The Shelters knowa guy named Tommy. Tommy’s an older dude, been around the block a few times. He’s exactly the kind of man you want in your corner – had a few hits himself over the years. He’s helped The Shelters out, shown them how to fine-tune their songs, offered advice when they’ve asked for it. Cos no one knows the music biz like him. But then he should. The man The Shelters call ‘Tommy’ is Tom Petty.
“I went to school with Tommy’s stepson,” says guitarist and sometime singer Chase Simpson. “I was never really aware of who he was when I was young, he was just my friend’s dad. I’d pick his brains about music, he’d be super supportive of what I was doing. He’d let us use his studio. We knew it better than he did.”
Petty did more than that – he co-produced The Shelters’ self-titled debut album, a record that cherry picks the best bits of British Invasion-era 60s pop (The Beatles, The Kinks, The Who), filters them through a gauze of sunny 70s Californian rock and power pop, then updates them for today.
“A lot of guitar bands come from a really heavy, deep-sounding place,” says vocalist and guitarist Josh Jove. “The music we love has a real fun approach. Not so much ‘I wanna cry’ as ‘I wanna dance’.”
Simpson (26, slacker haircut, dress-down T-shirt) met Jove (28, blond greaser quiff, vintage denim) a few years ago when the latter relocated from his native Florida to Los Angeles to try to carve out a career as a studio musician. They soon put together The Shelters, bringing in drummer Sebastian Harris and bassist Jacob Pilot. Their MO was simple: song power. “You’re only as good as your tunes,” says Jove. It’s an approach that set them apart from the rest of LA’s trend-driven music scene.”
“All these bands in my eyes chase each other,” says Simpson. “They’re all trying to do the same as the last. None of our heroes chased tail lights.”
It doesn’t hurt to have one of the great American icons of the last 40 years as your Yoda figure. Petty gave the band free run of his studio, even enlisting Simpson and Jove to work on his last album, Hypnotic Eye (both co-engineered, while the latter added fuzz guitar to one track). But his most important role has been as a sounding board.
“He’s a super-mentor,” confirms Jove. “We run everything by him – why wouldn’t you? He knows his shit better than anyone. He let’s us figure it out on our own, but it’s pretty hard to get a song past Tommy.”
Petty’s presence doesn’t guarantee success; rather, it adds a layer of expectation to the struggles that any young band already faces. But The Shelters say they’re up for the fight.
“We’re the last generation that grew up loving classic rock’n’roll,” says Simpson. “I see it when we play for younger audiences – some of those kids haven’t seen a guy rip on a guitar solo. Their elder brother’s music was rap, and that’s kind of fading out. It’s a good time for rock now. And I think that’s what Tommy’s trying to do – hand over the torch to another generation to take it and run with it.”
The Shelters by The Shelters is out now via Warner Bros.
For fans of…
“We love The Kinks’ spirit, the freedom they have when it comes to playing with genres,” says Jove. “They sound like a punk band on one song, a country band on another, then on another they’ll just sound super-English.”
Simpson: “Every other band had a theme but they weren’t writing songs they thought they should. It all boils down to the song: is it a good or bad song?”