Can you imagine? You’re a young band, playing a hometown gig and you look out from the stage to see seven, maybe eight faces looking back at you. There’s your girlfriend, your girlfriend’s mom, your girlfriend’s little brother, your next door neighbor, Tom Petty, your next door neighbor’s mom, the drummer’s girlfriend….
Wait. What? Back up a sec.
Seriously, your girlfriend brought her mom? And what’s Tom Petty doing here?
No one’s saying that’s exactly how it went down for The Shelters—we were just imagining, remember—but it could have. Because one night the guy who fronts The Heartbreakers and Mudcrutch showed up to a show, and rather than skip out before anyone noticed him, Petty instead invited the guys over to his place to make some music. Going back to the sessions for The Heartbreakers’ 2014 Hypnotic Eye CD, on which Shelters co-frontmen Chase Simpson and Josh Jove were assistant engineers (Jove also played a little fuzz guitar on Forgotten Man), Petty has really taken The Shelters under his considerable wing.
So the CliffsNotes on these guys is that Simpson, Jove, and drummer Sebastian Harris all previously played together in Los Angeles-based Automatik Slim before putting The Shelters together in 2014 (or 2015, depending on who you ask). Sooner than later they added bassist Jacob Pillot, and before you could say Bob’s your uncle they’d issued a single and self-titled, Petty-co-produced EP by October of 2015. Little Steven heard it and named their song Fortune Teller the Coolest Song in the World This Week on his Underground Garage radio show in February 2016.
Buoyed by the songs of Simpson and Jove, The Shelters’ self-titled debut LP, also co-produced by Petty, landed in June of 2016 and seemingly overnight had rock music writers comparing its sound to The Black Keys, Jack White, Fleetwood Mac, Kaleo, The Strokes, Tom Petty, The Beatles, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, The Byrds, Cage The Elephant, Cream, The Vines, Steppenwolf, The Replacements, The Velvet Crush, The Allman Brothers Band, and The Rolling Stones.
So that should have you pretty well caught up on what they sound like.
They’ve done a great job of giving each of the dozen songs on their CD (including the ridiculously catchy single Rebel Heart and a cover of The Kinks’ 1965 album cut Nothin’ In The World Can Stop Me Worryin’ ’Bout That Girl) a sound unto itself, but the unifying theme here is retro rock, with perhaps a hint of mid-’60s British Invasion taking the pole position.
Oh, and those imaginary early sets where The Shelters were only drawing their families and Tom Petty have given way to some major shows, as they’ve already toured with Gary Clark Jr., The Kooks, The Wild Feathers, Atlas Genius, and The Struts, and made major festival appearances across the country.
And the icing on the cake: The Shelters opened for Petty’s band Mudcrutch on their spring 2016 national tour.
So if you’re an up-and-coming rock band, keep your eye on the audience for Tom Petty. It looks to be a good thing when he shows up.