Bandshes are a musical trio based out of the Hartford area that has been making music together since 2013. The band features Zoe Chatfield as a vocalist, Athena Demaille-Von Schmidt on keyboard, and Emily Gregonis on violin and as a vocalist. Bandshes has a strong folk and Americana influence. Their sound is marked by tight-knit harmonies and lyricism that is both deeply profound and easily digestible. Here they discuss how they have grown as a group and as individuals over the past eight years. You can listen to Bandshes on all major streaming platforms and learn more about them on bandshes.com
Bandshes performing “Surrounded” live in a submission video for NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert series.
Where are you all from originally?
“We’re all from the Greater Hartford Area in Connecticut.”
How did you start making music together?
“Zoe and Athena started writing music together back in high school for a graduation project and had done a few small gigs together in Hartford as a duo. The night before one of those gigs, at a family party, they were getting a quick practice in when Emily started fooling around and harmonizing with Zoe. A friend overheard the three of us practicing together and suggested that Emily should sing the harmonies at the gig the next day, and she did! We’ve been a band ever since, from August 2013 to now.”
How would you describe your musical style?
“Our musical style is indie-folk-ish. We’ve been inspired by Regina Spektor’s music for a long time and have been told our sound is reminiscent of hers. However, this past year we’ve been working on new music and have been able to write more collaboratively for the first time. We are hoping to record soon with some new sounds that our listeners haven’t heard from us yet.”
Tell me about how you’ve changed as a group over the last 7 or 8 years.
“We started songwriting as teenagers, so a combination of growing up, going different directions for school, and then life afterward has changed us all a lot. We’re all better musicians than we once were and more confident in our individual experiences. That growth is reflected in our new music and most recent approach to songwriting and collaboration.”
What have been your favorite moments in your career?
“Our favorite moments are also our funniest ones! When we were first starting, we played a lot of gigs at bars opening for rock or metal bands. It’s hilarious to look back on because we were just three teenage girls with a keyboard trying to navigate dive bars we weren’t old enough to drink in. We were in that scene for what felt like a long time, and it just didn’t fit at all with our sound. Having our song in a horror movie is also a favorite and hilarious moment. Similarly, we ended up in a space where soft folk music doesn’t usually take up room. We also had no understanding of how big the opportunity was going to end up being, and are still in awe of how many people have found joy in our music. Most recently, just before the Covid shutdowns last year, we played a gig as part of the Olde Church Acoustic Series in Meriden. This was a memorable moment not only as of the last place we made music before the world fell apart but as the most musically rewarding gig we’ve played to date. It’s a real gift to play a gig where the audience is intentionally there to listen to what you have to say rather than just background noise at a bar. The acoustics of the church was beautiful and allowed us to feel like we could give the best performance for music-based heavily on piano and harmonies.”
Lyric video for “Lost Cities” as heard in the 2015 Universal Pictures film “Unfriended”
Besides music, what is important to you?
“That’s a tough question to answer succinctly. We all have different passions in life, but our families, chosen families, and friendship with each other have taken the forefront this year. We’re actively engaged in social justice and climate change as well and try to make that part of our band’s message. We started doing blog posts this past year, and want to continue to use our website as a platform not only for our music but for our activism.”
Do you have any projects coming up?
“We’ve been working on some new music to release but we’re not ready to spill any secrets yet! 2020 allowed us to do so much collaborating and songwriting, and 2021 will have a lot of fun musical updates.”
How have you been coping during the pandemic?
“Day by day. That’s the best anyone can do. Staying connected with friends and family, even virtually, has been important, as well as continuing to do hobbies that we’re passionate about.”
What is in the future for Bandshes and/or for you as individuals?
Bandshes has a project in the works, so stay tuned on that.
As individuals, we’re all furthering our careers and educations in different ways. Zoe is working at a nonprofit in Hartford called Free Center, and just started her Masters in Community Development and Planning at Clark University. Emily finished a tour last year (pre-Covid) with Once the Musical, and is now going to begin her Masters in voice in 2021. Athena is studying music business and continuing her work in Intellectual Property law.