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SHEBAD wants you to think twice about the limits of music

'What we’re really trying to do is just make long lasting, meaningful art,' said Mark Spagnolo, bassist for Guelph-based SHEBAD, who released their debut EP in October

Most bands dream of getting signed to a major record label and making it big. But Guelph-based SHEBAD’s dreams look a little different. 

The band, made up of bassist Mark Spagnolo, singer Claire Voy, drummer Toby Binder and the various musicians who accompany them live, instead hopes to become a household name in Guelph.

Spagnolo said he wants people “listen to us and think ‘wow, that is amazing that this is coming out of a little house in the Ward.’”

It seems like an attainable goal, given that they’ve already played with the likes of Dear Rouge, JESSIA and Snotty Nose Rez Kids, and their single, Terra, has had more than 200,000 streams on Spotify. 

Spagnolo said he’s especially proud of the sold out release show for their debut EP, show us it’s real, which was released in October with five songs they started writing and recording during the pandemic. 

The songs have strong jazz and R&B roots, though they describe themselves as multidimensional, not wanting to be boxed into one sound. 

“We’ve never heard music like this,” he said. “It feels out of our control.” 

In that sense, he hopes it “makes (people) think twice about the limits of music. I hope people get excited about that and want to make art themselves because of it.”

Voy and Spagnolo first met while studying at the University of Guelph in 2019; Voy was studying studio art and Spagnolo music.

Spagnolo was playing a show with Binder in a jazz trio at The Bullring on campus, and invited some singers to perform with them, including Voy. They didn’t expect it to go any further than a single show, but something clicked, and they ended up writing their first song, Oneiro, together. 

“I’d never written a song before, nor had Claire, really,” he said. They had also never recorded before – but the pandemic changed that. 

“At the time, I was getting a lot of gigs as a bassist, so I didn’t really think I needed to (get into recording),” he said. “And then when the pandemic hit, we were like, let’s do this thing.”

Together they set out to write and record five tracks at home, with no former recording knowledge, in what he said was a frustrating but rewarding experience. 

Now, since they’re both so comfortable with the recording software, their workflow has become “so magic that we don’t even really need to be in the same room; we can just keep adding to the project on our own time.”

The recordings feature Voy on vocals, Binder on drums, Nathan Klassen on saxophone and trumpet, Shawn Fisher on violin and Simon Pequignat on guitar. Spagnolo plays everything else. 

During live shows, they bring on other musicians to help deliver the performance, so the live band is always changing. 

But it’s not just about the music SHEBAD: Spagnolo teaches at the Guelph Outdoor School, a local non-profit that provides outdoor immersion and mentorship programs for children, and Voy is finishing her degree in studio art. 

Together, they have fused art and nature into their work, with song titles and lyrics about the earth to an AI art accompanying the music. This fusion is especially apparent with their upcoming video for Cumulo, which features choreographed contemporary dance on the grounds of the Guelph Outdoor School. 

It’s also Guelph-centric, featuring the Guelph-based dance group, The Normal People Collective, and was filmed by two U of G graduates. 

“What we’re really trying to do is just make long lasting, meaningful art that can have a second or third life, even when we’re passed on,” he said. “We’re really hoping that it’s a piece of Guelph art that can stick around for a while.” 

The video will be released on Nov. 26. You can watch the teaser below. 


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