Interview with The Shells

Jason Beauregard

The Shells have had quite a busy season this year. The folk trio from New York City, recently nominated for MTV’s “Best Breakout Act”, are preparing for their full-length album debut entitled “Written Roads”. The CD will be out on October 8th. To prepare for the upcoming release The Shells talked to The Charger Bulletin’s PULP MAGAZINE about their growing success.

PULP: So where are you all from originally?
The Shells: (Melanie) Well I am originally from Buffalo, New York.
(Jessie) I’m Jessie, and I’m from Nashville Tennessee.
(Carrie) Well, I’m from a lot of different places but I’ll say that I’m from Colorado.

PULP: And what was it that brought all of you to where you are now?
The Shells (Carrie): Well, I originally came out here to go to school for musical theatre school: acting, dancing, and singing, and I think the other girls are pretty much the same story.
(Melanie): I went to school upstate and then moved to New York for auditions for Broadway.
(Jessie): I went to school at Rutgers and I moved into the city to pursue music and I saw an ad on craigslist that someone was looking for a third member for a female trio. At the time I was singing in a capella group at college so I was immediately interested and auditioned and four years later…
(Melanie): We were in a band before Jessie. We were doing some work with the harmonies between the two of us and a band, and it was not really working, as far as being mainstream or something that was right for us, so we wanted to change. We knew that it wasn’t as truthful as something coming from us, from our own minds, so we started our own thing with Jess.

PULP: Where do you live in New York and where do you like to hang out?
The Shells (Jessie): Melanie would definitely say the east side; I used to live in New York, and would have to agree with her that it’s the best neighborhood in Manhattan. I live on the Upper East Side, which isn’t bad, and Carrie lives in Astoria. We play gigs in a lot of different places and have spent a lot of time throughout the city. The world is our stage.
PULP: So what are you looking forward to and looking to happen after the album drops in a week?
The Shells: We would like to start touring a little bit; a lot of people say we belong in the south so we want to start traveling in that direction. We’ll be in Nashville in November.  Right now we are very focused on New York, but we just have to branch out a little bit.  We’re also looking into distributing our music: the industry is moving forwards when it comes to commercializing our music.

PULP: How was it working with Ryan Williams?
The Shells: Well, we met Ryan through a girl who is our violinist; we just really wanted to work with a producer who got our vibe and really liked our music. You know when we all got down there to record our vocals, we had tears in our eyes just from excitement to hear what he had done with our stuff, and our songs became artwork. We were immensely proud and are very thankful to Ryan for all that he did on this album, not only artistically but also as an instrumentalist. He is enormously talented.

PULP: How does your show change from the studio to on stage?
The Shells: As far as our show we have a full band: drums, bass, keys, violin, and two guitars. And I would say we benefit from our live band being a little bit different from what’s on the album because it keeps it interesting, it challenges us, and it’s really cool to be able to be a band where you have this rocking album and then be able to strip it all down and do a show where it could be just us and guitars. We really know ourselves well, so our live shows can range anywhere from acoustic to a full on band.

PULP: How is your relationship with your band: are these guys you hire and who come and go, or are they now an essential part of The Shells? How long have you been together and how did you find them?
The Shells: It’s so funny; you’re asking us all these questions we have been talking about lately. It’s just evolving now. I would say our band is definitely our friends, our guitarist Cameron Mitchell has become a good friend of ours; he really enjoys our music. Unfortunately, this is New York City, and you can get paid as a musician here, so lately we have been talking about how we want to make our band a little bit more ours. So we have a lot of guitarists and other people and it can be frustrating because we did start acoustic, and people sometimes see us as The Shells, three girls but we want to be seen as The Shells “the band”. Slowly were all becoming a part of it, so it’s just right now more making a proposal to them saying “ do you want to be a part of it like we are?’’ We don’t know what’s going to happen, but hopefully they believe in us and want to be in it for the long run.

PULP: Are there any favorite songs that you like to perform?
The Shells (Melanie): “Wrong From the Start” is my favorite personally because it was the first song that we wrote and arranged together and the first song that we were like, “holy crap we can do this with just us”. We could all relate to it and understand it even if it was someone else’s story.
(Carrie):  I would say as far as covers we have come a long way, we used to have two and now we have like eighty.  We’re all big fans of classic rock, we like to do that classic rootsy type of feel because that’s who we are. We do “The Weight” by The Band, and I think every time we play that people really like it.
Editor’s note: This  interview is continued online…