Liza, Eva, Sarah and Hannah Holbrook of SHEL. Photo by Glenn Ross

I’ve been waiting more than three years to write this column. That’s how long it’s been since the band SHEL played in Maine. What I remember most about their last visit was the venue was packed and I sat there awestruck as the folk-pop quartet of sisters Sarah (violin, guitar, vocals), Hannah (keys, accordion, vocals), Eva (vocals, mandolin, guitar) and Liza (percussion, beatbox, vocals) played songs from their 2012 debut album and their then new “Just Crazy Enough.”  I was so blown away that I canceled all of my weekend plans, and went and saw them the next day at the Ossipee Valley Music Festival where I again was mesmerized, as was the huge crowd.

Since then I’ve seen SHEL at music festivals in North Carolina and Colorado, as well as 300 feet below ground in a Tennessee cave. But they haven’t set foot in New England since 2016. They’re returning to One Longfellow Square for a midweek show with a whole bunch of new music to share.

For those who aren’t uber fans, here’s a bit of background: The four SHEL sisters were home-schooled and are classically trained musicians who have played music since they were kids. They range in age from the early 20s to 30 years old and are based in both their hometown of Fort Collins, Colorado, and Nashville, Tennessee. Since “Just Crazy Enough,” SHEL has released a holiday EP, a brilliant covers EP and a number of singles. They also scored the comedy “Queen America” starring Catherine Zeta Jones. The show is a web series that aired on Facebook Watch. Also, I’ve been watching the number of YouTube views rise on the band’s haunting cover of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” – at present, over 1.3 million.

SHEL. Photo by Glenn Ross

What else has been happening with SHEL? Eva Holbrook said the band has faced significant challenges but has been on a creativity bender. The EP “Wild Child” will be released by the end of September and a full-length album is coming next year.

“We just kind of started from the ground up this year, and the reason is basically everybody was going through some pretty intense depression and anxiety so we decided to deal with that,” saidd Holbrook. She said part of the remedy was to pursue a healthy lifestyle, collaboration and sisterhood. “The result is we’ve got six songs that are about ready to come out that encapsulate that. I would say six different epiphanies in the world of healing from depression and just pursuing a better life.”

Holbrook said “Wild Child” is a celebration of rediscovering joy, hope and childlike wonder. “I ended up being incredibly surprised at how much beauty and goodness and joy and love there was when I changed my focus,” said Holbrook. The EP includes vibrant songs like “Rainbow,” “We All Belong In A Zoo” and the title track, along with the quiet, acoustic “Would I.”

Holbrook also spoke about the forthcoming full-length record, which we’ll hear from at the Portland show. “Some of it is deeper ruminating stuff. It’s like the roots were growing underground and now you see these shoots coming up through the soil, and that’s this new album and we’re getting ready to work on it.” Most of the songs are written and will be recorded in the coming months.

When Holbrook was asked if any of the rough patches the band went through informed the songwriting, the answer was a resounding yes. “It’s all there. As an artist, often times it’s my subconscious either barely alive or trying to speak to me or screaming at the top of its lungs.”

SHEL with Pretty Sad
8 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 4. One Longfellow Square, 181 State St., Portland, $15 in advance, $20 day of show. onelongfellowsquare.com


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