Interview with Shades Band Iowa City Indie Pop Duo Breaks Ground With New EP 'Can't See The Haters'



This month we are featuring Iowa City band Shades, a brother and sister collabo whose debut EP ‘Can’t See The Haters’ is currently making waves across the music sphere. We wanted to get some further deets on the band’s project and gain some further insight into their ethos. Check out our interview with Shades members Casey and Mary Mattes below. 


Can each of you share with us how you got started in music?

Our dad is a professional guitar player, so we’ve grown up with music as long as we can remember. I’ve played in small bands with friends since high school, and decided to pursue music on my own while studying it in college. Once I noticed my sister’s passion for the same creative arts, I knew we needed to team up to create something amazing.

What inspired you to team up to form a band?

Music is about expression. We’ve both been through so much, and we know that our fans have too. Mary puts her heart and soul into the lyrics of each song we produce, bringing forward problems that people our age are facing daily. We wanted to find an impactful way to address these issues presented throughout life and make our fans feel as though they’re not alone.

Shades has a very eclectic sound, who would you say are some of your musical influences? What types of music is in your playlists right now?

We’re huge fans of Twenty One Pilots, Jon Bellion, AJR, and Halsey. We’ve also heard that our indie pop sound reminds fans of The Chainsmokers, Daya, and James Blake.

Shades_Cant_See_HatersWhat made you decide to come up with the name Shades for your band? What is its significance?

We wear our Shades so we can’t see the haters!

Can you describe what a typical creative session would be to come up with a new song? What goes into the whole experience that we as listeners hear on the other end.

We’ll be creating some BTS videos to demonstrate the answer to this question. But for now, I (Casey) produce instrumentals and hand them over to Mary. She writes lyrics, we record, and I mix/master the music. Our beats and lyrics stem from very personal experiences.

‘Can’t See The Haters’ is your first EP, how did you decide on the song selections for the band’s debut?

We created an array of songs, but chose these because of their importance in creating our image. They’re based around our band name and everything we stand for. And, man. This EP is just the beginning.

Most kids today are just looking for a good beat it seems, especially in the mainstream. How important do you feel lyrical content is in music?

Lyrics are everything. A song without meaningful lyrics is wasted potential.

As an indie band and being in control of all aspects of your art, are there any difficulties or challenges in putting your music out and if so what are they and how do you manage them?

It’s difficult getting your music out there for just about any band without many industry connections. We’re based out of Iowa City, IA, so that’s a tricky work-around as well. Our band manager, Teressa Mattes, is doing a great job distributing our music to our passionate fans around the globe via the internet. Mary and I are perfecting our live show now, as well as recording more dope tracks for future EPs/albums. We’re going to continue putting in the work! It’s all about the grind, after all.

How long did it take you to work on your EP?

Almost 2 months!

Now that the EP is out, how do you feel about its reception?

We love seeing the feedback on social media outlets such as Instagram and Facebook. Our fans are the best!

Can you tell us a little bit about the music scene in Iowa City?

Iowa City has a very tight knit music scene. Most bands who play here are still in college, except for the occasional more prominent artists who plays at Blue Moose. I’ve played as a solo artist at Blue Moose a number of times, and am looking forward to returning with Mary this year.

What are the best and worst things about working with your brother/sister?

We value family most out of anything out there. It’s amazing to be able to collaborate with the people you know and love, and at the same time work together to bring new experiences and ideas to the table when it comes to creating new music. We both have our own taste in music, so sometimes that delays creating new tracks, but it is always for the best. If we both approve a song we work together to produce, we know that fans of multiple genres and sounds will too!

Are there any other acts that the band would want to collaborate with in the future?

We’re down for anything.

The new year is really just starting and you definitely kicked in some doors with your project, what is next for Shades?

Keep an eye out for our next EP drop at the end of March 2018! It’s as gritty and lux as it gets…



Shades is an American indie pop band formed in September 2017. The duo consists of siblings Casey Mattes (producer), and Mary Mattes (singer). Shades is a DIY pop group who writes, produces, and mixes/masters their own material from their home studio in Iowa City, Iowa.

Casey Mattes’ original music has been featured on “Spaced Out Magazine”, “VERSED”, and has won Artist Prolist’s Platinum Spotlight Challenge TWICE within the same year. Mary Mattes has been featured throughout Casey’s original songs over the last 4 years. Mid 2017, the brother and sister decided to combine their talents into the hit duo you see today.

Shades’ music style has been described as “dynamic”, combining elements of electropop, alternative hip hop, and EDM. Their lyrics, written by Mary, are poetry-based and reflect the all-too-real emotional states of many twenty-somethings who struggle to thrive in today’s world filled with hate.

In January of 2018, Shades dropped their first EP, “Can’t See The Haters”, consisting of 6 songs. “You can either let the hate blind you, or you can block it out,” said Casey, referring to their latest release. “This EP both introduces our band name to the world and describes the underlying meaning behind every piece of work we create. We wear our shades so we can’t see the haters, and we encourage you to do the same.” Casey continued, “This EP is just the beginning. We’re so excited to share with you what’s next.”

Their opening track on the EP, “Kill the Darkness”, was written to express the frustration built from the blossoming of an irrational, yet sweet fixation. Mary mentioned that this song represents an expression of consequence; when you let yourself recklessly fall in love with someone you can’t have, knowing damn well you’re diving into some murky morals.

In a nutshell, “Not Really Sorry” is a snarky, taunting song written about rejection. But more so, it’s lyrics represent the celebration of a sheer reluctance to compromise independence for a relationship. “Independence is an empowering trait,” said Mary. “This song for me conveys a realization of self importance and self empowerment… It’s just snarky as heck.”

Rainbowz” is by far the most unique song on the EP, loved by fans favoring all types of musical genres. “Writing this song was a unique experience. At the time I had just become homeless, so I was bunking in my car for the night. With nothing to occupy my attention, my mind fell down a Wizard of Oz rabbit hole, puzzling over how f***ing weird of a story it is, and all the conspiracy theory potential it has… Naturally, that segued into forcefully rapping about rainbows. But, in all seriousness, this song is an adaptation of the story’s concept- an interpretation reflecting my state of mind at the time.”

The statirecally written, romp of a song “American Dream” describes the current state of both our country and the world we’re forever evolving, for better or for worse. “I’m forever going to utilize social and political f***ery for creative inspiration,” stated Mary. The song lyrics take an independent stance for women and men of all traits, and implores acknowledgment from governmental personas.

Back & Forth” is an extremely catchy song about being fed up with shady powerplay in all facets of life… We’ll just let the lyrics speak for themselves:

Back and forth

lamenting the natural course

up and down of a power source

we’re stuck in a game, an oscillation

and I’m borrowed time

i’m reaching a decline

for a twisted rendition

of something more divine”

The title track, “Can’t See The Haters” started out as an instrumental track which Casey composed between midnight and the early morning hours of one single week. Mary was given the song, & told to “run with it”, both vocally and lyrically. Mary explained, “For a while, it was just ‘Sad Song in F’. We wanted something genuine and impactful for this song. It took delving straight into my feels and digging out my most vulnerable self to pull together the exact sound and feeling.” This anthem of a song is a fervent breath of fresh air in the music industry today. “Can’t See The Haters” is quickly becoming an intoxicating, enduring crowd favorite among fans.

Shades’ unique mix of indie pop and alternative hip hop has become a crowd-pleasing genre which the duo has used to gain a massive following in their hometown. It won’t be long before their music is sung by audiences across the nation!

Listen to Shades’ Single “Can’t See The Haters”

Connect with Shades Music

Listen on Spotify


Check out Shades’ EPK:

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Shades Can’t See The Haters EP-Casts a Brilliant Light through the Darkness Relatable, Gritty and Intoxicatingly Beautiful



Iowa City Indie pop duo Shades recently released their debut EP ‘Can’t See The Haters’. The band, which consists of siblings Casey Mattes (producer) and Mary Mattes (vocalist) is squad goals. After all, some of the best bands have had the sibling connection (Good Charlotte, My Chemical Romance) so it only makes sense that Shades’ undertaking is purely in sync. ‘Can’t See The Haters’ consists of 6 singles, all of which showcase the band’s performance prowess, vocal talents, songwriting skills, and musicianship.

Though Shades is considered an indie pop collective, upon first listen it is evident that their music has a distinct mainstream appeal. Listeners will capture elements of alternative rock, hip-hop and EDM music. Casey and Mary are dialed into the sounds that are current today, the sounds that mean the most to younger audiences.  

Even though their music expresses a strong sensibility for what is trendy, Shades’ sound is by no means basic. ‘Can’t See The Haters’ is a complex formulation of luminescent melodies, inspiring lyrical content, and youthful vibrance. Though Shades’ inception is relatively new, it is evident that the respective artists have been working diligently to craft their sounds for quite some time. We’ll take you through the 6 tracks on the EP and share a few highlights, but we highly recommend delving into the sounds of Shades for yourself to gain the full experience.

The Music

The first song on the EP is “Not Really Sorry” which casts a very bright light in terms of ambiance. The song has a pleasantly rebellious flair that is reminiscent to Tay Tay’s 1989. No shade (no pun intended!) we totally love Tay Tay but let’s keep it one to the hundred, “Not Really Sorry” has much more bounce and goes to places where Miss Swift probably wouldn’t dare. The track is edgy but not gritty, spirited but not vexed.

“Not Really Sorry” is layered with ear-pleasing instrumentals, delivering a fun pop sound with a bit of dirty bass making it a perfectly cool club sound factor or a laid-back chill tune. The song presents a fusion of synth-infused EDM, dreamy melodies and cooling ambient waves. Fans of pop and EDM blends will enjoy the festive feel of the song.

Although the track has an elevated feel, the lyrical content contrasts the vibe of the song. Mary expresses some frustration with a relationship and asks some pertinent questions that seem to lead to some form of self-discovery. Mary sings, “I’m not the type to follow your agenda”, which speaks to the freeing feelings associated with being independent. She goes on to sing, “maybe, we’ll see I’ll try to stick around, if you try to hold your ground, there is no guarantee”. This is a theme that anyone can relate to in terms of balancing a relationships and personal aspirations. We get the feeling that Mary feels no regret if she has to shelf a partner, friend or foe and focus on her goals, we can dig that.

The next track on the EP that fans will get to absorb is “Kill The Darkness” a dynamic track with a fantastic hybrid of electronic music elements. As the song progressives listeners will experience a wave of emotions as expressed through vocals and music intertwined. Once again, listeners will encounter a production that deals with the changing tides of human relations. “Kill The Darkness” conveys a conflicted experience that will resound with listeners.

As Mary sings, “we got problems, the list runs as long as the road that’s before us”, she makes no mistake to still mention, that she has “tunnel vision”. We really appreciate being able to experience the raw emotion behind this track which is complemented by the instrumentals. Mary showcases the diverse range of her skills by also spitting a few rap bars on this track, doing so in the most poetic manner.

“Kill The Darkness” starts of with warm set of melodies which quickly transform into electrifying sonic waves and dub sequences which roar across the mix. The track has an interesting tropical vibe that is temperate but also refreshing. The vibe of the track is energetic, uplifting and sensory.

Following, “Kill The Darkness” is the fitting mix, “Rainbowz” which has a grittier edge. At this point in the EP it is clear that the songs are arranged in such a manner to tell a story. “Rainbowz” takes a very direct approach and also has a slightly darker ambiance than the previous tracks, despite its title. The song morphs before the ears, delivering a multifaceted listening experience that journeys from street to dreamy and dark to light with vocal musings.

“Rainbowz” transitions through classical sounding instrumentals to cinematic waves and beyond urban-laced beats. The track has a deep dark base line and sharp percussive accents. Ambient waves peer through the arrangement while stretchy synths linger in harmony with Mary’s vocals which alter from theatrical to gritty rap.

“Rainbowz” is truly an artistic production that is deep in terms of lyrical content and complex in terms of musical production. The song is as aggressive as it is subtle and as uplifting as it is pensive. By the song’s finish, fans will feel an odd sense of elation and a touch of hope as delicate melodies and an epic vocal performance gently fade out.

A song that tells another moving story while showing off the band’s wide rage is “American Dream”. The track offers an orchestrated sound that is mashed up with a folksy feel and retro pop vibe. The song deals with many different topics and issues that are relevant today, making the song timely. Despite the energetic feel of the track, there are some heavy messages expressed through the songwriting.

When, Mary sings, “What would you say if I stood up an walked the fuck away”, listeners can feel frustrations with conventional means. The song is sung from several different perspective which creates an interesting balance in the storytelling. The focus of the song toggles in such a way that it conveys a series of emotions that range from anger and frustration to contentment and resolve. Lyrics that stick out which sum up the experience are “My dream is not your dream, but I really like it”.

Shades bring the tempo down on “Back & Forth”, another powerful song with enticing instrumentals and a compelling vocal performance. “Back & Forth” introduces fans to a different side of Shades, one that will not be experienced in the previous tracks. This song which also delivers quintessential songwriting, is immense though it plays out like lounge staple. Mary gives a sultry vocal performance over grooving sonic layers for a completely infectious experience.

Shades slays on this song in more ways than one. Mary sings, “Catch me and lock me up, cuz you’re in control, you’re on top” and then “ you out of line, a rogue detonator and when your trigger’s pulled my walls are fallin’ down’. We are here for this explosive track that is delivered with such subtlety that it will either hypnotize you into submission or leave you picking up the pieces.

We’re excited about the instrumentals on this track because they are a delectable fusion of throwback synths and futuristic ambient waves with a faint hip-hop vibe. “Back & Forth” is complicated and intoxicatingly beautiful.

‘Can’t See The Haters’ concludes with the title track, a song which starts out with cinematic waves and rich piano melodies. The song performs like a dark street ballad as each layer slowly builds from the dark, converging with illuminated moments before returning to shadowy areas. Fans will enjoy the changing textures of this track which convey feely vibes and an emotional vocal performance.

Shades gives listeners strong lyrical content and powerful songwriting that lingers in the mind touching on realistic complexities. Few artists are able to do this while also bringing good music to the table. Often we are forced to accept one or the other and take the trade-offs as they come for the sake of mainstream entertainment. “Can’t See The Haters” accomplishes the daunting task of putting out great music that speaks to the spirit while delivering powerful messages. Check out the single, “Can’t See The Haters” on Spotify.

Listen to Shades “Can’t See The Haters”  on Spotify

‘Can’t See The Haters’ by Shades is a street anthem for today’s millennial. The band touches on relevant themes that will resonate with listeners from coast to coast. Shades has discovered a way to connect with fans through inspiring performances that are both fearless and entertaining. Through descriptive storytelling, reverberating music and uncomfortable conversations, Shades ironically brings to light the challenges faced by young people on a wide scale. If you enjoy bands such as Twenty One Pilots, Chainsmokers, and Paramore, and artists such as Halsey and Melanie Martinez, you will enjoy the sounds of Shades.

Shades Band_Can't See The HatersHailing from Iowa City, IA, Shades is a “DIY pop group” meaning they write, produce, mix and master their own material right from their own studio. The producer and singer-songwriter duo are brother and sister and their eclectic sound has been described as “dynamic”. Shades is known for blending together facets of electropop, alternative, hip-hop and EDM. Mary, the vocalist of the team pens the lyrics and they are often rooted in poetry while also reflecting the ethos of twenty-somethings who struggle to thrive in today’s world filled with hate.” (Shades)

Shades released their debut EP ‘Can’t See The Haters’ in January 2018. About their project the band’s producer Casey states, “You can either let the hate blind you, or you can block it out”. Casey goes on to say, “This EP introduces our band name to the world and describes the underlying meaning behind every piece of work we create. We wear our Shades so we can’t see the haters and we encourage you to do the same.” Casey lets fans know, “This EP is just the beginning, We’re so excited to share with you what’s next”.

Shades’ music is a fusion of indie pop and alternative hip hop, a genre which today’s millennial music lovers are drawn to. The duo continues to make ground with their music as they a have already amassed a legion of loyal followers from their hometown. It is just a matter of time before Shades becomes a household name and their songs are being sung by a global audience. Learn more about Shades by following the links below.

Connect with Shades Music

Listen on Spotify


Check out Shades’ EPK:

Like on Facebook

Follow on Instagram:

Listen on Soundcloud:

Follow on Twitter:

Shop Shades Band on Apple Music