Interview: Shaylee Opens Up about ‘Short-Sighted Security’

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Shaylee
       

Power-pop/indie-rock artist Shaylee released a new album, Short-Sighted Security, a few days ago, via Kill Rock Stars.

Talking about the album, Shaylee shares, “I’ve had so much time to grow artistically, it feels like a culmination of all the work that I’ve done up until now.”

Shaylee is the brainchild of Elle Archer, a queer trans woman who grew up immersed in, and surrounded by, music.

Short-Sighted Security was recorded almost entirely alone in the living room of a house in Portland during the COVID lockdown. Elle played guitar – a Rickenbacker 330 – a Roland Juno 60, drums, and bass, along with singing, mixing, and engineering. Guest musicians include her friend Matt (organ, violin, cello), and another friend, Travis (bongos, whispers).

Highlights on the album include “Ophelia,” “#1 Destroyer Fan,” “Audrey,” which is a personal favorite, “Stranded Living Room,” and “Danger Decides.”

Vaguely reminiscent of Liz Phair and Alanis Morissette, Shaylee’s voice is simultaneously deliciously raw, evocative, and enticing, while her lyricism conjures up stark, honest emotions.

Guitar Girl Magazine spoke with Shaylee to discover more about the person behind the music, the inspiration for Short-Sighted Security, and her influences.

What three things can’t you live without?

A home studio, a guitar or two, and an SM57.

What inspired your recent album, Short-Sighted Security?

I had been planning Shaylee’s first summer tour and felt my career and personal life were moving in the right direction, when all of a sudden, the pandemic hit, and all that progress appeared completely lost. Beyond that, I had just broken up with my two girlfriends who also happened to be my roommates during the lockdown, and I was struggling with drugs at the time, too. All of this as well as tons of stuff I’d been holding in for what felt like a lifetime inspired the creation of ‘Short-Sighted Security.’ Musically, it was inspired by my favorite guitar music of the 20th century, including power-pop, glam, indie rock, slowcore, post-rock, and psych.

Walk us through your mindset as you approached recording the album.

My idea with this record was to drop the listener in media res to me at rock bottom and then guide them on the ups and downs of the journey out of it towards some semblance of acceptance. I intentionally made the record as dynamic as possible (even in the mastering stage – shouts out to Amy Dragon for killing it on this record), so that every peak and valley would be felt as deeply as possible and those listening would feel the impact of my experiences during that time.

If you were to describe your music to the uninitiated, how would you describe it?

Often, I’ll say I sound like Elliott Smith but gayer and with more synths, but if I’m feeling more serious, I’ll say it’s a mix of power pop and indie rock with pointedly lush arrangements and lots of dynamic range.

What kind of guitar do you play?

The guitar on the cover of the album as well as all over the record was my fireglo Rickenbacker 330. I also played a couple of different Jazzmasters on some background parts, as well as my 1943 Martin 00-17 and a borrowed Vox Country-Western acoustic from the ‘60s. The Ricky is my main live guitar.

Shaylee
Photo: Jason Quigley

What’s your definition of tone? And has your tone changed over time or pretty much remained the same?

Tone is something that I think a lot of people spend far too much time occupied with, at least in terms of gear chasing, and this is coming from a total gear nut. It’s more about the way you physically play your guitar and use the tools at your disposal (volume/tone knobs, gain staging, space and setting with delay/reverbs, etc.) than it is exactly what gear you’re using. That said, my tone has generally been pretty bright and aggressive, I came up playing Strats and Teles primarily, so screaming through the mix was never much of an issue for me. The Ricky can be a little bit more picky when it comes to drive pedals and lead playing, and my access to the volume and tone knobs is limited compared to a Fender, so I have to use more gain stages at my feet to compensate. On this record, almost all the guitar tracks were done with the Ricky into a Deluxe Reverb amp with an Analogman Peppermint Fuzz for dirt, though there’s a lot of variance with that depending on what the songs called for. It’s best to keep things relatively simple if you can, especially when you’re doing as many overdubs as I did on this record.

How did you first get into music? 

I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t deeply interested in music, it’s been my primary interest since I was a little kid. I started taking lessons when I was 8 and heard ‘OK Computer’ by Radiohead, the album that changed my life when I was about 10. It’s all been an obsession since then.

Where are you from?

I’m from Bakersfield, CA. Lived there until July 2018 when I moved to Portland, OR.

Did your hometown impact your music?

Oh yeah. The country music influence in my playing is undeniable, and the churches I played for had an impact on the emphasis on long-winded crescendos that my music still carries with it.

Which artists/musicians had the most impact on your sound?

Hmm, that’s a good question. I’d say Jonny Greenwood’s playing in Radiohead was an enormous influence, as was Ed O’Brien’s. Elliott Smith was a big one, and so was Jeff Tweedy in terms of songwriting and textural approaches. Nels Cline is one of my favorite all-time lead players, and The Beatles/Beach Boys have also had a huge undeniable influence on my songwriting. Sly & the Family Stone has been a big one, too, as have Fleetwood Mac, Jeff Buckley, Yo La Tengo, Bowie, Eno, and the Stooges. I could go on and on and on, so I’ll leave it at that.

Which artists in your opinion are killing it right now?

My favorite band in Portland is DIY Sluts, their record ‘Everlasting Itch’ is a goddamn classic. I also think that Illuminati Hotties are doing the kind of wild punky shit I’ve always had in my head but have never been able to fully articulate. My homies in the band YUVEES are consistently killing it, too.

Who or what inspires you?

I wanna be some queer kid’s guitar hero, someone they can look up to that makes them feel less alone in their experience. My whole goal with what I do is to find strength in vulnerability, to express my deepest feelings to my audience, and hopefully give them something to relate to and stay alive to.

What can your fans expect over the next six months? New material? Live gigs?

They can expect a May tour through Oregon/California, as well as some other exciting things lined up. The next record is already complete and I’m in discussion with a few different rad folks about it. Keep an ear on me, you never know what may happen.

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