The Shelters could be the next big thing in rock n roll.
After we discovered the band this spring, we immediately noticed something unique. They boast a sound that could run the gamut of Knoxville’s entertainment venues.
Sure, they have the right amount of grit to make the Pilot Light a sweaty mess, but they could also put together a set list that could fill the expansive space of the Tennessee Theatre and have those in their seats itching to rise.
There is a great variance from track to track on the bands self titled debut, giving the band a wide array of listeners and a mass appeal that we haven’t seen in some time.
But this isn’t your typical band story. The Shelters have had some help.
They started playing gigs in front of packed crowds just last year due in part to a pretty impressive musical friendship.
See, Chase Simpson, one of a pair of singers and guitarists of the band, grew up with Tom Petty’s stepson, so as he developed as a musician, so did Petty’s interest in the California native.
Sure, Petty’s influence and connections have helped the band garner attention, but make no mistake.
The Shelters are earning thier way to rock n roll prominence through veracious songs that pay homage to the past as much as they pave new road in a cluttered indie rock circuit.
We caught up with Simpson to discuss the band’s furious ride to relevance and what to expect next from the band that released one of our favorite albums of 2016.
Blank: You guys have a sound that translates to a lot of different venues and a lot of different radio formats. What have you done to create that?
Chase Simpson: There are a lot of things that help with that. We get inspired from things we come in to contact with just like most other bands.
We have such a great mentor. Since the very beginning, every time we got caught up in genre or stylistic talk, Tom (Petty) would stop us right there and say, “Just pick your song and we’ll play it later and see if it’s good or not.”
A goal of mine is to appeal to as many people as possible while being true to myself. I think because of our outlook on songwriting it happened naturally as apposed to it being a really thought out thing.
And sometimes Tom will turn us on to a band. He’ll come in to the studio all stoked and say, ’Guys, you gotta check out this record.’ Or he’ll show us his buried treasure show and get us on something we’ve never heard. He turned me on to Emitt Rhodes and I was like, ‘Who is this guy? This guy is amazing.’ And then one night we all went to see Ty Segall and that night Josh and I both decided we wanted to make something grungy like that, so the next record me made was “Liar.” I think it comes from wanting to grow. Who knows what the next record is gonna be.
Blank: How did this band come about?
CS: Josh is from Orlando. Sabastian, Josh and I had played in a band before and when that band fell apart, I called Josh up and said, ‘Hey, let’s keep doing this stuff.’
So we kept writing and we called up Sebastian and introduced the idea to him. We didn’t have a singer and we looked for one for six months or more and Josh and I just decided that we were going to have to figure it out on our own.
I think part of it was that we knew we were capable (of singing) but had never really explored it that much. It was really a happy accident that it worked out so well. Josh had been a singer before but I had never really done it so it really helped me out as a songwriter.
Blank: Were you guys in other bands on the way up?
CS: When you’re young and you’re just trying to get in to it, I guess you play in as many projects as you can. The other guys played everything. They played blues gigs and in funk bands and reggae bands. Any kind of gig you could get. I was always kind of a one band guy. I’ve always put all my eggs in one basket. But all the diversity helps us out with our sound now.
Blank: Have there been any bands that you’ve been compared to that really surprised you?
CS: It’s an honor to hear people say that a song reminds them of The Doors, or The Heartbreakers or The Kinks or The Stones. Those are all our heroes. I think that we all hope that we can appeal to a broad audience. When Josh and I write these songs together we just want to make fun retro rock and roll music with our own modern flare on it.
Blank: Are you enjoying the ride?
CS: We’re having a blast. It’s a dream. It takes some learning to deal with the punches and roll with everything and keep the vibe great with everyone. If the vibe is right, then it’s just like on a fantastic trip with all of your best friends. Life is great.
Blank: Tom Petty co-produced the band’s EP and first full-length album and basically gave the band free reign on his personal studio. What was the recording process like with Tom Petty as producer?
CS: Everything you could dream of, it was all there.
The great thing about him is that he’s really blunt, but he’s not going to completely throw away ideas. Josh or I will write a song and we’ll bring it in to the studio and play something for him on the guitar and he’ll say, “That’s really good. Maybe you can make this part a little better.” And I have to say that almost every time, he’s been right. Sometimes songs just come right out of you and they work, but sometimes you need to look at it more and put certain things more poetically or more originally and obviously, he’s such a master of this, so you try to take his advice.
But also, there have been times where either Josh or I feel strongly about something and he’ll come around to us. He’s definitely a very open guy. Everyone works really well together. He just wants us to get better as any producer would.
Blank: As for what’s next for the band, they’ll go on a co-headlining Alt Nation tour with Night Riots and The Hunna after they finish up the final stops of their current tour with Band of Horses. Simpson had this to say in closing.
CS: We worked on this record for so long, I really want as many people to hear it as possible, so hopefully we’ll be touring it through next year and then maybe after next summer, we can start on the next album. But for now it’s just hitting the road and shaking hands and trying to get our thing in front of as many fans as possible.”
The Shelters will perform tonight at the Mill & Mine in Knoxville, TN. Doors open at 7:00 and the show starts at 8:00. If you’d like to say you saw The Shelters “Way back when,” you’ll want to be there early. This is not an opener you want to miss.
For more info check out www.thesheltersmusic.com