The Shelters’ Chase Simpson (left) plays a Gretsch Billy-Bo on rhythm guitar while Josh Jove holds down
the leads on a Rickenbacker. Photo by Andy Keilen
A few years ago, Tom Petty saw the Shelters perform live in Los Angeles and was so impressed with their sound and performance that he decided to take them under his wing and co-produce their self-titled debut. And while the notoriety gained from being mentored by such a rock icon is welcome, and even beneficial, the Shelters are in no way a vanity project. Petty gave them the keys to his studio and allowed them to hone their craft and develop the potential he witnessed on that fateful night. “We’re lucky to have a great relationship with Tom,” says singer and lead guitarist Josh Jove. “He turned us on to so much cool music and produced our record, but he wasn’t too hands-on. He let us explore on our own, but his influence is undeniable.”
That influence, and those explorations, manifest themselves in an electrifyingly cohesive blend of British Invasion and California surf music on The Shelters. “We really love all the California bands, and there’s some overlap with the British Invasion bands, so our sound becomes its own unique thing,” Jove explains. “Sometimes people have a hard time placing it because they either hear the Beatles or they hear more of the California vibe, like the Beach Boys.” Indeed, a song like “The Ghost Is Gone” has an Animals-meets-the-Doors slant to it, while their first single, “Rebel Heart,” with its 12-string guitar intro, recalls the Byrds, but with West Coast undertow rhythmically and melodically. Vocally, “Fortune Teller” is pure John Lennon-esque Beatles, but, harmonically speaking, the progression is a bit more American sounding, like something you might associate with Tom Petty himself. Petty’s mentorship may have garnered the headlines and given them a tremendous opportunity, but it’s by no means the bedrock on which the Shelters’ sound was forged.
As for the guitar parts, Jove and co-vocalist/rhythm guitarist Chase Simpson weave in and out of one other in ways not unlike the Rolling Stones, who made that style of interplay famous. The intro to “Down” is a prime example of this kind of herky-jerky rhythmic feel. Jove handles all the lead guitar work and his solos are direct, in-your-face expressions, like little squawking songs within the song. Think Dick Dale meets George Harrison.
The Shelters were formed in Los Angeles in 2015 when Jove, Simpson, and drummer Sebastian Harris left their previous outfit, Automatik Slim (a band that featured Petty’s stepson, Dylan Epperson Petty) and enlisted bassist Jacob Pillot. They cut and released their debut EP, simply titled EP, that same year. Since then they’ve been on the fast track. PG caught up with Jove, who was at home in L.A. between tour dates, to talk about recreating their debut album in a live setting, working with Petty, and the pleasures of recording with vintage gear.
How involved in production was Tom Petty? Did he help with arrangements and sounds?
He loved talking about sounds just as much as any musician. Most musicians I know are into making cool sounds in the studio. But mainly, he would give us input on the songs. He’s such a master songwriter. We would spend a lot of time getting cool guitar sounds or getting some wild fuzz sound, but if there wasn’t a song behind it, he’d be the first one to say, “Well, that’s a cool sound, but where’s the song?” That’s where his input was critical: making sure these songs were memorable and good and universal.
At what stage of the process were you getting such feedback?
At rehearsal. He would come in and say something like, “These lyrics are a little too literal. You guys should explore some more poetic options.” And he would kind of leave it at that. He’d walk away and leave us sitting there going, “Well, how are we going to impress him?” We’d come up with things until he thought it was great. And then he would say, “That’s a good song. You guys got it. Now you can work on the fuzz sound.”
On The Shelters, the band employed a ’70s Maestro Echoplex EP-3 as their sonic secret weapon. “We used that on so many things on the record—simple vocal slap-back echo, sound effects, drum sound effects—you name it,” says Josh Jove. “It was kind of a magic box. I would love to bring that out live. It’s become an important part of our sonic signature, but I would never do it because it’s just so unreliable. I have an extensive pedalboard that allows me to capture a lot of that stuff.”
Why do you think you guys connected so well with him?
The stuff he’s into is not very different than what we’re into. He loves British Invasion bands; he loves California rock ’n’ roll music. And I think, even though he’s from the South, he’s become the sound of California. I think a lot of people associate him with that and American music. He’s been a huge influence.
And you’re originally from Florida, as is Tom.
Tom has always been the king of rock ’n’ roll to me. Growing up in Orlando, a lot of bands I played with sounded like they wanted to be Tom. That was the thing. Then I moved to California and got to work with him. It’s been great to pick his brain and hear the music he’s into.
You recorded at his studio?
Yes. We recorded at Shoreline Recorders. It’s not where the bulk of his recent material was recorded, but he’s been doing overdubs there for years. When we started our record, the studio had been dormant. It hadn’t really been used because he has another studio. We dusted everything off and reinvigorated the studio and made our record there over the course of a couple of years.
Was there a lot of cool gear in his studio?
The amount of gear used on the record is staggering. Not only are there tons of instruments at the studio, but there was also a revolving door of instruments. Some days we’d walk in and there would be some new guitar sitting there. I’m a real enthusiast when it comes to guitars, so when I see a specific guitar I associate with a certain guitar player, like a famous, historical, rock ’n’ roll guitar player, all I can think is, “Let’s go write a riff that sounds like that.” In a lot of ways, the gear influenced the writing process because it was like, “This guitar has a Pete Townshend vibe, so let’s make this a Who part and record it with this guitar.” The gear sometimes dictated what direction we’d take the arrangement.