This Tom Petty-approved band is shaking up the rock genre
It doesn't take more than a couple of seconds listening to The Shelter's debut LP to understand that the LA-based four-piece just wants to make unadulterated, no-frills rock music. Paying homage to the greats of The Beatles, The Beach Boys, amongst other pivotal 70s groups, the band -- which consists of members Sebastian Harris, Josh Jove, Jacob Pilot, and Chase Simpson -- aims to back to the roots of their genre, but not without leaving their own modern footprint.
The culmination of their rock exploration is their namesake 13 song album, "The Shelters," which was co-produced by Tom Petty. After Petty watched the group during a live set, he invited them to his studio, and a mentorship blossomed. His influence is incredibly apparent; as singer/guitarist Chase Simpson notes, "I always loved trying to write songs but until Tommy came into the picture I never understood how monumental a great song is." And it looks as though Petty's sage wisdom paid off. The result was a compact and concise narrative that can hold it's weight against the group's addicting instrumentals.
From the glittering, surf-rock riffs of "Rebel Heart" to the hypnotic vocals on "Liar", the group's sound pulls from everything from psychedelic rock to soulful blues, and creates an vintage atmosphere that still manages to feel current. All in all, "The Shelters" will have you feeling nostalgic, but at the same time excited for the newest generation of rock n' rollers.
On the heels of their debut album's release -- about 8 hours to be exact -- we sat down with four piece at New York City's Webster Hall to discuss their newest music, what it was like working alongside legend Tom Petty, and more!
#OnOurRadar is a feature that showcases creative minds and up-and-coming talents. To see more of past interviews, click here.
First off congrats on the album! It's been out for just a few hours now, which is really exciting. What went into creating it?
Chase Simpson: It was years of our life. It was the hardest thing I've ever personally worked on in my whole life.
Sebastian Harris: It was almost like going to college. I feel like we just graduated. It's the like the last four years of our life has been leading up to this moment. So now we finally get to walk and get our diploma.
Jacob Pilot: And go to med school!
Chase Simpson: Everything we learned over those years, all the music we studied, techniques, recording process, and us getting to know each other as a band went into that album.
Sebastian Harris: I think you can feel that in the record. It starts in one place and it hints at the progression of the band. You can see the trajectory and where it's headed towards. So it's fun to have it mapped out like that.
What was music to you growing up and what function has it played in your life?
Chase Simpson: I mean I started playing guitar when I was 7 or 8 and I always wanted to be a band. when I was in third grade I signed up for this talent show and taught my friends how to play. I always loved classic rock and when I was a teenager I was way more into punk music. I finally came back to more classic rock stuff. But I've always loved music and it's been one of the true loves of my life. I think it has been for all of us. It's everything to me. It's the reason to get up in the morning.
Jacob Pilot: I grew up on Beatles. My parents were not in the music business, but they loved music. And I played guitar at 9 and bass at 10. And I was in the jazz band and orchestra and wanted to do film school. So I did that for a year but then I got a call from one of my friends asking if I wanted to go on tour in England. And then I never looked back. Then I met these guys and really, this is the life.
Josh Jove: I just grew up in a musical family. Both of my parents are singers and I was always singing my whole life. I started playing guitar when I was 11 and tried to listen to every time of music there was. And I'm still looking for more.
Sebastian Harris: I also started at a young age. I've always been drawn to it. My parents weren't musicians but they were artists and always had great records on. When I was nine I saw some guys playing music, and I said, "That's what I want to do Mom. I want to be a drummer; get me drum lessons." And I felt the rhythm and never looked back. By age 12 that's when I knew that it was what I wanted to do and it's why I was put here. I began working towards building my career no matter what it took. Met these guys along the way amongst other incredible musicians that I've been fortunate to work with.
Chase Simpson: But we're the greatest ones?
Sebastian Harris: Oh yeah, hands down.
What has it been like you for you all to bring your different influences to a singular band?
Sebastian Harris: Fantastic. It's really nice because so often with a lot of artists that I've worked with, if you're all coming from the same point of view, you have less to pull from. Where these guys are always turning me on to new stuff that I wouldn't necessarily into it. And I'm so grateful for it. I just think it brings so much diversity and therefore complexity because it's multi-faceted.
Chase Simpson: It's what makes a band a band. Everyone likes different stuff and you're like he likes surf rock, he likes the blues.
Sebastian Harris: Then it becomes more unique because you're not plagiarizing one band that you all idolize and love so much. It all comes together in this big melting pot and makes a unique sound.
Chase Simpson: I think we have something unique going on as we do take all those influences that you can hear throughout the record, but they all are coming together in a totally new way. It's definitely something we all think is special.
In that same vein, a really defining moment for musicians is cultivating their sound, so what has that process been like for you guys?
Chase Simpson: Ever evolving. I don't want us to have a set sound because that means we stop growing. Our band is about good songs and working on it until it's a great song. And as long as it's a great song, we don't care what it is.
How does a song of yours come together from start to finish? Who plays what role in the band?
Josh Jove: It varies really from song to song.
Chase Simpson: Josh and I write most of the music and we have different ways of going about that. Sometimes we write together and sometimes we do it separately. Sometimes I have lyrics but no music or vice versa. So it really is just where the inspiration comes from.
Sebastian Harris: And sometimes they'll bring in a song that's almost completely finish and there's a slight melody idea and we'll jam for a couple of hours until we find that piece of gold and refine it.
Chase Simpson: Like you could be walking down with the street with your mom and think "Oh, I have something!" And you just sing it into a voice memo. All day you're think of the words and something on TV will pop up and you'll think "That's an interesting thought." It's just whatever strikes you at the moment. You have to keep your ears open.
Sebastian Harris: I feel like Chase typically writes from a lyrical point of view and Josh from a melodic point of view which is great, because yet again there's more diversity in the group.
What has been your proudest song on this debut album?
Chase Simpson: Everyone one of them! I love them all.
Jacob Pilot: That's like asking someone to pick they're favorite baby. We love all of our children.
Chase Simpson: I think each time there's a new song, that's the one you're most excited about. When there's something new it's how we get excited. And that's the energy that goes into recording since we have so many songs that we get the chance to record. We also have songs that are a year old that we want to record, but then Josh will get this amazing idea and we'll just do that because we'll be so excited about it in that moment. It's all about being in that moment.
Sebastian Harris: That being said, I think for all of us -- correct me if I'm wrong guys -- but when "Rebel Heart" the single, which was the first single we recorded, was recorded that was a really special moment for us. It was one of those things when it was done, we looked around and knew we were on to something special. I think that's what fueled us to keep going.
Jacob Pilot: Something that's really interesting too from my perspective because I haven't been in the band as long as these guys, since I came into the band from working with other groups. They had been working on this for years. And the catalogue -- even though there's only one record -- is so deep. Every once in a while Josh or Chase will show me five songs that got lost somewhere along the way of creating the record and they're incredible.
Sebastian Harris: Not lost but in this process of writing and recording before we chose the songs that made a complete record.
When do you know when a song of yours is done?
Chase Simpson: I don't think we know that. It's different every time, it's just when it feels right. That's the beautiful thing about writing songs or creating music in general; there's no one way to do it. There's no right or wrong way. When everyone looks around the room and there's no more room to fill.
Josh Jove: It's also nice for us to have an outside perspective because with us, we could just keep going until someone dragged us away from a soundboard. So that's what nice about having the producers we had involved and having even Ryan who does our mixing. Sometimes they'll encourage us when it's done.
Tom Petty co-produced your debut album. How did that relationship come about?
Chase Simpson: I had known him previously from growing up where I did. So when we started playing with this band we showed him a demo. That led to him saying "Hey come record a song at my studio." Then it went from there.
Sebastian Harris: And that song was "Rebel Heart." And we were all excited as well as him, so it got the ball rolling.
Chase Simpson: An eruption kind of happened and it was invigorating for everyone.
Sebastian Harris: It started very casually. It was never like he outright said he wanted to produce our record. It was more, "Come hang out and we'll see what happened." And it slowly progressed to what it is.
What has been your biggest takeaway or the biggest thing you've learned while working with Tom Petty?
Chase Simpson: How much time do we have?
Jacob Pilot: Just songs in general, honestly.
Josh Jove: We'll spend a long time working on sounds or rifts or crazy guitar harmonies. But then he'll come in and slap us back into reality and be like, "Where's the song?" It's not just about sounds. There are a lot of bands out there nowadays -- bands that I enjoy listening to -- that are about sounds than songs. And you leave certain concerts thinking, "Wow that was a really cool experience," but you never go home humming the songs themselves. Tom obviously is a legend of songs so he encouraged that. He said to keep all the exploratory nature, but don't lose the song. Ultimately that's the most important thing.
Jacob Pilot: Second most important thing was that he said as a young band playing these shows, the audiences can be timid but you're the ones going to play the show so do your best.
Josh Jove: Yeah, like always play it as if its a huge show and that seems to work for us. We've played some smaller shows sometimes and maybe they're weakly attended but they're still a good time. While we're up there maybe we'll feel silly sometimes but afterwards having people tell us how much they've enjoyed it. And that's really all that matters.
Chase Simpson: The wisdom he's instilled on us is everywhere and it applies to life. He's like the king of the one line motto to live by. His testament is his songwriting but even when he talks, everything he says you want to live your life that way. It's endless.
What do you hope viewers will takeaway from your live shows?
Josh Jove: It's interesting now that the record is out, I hope people will react to it differently because before nobody really knew anything. So people's reactions were like, "What's going on here?" and wide eyes. But now that the album is out, I hope the reaction is "The record is great, but they're even deeper live. They go into different territories than the record. We stretch things out and change things up from the record." We want people to think the record is great, but the live show is a whole different experience.
Sebastian Harris: And we're four guys playing instruments. Which is strange. We don't have tracks and there's no smoke and mirrors. It's very real and organic and in the moment, never to be re-created like that again.
How has tech or streaming culture changed the way you operate as an up-and-coming band?
Chase Simpson: I think Spotify is so good because for a band like us, we were lucky enough to get on a playlist and introduce all these people to our music that would have never found it before. Even in the golden age of records, that opportunity wouldn't exist. To me, all we care about is getting our music to as many people as possible and sharing it with everyone. That's our goal.
What's the one piece of advice you wish you had received before you became a musician?
Chase Simpson: I wish I had learned the power of songs earlier. I always loved trying to write songs but until Tommy came into the picture I never understood how monumental a great song is. To me it's everything now. It's my whole world.
Josh Jove: Not smoke cigarettes. To tie it into not just my own life and band life, there's a lot of dead time on the road so you end up smoking a lot. But because I'm singing now, I wish I didn't. If was just a guitar player, I would look like Keith Richards. That's my public service announcement.
Chase Simpson: Now that this interview is done, can we all go out and smoke?
#OnOurRadar is a feature that showcases creative minds and up-and-coming talents. To see more of past interviews, click here.
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