Based in Philadelphia, Shellito is an alternative pop/rock-guitar pop outfit that is led by singer/songwriter Mike Shellito. As the band's leader and founder, Mike Shellito has worn many hats; not only lead vocalist and producer, but also engineer. Mike Shellito, who writes or co-writes all of his band's material, has played several instruments on his albums (including guitar, drums, bass, keyboards, and percussion). On the band's studio recordings, Mike Shellito's right-hand man has been Jeff Tanner (who is also a member of a Philly-based group called the Photon Band). In addition to helping Mike Shellito with production and writing, Tanner has played guitar and bass with the band.
Formed in Philly in 1996, Shellito is a band that has been influenced by different rock eras. The guitar pop of the '60s and early '70s has obviously affected Mike Shellito's singing and songwriting; Simon & Garfunkel and the Byrds are both influences, and his hushed, subtle, relaxed vocal style has inspired comparisons to Art Garfunkel. However, his singing has also brought about comparisons to an alterna-rocker who didn't emerge until the '90s: singer/songwriter Elliott Smith. Other alternative rockers that Mike Shellito has been compared to range from the Feelies to Guided by Voices, and even though he doesn't hide his affection for Simon & Garfunkel or the Byrds, Mike Shellito's band has avoided sounding dated or flat-out retro.
In the late '90s and early 2000s, the Philly outfit managed to show a strong late-'60s/early-'70s influence and still be relevant to the alternative rock scene. On Sale, the band's first album, came out on the Philly-based Birtha label in 1997. The album wasn't a huge hit nationally, but it received a lot of favorable reviews from Philly's rock press. In that city, many critics have commented on the subtle, restrained nature of the band's work; Shellito is a band that thrives on understatement. It is also a band that thrives on very introspective, sensitive, and wistful lyrics; no one has ever accused Mike Shellito and his colleagues of favoring a tough, in-your-face approach.
In 2001, Mike Shellito and Jeff Tanner produced the band's second album, Ingredients, also on Birtha. On that album, they are basically a two-man band and play most of the instruments themselves (except for various guest musicians). But on-stage, Mike Shellito has led a full band that includes Tanner as well as fellow Philly residents Ken Finn (guitar, keyboards, background vocals), Ken Brune (vibes, clarinet, guitar), Robert Fanelli (bass, background vocals), Jason McKibben (drums), and Brian McCracken (guitar). ~ Alex Henderson