INTERVIEW: Sasha & The Shades

It all kicked-off last year for Sasha and The Shades, when Eli Rose joined Sasha Adamczewski on vocals, to bring an extra layer of soul to their eclectic sound, encompassing; blues, soul, country, rockabilly and psychedelic to create what can only be described as:

A mixing pot of the best music you can get,’ as Eli puts it!!

As quickly as this four-piece became six, their sounds got even bigger and this patchwork of friends came together with a mutual respect for each-others art and found their chosen mode of communication was through their music,  ‘it is natural to get them involved in the writing process,’ says Eli.

As they block out the frustrations of life or more importantly express them – via storytelling, ideas and sound – they re-shape their narrative, as they bring it to life, let it breathe and share their tips on how to deal with it all.

Sasha first met Eli through her Dad, Gary Sandford, who has been teaching Sasha to play guitar from the age of just 7 years old. Now Sasha is ready to let rip and breathe air into his writing and performances, as his experiences surge to the surface.

Tell us how it all came about?

Sasha:  The actual band has grown from a patchwork of old friends, Thomas, Julian and Sam were friends from my school days and we were introduced to Paul our drummer via our producer, Sean Read. I’ve always known Eli – we started experimenting with extra layers of vocals – that was when we realized very naturally that Eli would make a good fit.

How do you remember it all?

Eli:  I’ve blurred it all out now (Hahaha) how did it happen? Sasha just contacted me and said, ‘would you be up for a couple of gigs,’ and we ran through some songs, to see how my voice would fit.

Why Sasha and The Shades?

Sasha:  The Shades are a big part of it. Tom made references towards a Blues band he really liked. It was a metaphor as well – for how the band and front person need each other, to make it a more captivating performance. Actually, the best front men are the best because they have the tightest group behind them.  As a metaphor, it is good to remember the perfect set of shades will make you look good, always good to wear a descent brand on your face.

Describe your sound?

Sasha:  Americana, blue collar rock, blues – it makes sense for us. Direction wise the sound is very mixed, we have the freedom to direct the content from a lyrical and theme standpoint, the mood drives the sound.

Tell us about your songwriting process?

Sasha:  At the beginning ‘Smoke Hallows’was a song we did a lot. It was a song I wrote when I was quite young and has developed over time. I would come up with a riff or set of chords and keep a pack of different ideas and slot them together until eventually they work. Sort of like trying to pin down the content of what it is about, now we are opening-up to more of a group process, with Eli writing more of the lyrical content.

Eli:  I’ve written since I was a kid, songwriting for me is like storytelling which I enjoy and do a lot. Sasha’s lyrics are like stories and he has a way to draw you in. It is like a musical journey, it’s not hard to start writing to Sasha’s songs and carry on the feeling and story.

What is the track ‘Echoes’ all about?

Sasha:  The song is an open-hearted meditation on jettisoning the shackles of outdated notions of manhood and freeing yourself to express your emotion.

Inspiration for it came from a personal fall-out with a friend, who essentially got hammered on a night out, there was so much not being said. He was clearly holding back lots of emotions and not dealing with them. It was like a tap not working properly and like a plug unburdened with alcohol.

Echoes’is about that burden of masculinity and how detrimental it is to people’s mental health. It is a kink in the way a lot of young men or friends have been brought-up to think.

There is a lyric in Echoes, ‘falling from the sky’, what is that about?

Sasha:  Falling from the sky, is about rebounding sound, if you won’t listen, maybe eventually you will hear yourself. It came from a book called ‘Echoes Falling From The Sky’ – cannot find book.

Eli:  It is about mental health, the void in your own head, when you don’t vocalise it, when you don’t talk about it, the echoes for me are the self-conversation of a person in their own head. Not knowing how to express in the healthiest of ways – which we all do.  Conversations with our-selves, instead of processing things properly, can lead to lashing out in the wrong ways, such as drink or passive aggressive tendencies.

Tell us about the metallic object in the film? How does it inform the song Echoes? 

Sasha:  It is a set of old WW2 early sonar structures that have become dis-used. The strong, sturdy material and build structures remained, it represents people not talking about how they feel – they are still awkwardly un-movable.

It is about the bulkiness and awkwardness of the object, fragile and equally as difficult in public to move around. They symbolize the conversation in the song about mental health.

Also, why is a man carrying a bowl of water with a Lotus Flower?

Eli:  The flower is the contrast of the two objects, there is an exchange in the video about even distribution. There is pressure from society to be like the heavier person. There is a general unbalance and uneven-ness that happens in being human and having friends and going through stuff.

Tell us about your inspirations?

Sasha:  Fantasy is a way into writing a song and obviously consciousness of what is going on around you.  The single, ‘Who You In Bed With’is about Grenfell Tower.  Storytelling is a tool to kind of maybe open questions up to what is happening.

Inspiration can come from the personal, one song, ‘Morning Blues’, is the B side to our last single, ‘Girls’. It is about the problem of depression, about me being subdued and giving-up to the depression when it strikes me the most in the morning. To be honest what I have learnt in the last three years, is that the thing that is difficult to admit is that it is there and not due to something I have not fulfilled.

When I was at school I thought it was because I smoked too much dope, then at Uni, it was that I wanted to be doing music. Back in London I did six months working on a minimum of sixty hours a week in a kitchen. When at last I did music it didn’t go away, it is just there, it is just part of who I am. Sometimes it will consume me and at other times I am strong and it won’t.

The track, Paint The Sky has a more optimistic feel. What is the story behind that?

Sasha:  ‘Paint The Sky’is about dealing with the same thing, ‘Morning Blues’ is about being suppressed by depression and giving up to it. ‘Paint the Sky’is about combatting it with a bit of optimism and taking you to a place of, ‘ok you feel like thistoday’, maybe in a few hours or maybe tomorrow you’re not going to feel like this anymore and trying to instill a sense of ‘it’s alright’, you have to think about the things you’ve got to look forward to.

Eli:  In some ways to move past it you have to be immersed in it to give ourselves a space to get out of it. Otherwise there is more oppression or suppression – which comes out even worse, so when those waves occur, ride with it, don’t fight against it and it will take you to a calmer part of the sea.

Tell us about your influences?

Eli:  Janice Joplin, Jeff Buckley, Kate Bush, listen to lots of rock and classical music and soul is my biggest musical food lyrically and musically.  As a storyteller, I never speak word for word about how I’m feeling, it is easier to create a fairytale almost, which is still relatable, it is not as stripping, giving a part of raw emotions, we are all lyricist storytellers in a sense.

Sasha:  I love Jeff and Tim Buckley and a whole category of guitar players from John Martyn and Nick Drake. For me Jeff Buckley and John Martyn – their picking is very distinctive. The pronunciation when they sing. You never feel you understand Jon Martin until the last syllable. Steve Earle and Young Bucks, Kerry Evans, Bobby King, Captain Beefheart, Bruce Springsteen, Ry Cooder.

Any other artists you love right now?

Sasha:  Mice on Mars, The Honkies are coming-up with some cracking stuff. Black Midi are impressive.  Eli:  Am in awe of Green Teapeng, very soulful.  Sasha: Misty Miller is putting out new stuff and very cool at the moment and Tinfoil Astronaught – who we played with at Servant Jazz Quarters.

Live dates:

August 5: Servant Jazz Quarters, Dalston (w/ Tin Foil Astronaut)

August 9: Farmer Phil’s Festival, Shrewsbury

August 23: Byline festival, Uckfield, East Sussex

October 19: Left of the Dial festival, Rotterdam, Netherlands

‘Echoes’ is out via ‘Self Released’, on August 30

Words: Sam Chamberlaine

Pic: John Clay