Located at the western edge of the San Fernando Valley, off a dusty mountainside road in Westlake Village, is Radio Astro Studio, a room lined with a galaxy of lights and knobs. It houses such gear as a Chandler TG2 preamp, designed to replicate the sound of Beatles-era Abbey Road consoles, a vintage omnichord and a Binson Echorec 2 Super Special, which the studio’s Facebook page describes as creating the effect of “Pink Floyd on Pink Floyd on acid.”
For the past three years, Radio Astro has been a playground for SFV psych-rock group Hearty Har, and it exists under the roof of members Tyler and Shane Fogerty’s father, John (yes, that John). The band members say they’ve evolved through learning the peculiarities of the studio. Tyler, the mustached recording arts master of the crew, swears by the natural reverb that occurs when they go into the hallway and put a speaker at one end and a microphone at the other. “It’s actually a perfect sound,” he says, pleased with what he and his bandmates have found through endless experimentation.
Despite having the legendary founder and frontman of Creedence Clearwater Revival down the hall, Hearty Har have opted to navigate the uncharted seas of instrumentation and production themselves — sometimes with a little help from the family’s gargantuan golden retrievers, Banjo, Violet and Creedence, who hang out in the studio nearly as much as the band members do. In fact, Shane describes his famous father as being very hands-off, aside from when they want to run a track by him. “He’s got a pretty good ear despite having bad hearing,” Shane says with a laugh.
There are, of course, some perks to having a rock-star dad. Over the years, Fogerty has taken his sons on tour with him, meaning they’ve already checked off a series of major bucket-list items, including performing at the Hollywood Bowl. Simultaneously, though, Hearty Har worked their way up to venues such as the Echo, the Hi Hat and the Bootleg after years of pay-to-play shows, opening for their friends’ bands, and even a couple of stints at the Smell. These guys load their own gear like any other indie band, and while they don’t try to hide their rock-star roots, they're more than happy to pay their dues. “I feel like that’s how our music gets better,” Tyler says, “because it’s only us, so it’s our responsibility completely.”
The Fogerty brothers got into music not through their father's old CCR records but through a more unlikely avenue: skateboarding. As preteens, the boys spent every weekend at Skatelab in Simi Valley, obsessing over skate videos and playing Tony Hawk’s video games. Gradually they started gathering the soundtracks into playlists and plugged into an entire universe of genres.
“Skate videos have weird soundtracks,” Shane says. “It’d be like a rap song, and then a psychedelic ’60s song, and then a pop song.” Hearty Har's drummer, Will Van Santen, accompanies Shane’s comment by mumbling the melody to Blind Melon’s 1992 hit, “No Rain.” Van Santen was never a big skater — “I had friends that were into it, but I was always too cautious; I could kind of ollie, but that’s it” — but the music behind the videos is still fresh in his mind.
Consuming music shifted to creating music, thanks in part to a little bit of friendly sibling rivalry. “Tyler got a guitar, and I wanted to be cool, too, so I got a guitar,” Shane says. The two began taking lessons and writing their own songs, which, despite the rock & roll in their DNA, really didn't come easily. “It started out that I was just ripping off my dad’s songs,” he says, laughing. (To be fair, a lot of musicians started by ripping off Shane’s dad’s songs, too.)
Meanwhile, Tyler delved deep into ’70s punk, devouring discographies by The Ramones and Modern Lovers, and drew lyrical inspiration from the “straight-up-ness of soul music,” he says.
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After meeting Van Santen in high school, the brothers formed a band with him and a few friends, Steamtrain Mary. The name was an homage to Fogerty Sr., and while the crew have worked tirelessly to champion their own sound, they still pay their respects to their dad. “The fire he had, I can feel it,” Shane says. “I can get warm by that fire.” With the bones of CCR's bluesy folk-rock (and almost 20,000 streams on MySpace, back when that meant something), Steamtrain Mary laid the foundation of Hearty Har’s present super-psychedelic sound.
In the last year or so, the Fogertys and Van Santen joined with keyboardist Jesse Wilson and bassist Marcus Högsta to finally become what Shane calls “the band we want to be.” Their first and only single, “Can’t Keep Waiting,” lands somewhere between Tame Impala and Sly & the Family Stone and gives a taste of what’s to come: sexy, crunchy riffs, caressed by analog production, and drums that roll and shake like the waves of the ocean. Unreleased tracks such “Radio Man ’56” draw in Tyler’s fascination with Nigerian funk master William Onyeabor, while “Creation Frustration” is carried by one of the most addictive guitar licks you’re likely to hear all summer.
Ultimately, while Hearty Har may be heirs to rock royalty, they prefer to forge their own identity. “I really like [my dad’s] music," Tyler says, "but I never really felt like I had to copy it, or live up to it.”
Hearty Har perform Monday, June 12, at the Bootleg Theater with The Walcotts and Ben Jaffee. More info.