It’s the classic story: Boy meets girl. Boy and girl are caught smoking weed in a stairwell during a high school field trip. Boy and girl start a rock band. World’s most valuable company recruits boy and girl to soundtrack its new commercial, which also stars the girl. That’s the gist of what happened to Max Shrager, 21, and Shannon Wise, 20, of the Shacks after Apple approached them about using their cover of “This Strange Effect” by the Kinks in a 2017 iPhone commercial. “We don’t know how they found it,” says Shrager, who’s quick to emphasize that while they’re grateful for the exposure, advertising modern tech does not define their band.
In fact, the Shacks feel more kinship with the past than the future. “We just wish we were born in the ’50s,” says Wise. “There’s something really special about music then, or special to us.” As a teenager, Shrager interned at the Brooklyn-based Daptone Records, a label made legendary by soul singers Charles Bradley and Sharon Jones. There, he was exposed to the retro flourishes that can be heard throughout the Shacks’ music, which places Wise’s whispery, intimate vocals atop a subtle mix of Motown, folk, psychedelic rock, and funk. Take “Haze,” the title track from their debut album, released in March via Big Crown. “It’s really an entry point, like an Alice in Wonderland kind of thing,” says Shrager of the easygoing, atmospheric song that speaks to the foggy feeling of new love. “If you’re trying to create a certain world for the listener, which is how we think of what we do—creating our own little universe with its own laws—it’s important to ease into it and take the listener from their own reality into the reality of the album.”
The world of Haze is dreamy, a credit to the duo’s pared-down production and graceful songwriting, but the Shacks are now seeing beyond it. “I love them, but they’re from a different period,” says Wise of the 13 songs on the album. “We’ve grown since then.” While their collaborative process varies from song to song, they’ve gotten working together “down to a science,” according to Shrager, and are nearly done putting together a second LP. “Our main philosophy is to work hard and a lot, especially in the studio,” he says. “It’s not even work,” Wise adds. “It’s just what we love to do.”