long track record of hit singles and artistic breakthroughs. Over three years of unhurried experimentation and recording, SHEL completed two EPs and grew immeasurably. Now, their most complete and thought-out work to date is here in the form of a self-titled, debut album.

Nestled within SHEL’s enveloping sound, wisps of folk revival, vaudeville, renaissance fairs and steam-punk esthetic blur around one another. Allusions abound to their core influences—The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Harry Nilsson and acoustic super-group Strength In Numbers—but you’ve never heard this before. Tracks such as “Tuscany” borrow liberally from their classical training, yet there’s nothing ponderous or unapproachable about them. “The Wise Old Owl” showcases their daring, fanciful vocal arrangements. They revel in strong dynamics, so a single song like “Stained” can grow from airy lace to a driving, white-water rush. They are richly feminine, but they don’t shy from covering Led Zeppelin’s “The Battle of Evermore.” Above all, there’s variety and creativity. Pure acoustic tone is best when it’s best, but if an electric mandolin or special effect is called for, they let the song dictate the production.

SHEL has achieved many benchmarks that point to a full and fruitful career ahead. They’ve played public radio’s Etown, Echoes, South by Southwest, Nashville’s Music City Roots, Lilith Fair and numerous other distinguished festivals. In addition, they have songs in national television ad campaigns for Splenda, Glade and a song featured in CBS series, Jersey Girl. One does not have to be floating on the updraft of their blended voices to predict a bright future for SHEL.

 


Sarah (Violin, Bass) As the violinist in a sister band I suppose you could say I understand the dynamics of the group better than anyone. It’s widely known and mostly accepted that violinists are the most intuitive of all musicians. The banjo players, of course have disputed this, but they dispute everything so most of their arguments are dismissed. I say just let them claw hammer, that usually makes them happy. The fact is, no one really understands the dynamics of a sister band, so the fact that I get it on any scale is a pretty big deal. The dynamics of a sister’s band are un-understandable and thus, should be avoided at all costs. I would recommend claw hammering before I would recommend trying to understand what’s going on here. All that said, our dynamics are quite good, at least from what my violinist intuitions are telling me. I fit nicely between Eva and Liza and I’m just two years behind Hannah. I’m quite happy here. I’m treated as a youngest, but with older sister powers I can call on (they only work on Liza though, and barely. She’s wising up to my clever tricks. Drummers– talk about intuitive.). When you get down to what I do in this group, it’s pretty much summed up in one word– Fiddler. I’m also an avid videographer, a warlike burrito devourer, enthusiastic road cyclist, amateur graphic designer and I’m always keen for an adventure– I mean, I never go anywhere without a headlamp. I think if you were to sum me up in one sentence (which is probably what I was supposed to write) it would be– Never underestimate the power of socks as a gift, especially striped SmartWool ones.

Hannah (Piano, Keyboards) I always wanted to be a pianist. The type that would perform in concert halls in New York City dressed in a long, dark shimmering gown and go out for martinis with important people afterward. I started playing jazz piano when I was 10. Moved into classical studies and composition through high school and college. Spent every spare minute outside of school writing, arranging songs and performing with my sisters as SHEL. Maybe it was the talented freshman with their Rachmaninov Concertos besting me in my performance classes time and time again. Maybe it was hard for me to fit into an environment where improvisation and composition were not as welcome as near perfect performance and accurate stylistic interpretation of someone else’s work. Or maybe it was just the way that each part I contributed to SHEL seemed like it was meant to be there, and made me feel that I was right where I was meant to be as well. Slowly, but surely, SHEL became my new dream. Traveling the country, performing with my best friends, creating music that I love – and while I sometimes miss the practice rooms, elegant recitals, Chopin, Mozart and Bach – the taste of a dream realized is far sweeter than that of a life imagined before we’ve begun to ripen and catch a glimpse of who we really are and what we are capable of.

Eva (Mandolin, Electric Mandolin, Cello) I’ve just turned 23, and I’m very excited about it. The majority of my musical influences created some of their most innovative work at 23.
If you’re interested in my life, I spend most days composing and writing, singing and playing mandolin and cello, as well as dabbling in recording. When the owls are out I write stories and make hats and dresses and imagine that I’m on the brink of my destiny, just like the Ugly Duckling. Every interaction and accomplishment is bringing me one day closer to swanhood.
I do have an undeniable longing to become a farmer someday. The smell and feel of good earth seems to restore my humanity. I have a goat. She’s small, pigmy in fact. Lot’s of spots. She’s preparation for the Jersey Cow I have my heart set on.
I live with my family and that is all very well because I’m best friends with my sisters. If I wasn’t I would live in a large well furnished Tee pee with my dog and learn how to fish and hunt. As fun as that would be, I think playing music with my sisters is at least twice as fun. If it weren’t, I wouldn’t have been doing so since I was 11.
My middle name is Ellen, but I’ve lied about it to so many people that by now half my acquaintances believe it’s Winston. Sometimes my conscience stands on his head until I do the right thing, like tell the truth about my middle name.
Well, I think I’ve covered all the important things to mention in a biography. Thank you for reading.

Liza (Drums, Percussion) On an average night you’ll find me dancing in the kitchen to Techno music
while doing the dishes, which on occasion leads to some broken ones, or else
I’m romping around the Colorado foothills with friends enjoying picnics and
sunsets. I also might be attempting to decipher some classic literature
while kicking back in a comfy chair or hammock. On more exciting nights I’m
probably catching a movie – action tends to be a favorite, but I enjoy
pretty much any movie with a good story line or some good laughs. Or I may
be shooting pool at one of the local watering holes while sipping on an
Arnold Palmer. On extremely exciting nights I’m most likely working… yep
you read that right, I find my work exciting. And it’s because I have the
best job I could imagine – I’m a drummer. So basically I get to hit things
for a living. But it really wouldn’t be that much fun to just bang on my
drums all night by myself… thankfully I have three friends to jam around
with and gather inspiration from. They also happen to be my sisters, in case
you hadn’t picked up on that yet. As far as hobbies and extra little
tidbits go here are the most important ones that you ought to know… I LOVE
long boarding, frisbee, and rock climbing. I enjoy graphic design, painting,
and doodling silly little things in my spare time. And I may or may not a
have an alter ego named Elizabeth Agatha Porter.
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