“No matter what the political climate, I think it’s the artist’s job to provoke.” This is the answer Shirley House’s Sam Brady gives me when I pose to him the admittedly over-asked question of the moment: “What purpose do you think art serves in our society?”
Despite the fact that it’s cliche by now to ask this of artists working in the Trump era, it felt like an important one to bring up to Brady, because the music and energy he and his fellow Shirley House members create possesses an abundance of joy—something that can feel like its in limited supply right now. And the joy of Shirley House is an explosive one; their music almost demands listeners give themselves over to a newfound abandonment, and allow themselves to feel the possibilities inherent to wild sensory experiences, to create a home within the music.
And that music is incredibly infectious electronic-infused pop; it’s also eminently danceable, which is why going to a Shirley House show (the band has an ongoing residency at New York City’s McKittrick Hotel) feels more like a collective celebration than a concert. Shirley House was founded by Brady (who is also the lead singer) and Gillian Sandman (DJ/producer), and also includes vocalists Ryan Allen Gray and Allicia Lawson; band members Luke Smith, Alex Beckmann, Eric Lane, and Justin Kimmel; and dancers Omari Mizrahi, N’tifafa Akoko Tete-Rosenthal, Monster LaBeija, Craig Washington, and Alora Tonielle. With that many people adding to the musical magic, it’s no wonder every performance feels like a major party.
The group’s latest video for “Get Lit,” premiering today on NYLON, speaks to the festive atmosphere pervasive in everything Shirley House does. Brady tells me, though that the song’s message transcends its title’s literal meaning:
On a first listen, the song sounds like a party song. It is that, but not only that. It’s about rejecting someone who doesn’t fully respect or value you—a love interest who thinks you’ll always be there no matter how he treats you, a boss who doubles your workload without additional credit and pay, any relationship where there’s an assumed power imbalance.The song captures a moment where you say, “Fuck that guy. I’m gonna prioritize the people who celebrate me—full stop—for all of who I am, no reservations. I—and the people who get me—come first, everyone else can get hip or bounce.” The video reflects this backstory, and it reflects our live show. We’ve been working on the show for almost five years, incorporating dancers, gospel singers, a full band, remixes of our own songs, covers, dance interludes. All the theatrics! We’re also goofy. We’re the queer misfits that found each other and said, “Oh, now we belong.” So we wanted the video to capture what it feels like to be a part of Shirley House. How fun it is, how alive it is. It’s a celebration.
Get a better feel for the magic of Shirley House by watching the video for “Get Lit,” below.