Catching Up With The Shadowboxers: Interview

After a three year hiatus, Nashville based band ‘The Shadowboxers’ are back out on the touring scene. The vocally driven band can be described as “if Chromeo and Hall & Oates had a baby.” While their main focus lately with their brand new singles “Build The Beat” and “Woman Through The Wall” has been encapsulating a funk/pop sound, heavy on synthesizers, their music is still entirely genre fluid, ranging from to folk to R&B. The Shadowboxers don’t necessarily conform to a specific type of music but always keep one element in every song and performance, their soul. Perfect for your next dance party, listening music to get amped for a night out, or just to drive around the city with the windows rolled down on these still mild, fall afternoons. This trio of young, captivating vocalists recently added a more stable rhythmic foundation of Cole McSween (drums) and Carlos Enamorado (bass) and on top of their cohesive, new sound, now they appear to have everything figured out. 

Read on for an exclusive interview with front men Scott Schwartz, Adam Hoffman and Matt Lipkins.

After lots of pre-interview giggles and introductions we got down to business.

Ultra 5280: You three originally formed The Shadowboxers in college. Your first record deal and real breakthrough in the industry was getting the attention of The Indigo Girls’ Emily Sailor. Tell me how that came about.

Scott: I met Emily at a Passover Seder. We started talking about singing and by the end of the night I was singing songs to her that I had written. She liked it and said we should meet her manager and she wanted to come see us play. She and her manager came to a show, long story short, he started managing us for three years. We went on the road with The Indigo Girls for two years. We opened for them and were their backing band. We played with them at the Arvada Center here in Denver. 

Ultra 5280: I understand that you guys have a few covers of the same artist, Justin Timberlake, on YouTube. Has he been a big influence on your sound or is there just a man-crush situation going on?

Adam: We put up a cover of Justin Timberlake’s “Pusher Love Girl.” He somehow saw it and reached out to us and since then we’ve been working with him in the studio and with his feedback and writing we’ve co-written about 80 or 90 songs.

Scott: A year or so after putting out our first record ‘Red Room’ we started to feel like we were plateauing and we wanted to give people something new to listen to from us so we decided to start a cover series on YouTube. We had no agenda other than just playing songs we liked and “Pusher Love Girl” just happened to be one of the songs. To this day, even asking Justin we still don’t really know how he heard about our cover. It was sent to him from a friend or something. We played a show in Nashville in December of 2013, after we got back from the gig we checked our Twitter and he had just posted about the show and retweeted one of our videos. We were obviously freaking out and our numbers on social media jumped. The next day we got a private message from him. Adam and Justin exchanged numbers and Justin called us like 2 days later. 

Matt: The cover series ended up being extremely helpful to the conversation we had with Justin. He obviously liked the cover but he saw the variety of all the covers. It was a combination of all these elements that, I think, got him really interested in investing time. 

Ultra 5280: So you guys produced your first album Red Room back in 2013. What was that experience like? Can your fans expect new material in the near future?

Adam: We put out Red Room with a Kickstarter. After doing so many of the Indigo Girls’ shows we had a good number of fans and shows of our own. We did a Kickstarter that was really successful, but we didn’t really have the right backing behind the record and also, creatively it was just kind of all over the place. We were still figuring out our sound and ya know, having three writers and three singers can be difficult to find a unified sound. After that record we stopped touring and stopped working with the Indigo Girls just to focus in on what we wanted to do. 

Scott: We finally got in the studio this past August, with Justin, to start recording. We’re not done yet but we’re working on it. So that’s been the hold-up with new material.

Ultra 5280: The most recent material is very lively and upbeat, with a synth forward instrumental, very 80’s Michael Jackson. These two new singles “Build the Beat” and “Woman Through The Wall” are very different from ‘Red Room.’ Can you tell me about this transition?

Adam: We’re basically a different band at this point. I mean we still maintain a lot of those elements that are on ‘Red Room.’ If you listen past the genres of the songs, our sound is there. I think everything started the click after we brought on our bass player Carlos and our drummer Cole. We’ve really started to dive head first in the funk, soul direction rather than more of the folk sounding material that’s on ‘Red Room.’

Scott: Which is their schooling as musicians (Carlos and Cole).

Matt: And honestly it was one of the genres that we bonded over when we first met them. We just never before had the rhythm section that could it off. It’s something we always wanted to do and they allowed us to do it. 

Scott: I think with ‘Red Room’ being our first time recording, there wasn’t that much consistency in any part of the process but we were fine with that because we just wanted to do so many things at once. We wanted to be Crosby Stills & Nash. We wanted to be Hall & Oates and Michael Jackson. We wanted to be Stevie Wonder. So it just kind of ended up being really all over the place. So I think what we’ve tried to do recently is zero in on something and once we get our foot in the door we can start to move into those other pockets of sound but right now it seems to be how you described, kind of this soul/pop thing. 

Ultra 5280: It’s really interesting and unusual that you have a decent fan base with really no new material in the last three years. How do you keep your fans interest?

Adam: I think given the fact that we haven’t had the normal cycle of “tour, record, tour record,” it’s just been writing and really no time in the studio other than demoing. It’s given us a lot of time to focus on our live show and really ramp-up aspects of it that weren’t there before. It’s hard to perform original material when none of it is released and no one knows any of it. So we really had to focus on other aspects of a show that can be exciting to someone who can’t sing along. 

Scott: How can people come to the show, not know the lyrics, or most of the songs and leave saying, “I had a great time.” We started exploring other elements of our show: Some choreography, dressing better and presenting the show as more than just songs in a row. We wanted to make it flow with a visual aspect. 

Matt: And get people dancing!

Ultra 5280: Speaking of live shows, do you have any peculiar pre-show rituals?

Scott: Yeah, uh, we ironically sing the Pledge of Allegiance. 

Matt: It’s like our equivalent of a prayer circle. 

Scott: And just generally, in the van on tour we watch a lot of movies and preferably, bad action movies. It’s a continual mind-set that helps us sort of… dominate. That sounds so much better in my head.  

Ultra 5280: Considering your unique fluidity on the genre spectrum, who would you like to collaborate with most? Who would you choose to tour with?

Adam & Scott: Phil Collins! 

Adam: It’s kind of lame but it would also be amazing.

Scott: Also, MJ, Prince, Justin Timberlake, Stevie Wonder, D’Angelo, Haim, Frank Ocean, The Drake 2 Chains tour featuring The Shadowboxers. 

Matt: Ashanti and Ja Rule. 

Scott: Nelly, TLC, New Kids on the Block Tour.


Ultra 5280: You’re touring again now. Is there a city or venue that you’re really excited about?

Adam: We’re working on some big shows in Nashville, Atlanta, New York,  and LA. They’re the cities we have the biggest draw-in. We’re especially excited about Atlanta. We spent eight years there. We’re in Nashville now but to go back to Atlanta and to see it keep growing, it’s really cool. Especially with our lack of output. 

Matt: We don’t know which venue in Atlanta we’re going to play but we’re looking at one that Adam and I went to once as Freshmen and we thought, “how cool would it be to play this venue once we start playing music together?” and now we’re potentially doing it. 

While they might not have a lot of recent material that we’re familiar with recorded, The Shadowboxers passionately deliver in their live performance. The harmonic trio are just as much of a delight on stage as they are off. The Shadowboxers easily fired up the audience with their choreographed shoulder shimmying, distinctive bass riffs, funky synths and their charming energy. There wasn’t a single soul in all of The Larimer Lounge that wasn’t on their feet boogying with plenty of finger snaps and shoulder rolls. These guys genuinely just want their fans to have a satisfying night out. If you leave with a smile on your face shimmying off into the night, their work is done. I left in a synth induced funk coma. No complaints here.

After gaining proper rhythmic backing, the group has finally settled into their sound and are ready to get back out on the road. Recently they've been recording more new music out west with Justin Timberlake. We can definitely look forward to some new material and hopefully a long anticipated, sophomore album from these guys in the near future. If you didn't catch their set Friday, be sure to check them out the next time they roll through town. Grab your dancing shoes, grab a date, grab a whiskey and get your funk on, Denver. They're not one to miss!