I recently sat down with singer and lead guitarist of The Shelters, Josh Jove. Mentored by legendary rocker Tom Petty who helped produce their first album, the band is now signed to Warner Bros. The Shelters have an undeniably rich and catchy sound, and is sonically slick. While young and fresh, they’re evidently influenced by a more retro time in rock and roll, so it’s no surprise that Jove references The Beach Boys as one of his favorite bands. Over a glass of wine and a Tom Waits album on vinyl in a small West Hollywood studio, we talk about the state of rock, Stephen Colbert, and blue Gatorade.
How did The Shelters come to be?
I had played in a different band with a friend who brought me into the fold with another band he played with, which was Tom’s (Petty) stepson’s band, Automatic Slim. I basically started playing with that group, and when that band split up, I ended up playing with the remaining members. Whenever we would have any kind of finished song, we’d bring it to Tom and get his input. He stayed interested in anything we were doing, basically.
Is there a general leader of the band? Or do you each take some sort of leadership role one way or another?
Chase and I are basically the songwriters in the band, so I think we are the leaders of the band by default. We have our different strengths and bring different things to the table, musically. Chase brings in a real desire to write meaningful lyrics, and for me, I’m more about sounds and sonics.
What’s one of your favorite cities to play?
I think our best audience and favorite place to play is San Diego, so far. They’ve been the most supportive on the radio, and the crowds are really receptive. I really love the south, so I’m excited to get to play places like New Orleans and Austin, etc.
What’s your gear setup like on stage?
I’ve been using the same setup for a long time. I definitely look at gear as a means to make any sound that I know I want to make. I don’t have a lot of extra stuff, everything I use is utilitarian. I use a 12 string Rickenbacker on ‘Rebel Heart’ and then the rest of the set I just play one guitar—my Fender Showman. Chase, on the other hand, has a lot of guitars on stage, but that’s because he uses a lot of different kinds of tunings for different songs. Essentially our gear is designed to make the sounds we want to make without a PA. So we can get pretty loud. Almost everything we use is Fender, with the exception of a few guitars. I think there’s a little bit of a romance there, since we are essentially a California band.
Any ‘secret weapons’ when it comes to pedals?
I don’t think I have any secret weapons, really. My most used pedal is a treble booster, or range master, which is basically what Brian May and Mick Ronson from Bowie’s group used—that was kind of the sound back then. So that pedal is pretty much on all the time in my setup. If I want to boost my signal for a solo, I usually use a vintage fuzz tone, which was basically THE sound on ‘Satisfaction’ (Rolling Stones, duh).
You guys get to work with Tom Petty on a regular basis. Something most bands will never get to do. How does that feel? Do you feel like it’s the norm now, or are there ever moments when you still kind of pinch yourself?
I think that—not to diminish our abilities or talents, which we all admit are always growing—our connection to Tom says more about who he is than who we are. I think he saw this as something that needed to grow. It wasn’t like he thought we were the best songwriters or anything. He’s just a very welcoming and supportive person, and obviously loves rock and roll and loves to see bands making great rock and roll music, even if it’s in the growing stages.
As far as being around him nowadays, I would say that it doesn’t feel the same as when we first started, ‘cause we were really nervous around him. But we’ve sort of lost that, which again says more about who he is because he just doesn’t make you feel nervous. He’s a tough critic when it comes to what his position in this project is. There’s this really harsh, filter system that our music has to go through sometimes. I don’t see myself as some great songwriter, at least not yet, so when I bring a song to the table, I come in knowing that it could be improved in one way or another. It’s one thing to ask a friend or one of my band mates whether something could be improved. It’s another thing to ask Tom, because he’s obviously a genius at it. So he might listen to something and say, “Well that’s been sung a hundred times…” So I do get nervous when it comes to presenting new material to him, but as far as hanging out with him and being around him, I fully appreciate it, and that’s why I guess I do it all the time.
What’s the vibe in the van on tour? Do people own up to their flatulence?
(Laughing) Certain guys are proud of it! So it’s not necessarily something that anyone is ashamed of… We’re pretty lucky that we have a pretty cool vehicle. We kind of outfitted a shuttle bus, put bunks in it, we can walk around and stand up. It’s not quite the hell we went through with the 15 passenger van. That can kind of make a band want to kill each other.
Oh don’t I know it! Have there ever been fights over a girl on tour?
Not any specific circumstance I can remember regarding a girl… But there’s been plenty of girl drama, personally, being in a band…
I get the sense that girls really like lead singers. I wouldn’t know, but how has that worked out for you?
(Laughing) Yeah, exactly…
Describe back stage on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. What was the vibe?
It was kind of a blur, honestly. The majority of the vibe was good there, and it was exciting, of course. There were some label people there supporting us and cheering us on, so we felt confident going out there and we knew that just being there meant we must be onto something good.
*Watch The Shelters playing ‘Rebel Heart’ live on the The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.
The Ed Sullivan Theater was really cool, and they used our artwork from our record to project everywhere while we were playing, like on the ceiling and all over the place, which was cool. One thing that really stood out to me was the respect that everyone had for him (Colbert). He has everything on a dial and is so hands on with everything, so much so that he would even tell the camera guy to move the camera to a different position.
If the van broke down in the middle of a ferocious snow storm in Montana and you were in the middle of nowhere with no phone reception and nothing to eat, no water, and snow was piling up and you guys were stuck there for 2-3 days, who would be the first to die and would the rest of the band eat the dead guy?
I think Jacob (bassist) would go down first. Just because he has a lot of little needs. Not in a premadonna way, but he just has specific things he wants to do or eat or drink—he’s constantly drinking Gatorade. So if he couldn’t get a blue Gatorade, he would probably die of depression, just from the lack of it.
So if you ate him, would he taste like blue Gatorade?
He probably would. He’d make a good meal.
What is the deal with rock and roll these days?
I wish I knew the answer to that question so I could just turn the key and start it up. I actually think it’s quite prominent at this stage in time. I definitely don’t think rock and roll is the biggest style of music that exists, and I don’t necessarily think it would be again. It’s pretty clear that the biggest rock bands don’t do as well as the biggest country, pop or hip hop groups. There’s definitely a struggle to maintain a good spirit about the state of rock and roll when you see people who you feel are doing less, maybe lugging less equipment or bring a laptop on stage to run tracks, and they’re the ones making all the big money. So I think it can be discouraging, but it’s just about being tough through this time.
What is one band you could never live without, and one band that you could do with never having existed in the first place?
One band I could never do without would be The Beach Boys. I’m not sure if that’s necessarily something that comes through in my music, but I just love listening to that band. A band I could do without is Mumford and Sons. I just don’t like hearing them. I don’t like the sound. The thing is, I always know it’s them when I hear their music, so that is obviously an undeniable achievement. They have definitely become more interesting when they went more electric.
Why do you think some American singers want to sound British, and some British singers want to sound American?
I don’t think there’s necessarily a science to it, I think it has a lot to do with what you grew up singing. Because I have so many influences, I’ll find myself effecting my voice in a weird way for whatever reason. I don’t think I’ve even really found my voice yet. Sometimes I think about wanting to shape my voice to sound like Brian Wilson for this song, and then, Jim Morrison for another. And that’s just because that’s the music I love. To me, Mick Jagger sounds like he wants to sound like a black blues singer, and Sting sounds Jamaican. In the end, I think people end up finding their unique voice by trying to sound like a singer they love.
Some bands choose to put the ‘The’ in their name, and others don’t. Was there a debate about whether or not to make that choice for The Shelters?
I wouldn’t say there was really a debate, but it was definitely talked about. And what it means to have the ‘The’ in the band name. In the end we all agreed that all the bands that we loved had the ‘The’ in their name. Obviously we love a lot of bands that don’t have it, but to me, it’s just what you do. If there was a rock and roll hand book, it would say: “You take the word ‘The’ and you find a word to go after it, and then you put an ’S’ at the end, and that’s it!” Otherwise it doesn’t seem as much like a band to me, and I think it gives kind of like a novelty package as to what the band is.
Finally, let’s bring rock back again? Or let’s make America great again?
(Laughing) I feel like this will be a judgement on what’s more important to me… I guess I think we should do both and have Springsteen run for President.
Watch the official music video of The Shelters latest single ‘Rebel Heart’ here.
Feature image source: thesheltersmusic.com