Like so many, the Shelters lost a lot when Tom Petty passed away, unexpectedly, during October of 2017. He was a mentor, collaborator and older brother/father figure for the Los Angeles rock trio — “Our best friend, really,” according to Chase Simpson.
But Petty lives on for the Shelters via the group’s sophomore album Jupiter Sidecar, coming Sept. 20, and particularly in the track “Strange,” premiering exclusively below.
“‘Strange’ is actually a song Tommy was part of,” Simpson, who wrote the track, tells Billboard. The song, he says, was considered for the Shelters’ self-titled 2016 debut, which Petty produced, but in a significantly different version than the swelling, dynamic and slightly psychedelic take that appears on Jupiter Sidecar. “That was a song we struggled with for a long time,” Simpson acknowledges, while fellow singer-guitarist Josh Jove adds that, “It was a song Tommy had a hard time guiding us through, but he really dug that song and helped us with it in the beginning, for sure.”
The Shelters wound up finishing the track for Jupiter Sidecar, which it recorded with producer Joe Chiccarelli at Sunset Sound in Los Angeles, after additional trial and error. “It’s a little bit out of the ordinary for us,” Simpson says, “trying to combine the rock n’ roll stuff with something a bit edgier. It was tough because it’s such a big song in terms of layers; We thought of it as kind of a Clash-type song, and there’s a lot of cool instruments on there — guitars, huge Beach Boys vocal stacks and a ‘Love is a Long Road’ kind of guitar part. It was hard to find any space in it and find dynamics in how to make it lift.”
Simpson and Jove say they showed Petty three other Jupiter Sidecar songs to Petty before his death, seeking input. “Our process was always that he would be with us from the inception of the songs,” Jove says. “He would let us get going and when we had something presentable we would show it to him, and in the case of these songs he definitely gave us advice on a few of them.” Even after Petty’s death the Shelters continued writing and demoing at Petty’s Shoreline Recorders facility in Malibu, often encountering others from the Petty camp also grappling with their emotions. “Shoreline is home and it’s where the band started,” Simpson explains. “It’s the only place we could feel connected to Tommy; He’s still a huge presence there, so after everything happened that’s kind of where everyone would go to feel that energy, and I think it actually helped us. It’s still a magical place, and I don’t think you can ever erase the history and energy that’s there. We were lucky enough to still have access to it.”
Like The Shelters, Jupiter Sidebar covers a lot of stylistic ground — and was designed to, according to Simpson and Jove. “We’re incapable of leaving one sound set up and going with that the whole record,” Simpson says. But this time out they hope that breadth is viewed as a positive. “The only criticism we’d hear from people before is they didn’t know what our sound was,” Jove says. “But I always thought that the more music we put out, the more our sound would become apparent, so now hopefully people will hear (Jupiter Sidecar) and hear who the band is and what our sound is. This is our thing — we’re all over the place. At least we’re cementing that with this (album).”