Bringin’ it Backwards: Interview with The Shelters

We had the opportunity to interview The Shelters!

Videos by American Songwriter

The Shelters fan a fresh flame with classic fuel on their 2019 second full-length, Jupiter Sidecar [Warner Records]. Ebbing and flowing between rock ‘n’ roll roots, surf swagger, synth swells, and unassuming pop ambition, the Los Angeles based group—Chase Simpson [vocals, guitar], Josh Jove [guitar, vocals], and Sebastian Harris [drums]— thread it all together with catchy melodic hooks and handcrafted instrumentation.

“In many ways, the record really shows we’re a California band,” affirms Chase. “There’s a bit of the beach. There’s a bit of the desert. There’s a bit of the seventies L.A. rock scene still around. We’re definitely old souls who have been exposed to great stuff—but we’re here in 2019.”

“All of the sounds are old school gear played by live musicians,” adds Josh. “We’re a rock ‘n’ roll band open to combining a bunch of inspirations we love.”

This approach quietly cemented them as a fan and critical favorite following the release of their self-titled full-length, The Shelters, in 2016. Produced by none other than the late Tom Petty, the debut garnered widespread praise from the likes of W MagazineRolling Stone, and Paste who noted, “The band’s sound successfully marries elements of ‘70s and ‘80s rock and roll with a modern flair. Between the album release and dropping the Really Wanted You 7-inch a year later, the boys canvased the country alongside The Head and the Heart, Royal Blood, The Killers, Gary Clark Jr., Band Of Horses, BRONCHO, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Mudcrutch and more logging over hundreds of shows in two years. Meanwhile, the single “Rebel Heart” caught fire, racking up close to 14 million total streams. Not to mention, actress Juno Temple starred in the accompanying 2017 visual for “Gold.”

While The Shelters have found a way to triumph again in the studio, they faced their biggest challenge in the wake of Petty’s tragic passing. For the first time, they found themselves in the studio without the producer who in many ways was the musical and spiritual compass for the band.  Petty was even the initial catalyst for their union as a band, encouraging them to work hard at songwriting and offering them time in his home studio to hone their craft.

Now with Petty gone, The Shelters returned to his home studio Shoreline Recorders in Malibu to mourn the loss of their friend and mentor; and in the process learned to rely on one another like never before. 

“When he was here, Tommy took the stance like Mr. Miyagi or Yoda,” continued Josh. “He knew we had it in us. We didn’t realize it until we got in there without him though.”

“Starting was the hardest part,” admits Chase. “We’d been on the road for two years and hadn’t been writing songs. Tommy would take our heads out of the fish bowl and get us back on track. So, Josh and I leaned on each other.”

“We definitely have something to prove,” Chase continues. “Obviously, we want to make Tommy proud. Even more so, we want to step out of his shadow and come into our own. We knew we had to do something exciting and different to carry on being The Shelters.”

Chase and Josh spent over a year writing and recording at Shoreline. Each personally employed no less than twelve instruments, including tambura, analog synths, and more. As Chase honed his production acumen on Pro Tools, Josh explored his guitar under the influence of everything from Duane Eddy, Les Paul and Merle Travis, to Spirit, Television and The Stone Roses. With the framework in place, they holed up in Sunset Sound with producer Joe Chiccarelli [The White Stripes, The Strokes, Morrissey] in order to track Jupiter Sidecar. Rounding out the sound, Ken Andrews [Paramore, Nine Inch Nails] mixed the album and GRAMMY® Award-winning engineer Emily Lazar [Beck, The Killers] handled mastering at the Lodge.

“We had worked hard in the studio prior to meeting Joe and actually kept about 75 percent of the original demos intact,” says Josh. “We had the spirit from what we did in Malibu and combined our experimental nature with Joe’s production. We needed a producer, and he really brought in some different ideas. We struck a push-and-pull sonically.”

It becomes clear on the first single “You’re Different.” Sharp, yet fuzzy riffs entwine with a steady beat before culminating on a chantable hook and synth-sounding iridescent guitar solo. 

“‘You’re Different’ focuses on the power of individuality and also the struggle of change within oneself,” says Simpson. “It’s an internal conversation I have when I think about how I’ve changed over time, and through the experiences I’ve had in my life. It’s hard to know how you should feel about it – whether it’s something to embrace or fear.”

Penned by Josh, “Waiting for Life To Begin” would be the last tune the guitarist shared with Petty. Heavy thoughts in the lyrics and sweeping strings underscore an urgent energy.

On the other end of the lyrical spectrum, baritone surf guitar cruises through a synthesizer arpeggio, organ and tape echo on the immediately danceable “Tangled Up,” a song that celebrates “feeling so in love or over the moon you’re lifted out of this world.”

Everything concludes on “Can’t Go Home.” Orchestral guitars and a driving rhythm build towards a final moment of clarity. “We wanted to push through hardship and not let anything stand in our way,” states Chase when considering the album closer. “We couldn’t go home, but we could start over. It was the final song I got to show Tommy before we went on tour. The chorus wasn’t right at the time, so I worked really hard to fix it and make it right. I proved I could do it lyrically.”

In the end, Jupiter Sidecar marks the moment The Shelters become both who their mentor believed they could be and who they were meant to be all along…

“These songs are really reflective of the place we were in,” Chase continues. “We pushed ourselves hard when writing and dug deep to capture the moment and the spirit of this band.”

Now that their hard work in the studio is done for now, Chase reflects on The Shelters’ aims for the short and long term. “We’d love for a room of people to be singing these songs back to us. We’re just regular guys making music. If that happens, there would be nothing better in the world. We think Tommy would dig that.”

“Obviously, we want to make Tommy proud. Even more so, we want to step out of his shadow and come into our own. ”

— Chase Simpson of The Shelters

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