Honesty Without Fear: An Interview with SHAYLEE


As you all know by now, interviews are undoubtedly my favorite aspect of being a music journalist. Being able to unravel an artist’s process, to delve into the stories behind their music is a gift. A privilege I don’t take lightly. I have a particular adoration for independent artists. There’s a certain level of grit and veritas that artists not strapped to a label exhibit. Topics they can dig into. Personal stories they can unpack.

SHAYLEE is one such artist. Elle Archer, the band’s creator and lead songwriter, has a distinct voice and story. One she tells with blinding honesty. She took some time from recording her upcoming album to answer some questions for us.

Could you SHAYLEE to our readers?

I’m Elle Archer, the leader and primary songwriter/recording artist of the group. Nick Lambert is the live drummer/backup vocalist, and Marvin Oceguera is the live bass player. 

How did everyone in the band meet? What made you decide to work together as a band?

I met Nick through another band I was playing in at the time, and met Marvin through him since they had played together a lot. This lineup felt really natural and focused when we worked together and gave me the space to express myself without having to worry about the rhythm section falling out from under me.

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SHAYLEE’s music has an almost delicate sound. It’s very ethereal. What inspired you to make music like this?

For a while there I was really into delay pedals and manipulating samples to make drones out of them. That formed the basis of the sounds we’ve released thus far. It also came from taking lots of influence from ambient music as well as post-rock bands like Godspeed You!, Black Emperor and Talk Talk.

Your music is also very sweeping and panoramic (it builds and swells and sometimes can carry on for 10 minutes or more). When you create songs like this, do you just play until you find a natural stopping point? Or is it intentional (is there a narrative you’re trying to create)?

Everything I’ve released is narrative-focused, both on a song-by-song basis and with how I sequence my albums. Regarding the long track times, those songs just came that way naturally. I just tapped my creativity until it ran out.

How was the experience recording “Bring It Out of Me”?

When I recorded that record, it was a total uphill battle against the technology I was using to make it. The whole record was recorded in Audacity using a cheap M-Audio interface that would constantly turn off without any forewarning, so everything took twice or three times as long to make as it normally would for me.

Despite all that, I made a conscientious effort to make the most ambitious and textured material I possibly could. A lot of different layers and samples went into the final product, with the opening track containing about 120 unique tracks of audio in total. I had around 20 songs from that time period and culled the best stuff down to nine tracks, so it was a super fruitful creative time for me.

Elle, you mentioned in the description of “Bring It Out of Me” that the songs were recorded between the ages of 18 and 20. What about that time inspired you to create these songs?

Well, a lot was going on for me. I was in the process of divorcing myself from the church (which is what the title track is about), and in the process of discovering myself, which I was still quite a ways away from accomplishing on the level I’m at now.

In that way, it’s sort of a concept album about me coming to grips with the most elemental, basic truths about myself through the lens of emotional intimacy with other people, especially women. I sort of lived vicariously through the women in my life until I realized I was trans, which is what “More Than Meets the Eye,” “My Leigh” and “Coming Out” are all about too.

The lyrics are very open and raw. Have you ever been nervous/afraid to be so vulnerable in your music? If so, what makes you move past the fear and write so personally? If not, how did you get to this place of personal strength?

I’ve never kept a diary, but I’ve always made music. To me, making personal music is second nature and not a ton of thought goes into it, apart from the arrangements, which I put a lot of thought into. I’ve always really appreciated other artists that hit that level of honesty in their music, too, so it’s something that I latched onto pretty quickly when I started seriously writing songs when I was a teenager.

If there was one piece of advice you could give your younger self, what would it be?

Don’t get back with your exes and stop being so damn afraid to be yourself.

As “Bring It Out of Me” was a journey through the end of your teen years, what do you believe your next chapter (your 20s) will have in store for you?

Well, I can already tell you I’ve been happier and more comfortable with myself than ever, so I expect a new plateau of joy and success coming my way. More honesty, more beauty, less staring at the wall, less wasting my time.

Could you tell us a little bit about your upcoming album?

The upcoming record picks up where “Bring it Out of Me” left off conceptually in that it’s going through the next two years of my life (20-22), but it’s a lot less spacious and a lot more focused and has a more power-pop influenced sound. More fun, more hooky, less 10-minute songs and more three-minute ones. I wanted to make something that was good for pop listeners to get on board with, but also really rewarding to those who like to dig a little deeper with their listening habits.

What is SHAYLEE looking forward to for the last part of 2019?

I’m looking forward to hitting the road and sharing these songs with as many people as possible. To spreading radical self-love and acceptance to those who might need it.

What can fans and new listeners expect from SHAYLEE in the near future?

We’re gonna be dropping a couple more singles from the new record before the end of the year, so keep your ears peeled!

Any final thoughts you’d like to share with us?

Thanks for the interview and for taking the time to listen to our stuff and dig into it as much as you did! Appreciate you <3

SHAYLEE is a band with so much heart, their leader so much unwavering fearlessness, that I was compelled to talk with them. Please take some time and give this band a listen. You’ll be as blown away with the soundscapes and lyrical power as I was.

Learn more about SHAYLEE on Facebook and Instagram. Stream more of their music on Bandcamp and Spotify.

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