Featured Music: Wednesday, July 11, 2002
Blowing Up

BombShelter prepares for the studio and the big time.


It’s difficult to reconcile the diminutive blonde aerobics instructor with the powerhouse lead singer for BombShelter. Offstage, Jet is an unlikely rock star, a soft-spoken mother of three who, until three years ago, was singing only in her church band.

Onstage, her Pat Benatar-ian vocals and high-energy stage presence have helped propel this local act onto the national indie music scene — they’ve played festival bills in such places as Las Vegas, California, and Florida (where they performed with summertime good-time guys Sugar Ray). BombShelter has, atypically, built a following beyond state lines before cultivating instant name recognition in its hometown of Fort Worth. Like most events with this band, that’s not something that was planned — it just happened that way.

“It’s been easier for us to find [gigs] out of state, and so that’s where we’re playing,” Jet said matter-of-factly. “We do a lot more shows outside of Texas, so we travel a lot, but we’re loving it.”

From a minimum-security prison to the San Diego Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon to the EAT’M Music Conference, BombShelter has played a surprising range of venues: The band’s first paying gig was at the Screams horror park in Waxahachie. But then, from the beginning, nothing about this band has been conventional.

“It’s just something that kind of came up,” Jet said, explaining that she first began writing songs about five years ago for those near to her. “My first song was for my grandmother, who was dying. I wanted to leave something for her and let her know what she meant to me.”

So she penned “Don’t Cry for Granny,” a fond remembrance of younger, carefree days spent at her grandmother’s home. Eventually, she would sing it at her grandmother’s funeral. In the meantime, she had unwittingly opened both her emotional and creative floodgates. She began writing songs “about issues I wanted to sing about” and “it sort of evolved.” A song written for her sister as a Christmas present became Jet’s first recording. Others who heard it began asking for copies.

After two years of being encouraged by others to pursue her music, she broached the topic with her husband, Michael Thorne, who just happens to be a bass player. They recruited some other members of their church band and started practicing. They named the act Bomb Shelter with the idea of creating a safe emotional haven with the music.

When the original guitar player left, Thorne encouraged his wife to expand her limited three-chord guitar knowledge, and today she shares guitar duties with Kevin Kerr. The current lineup, rounded out by drummer Wes Griffin, gelled about two years ago; the group had found a sound that was a kind of fresh alterna-pop that rocks with a conscience. Listen beyond Jet’s deceptively sultry vocals, and you’ll hear the band crying out for awareness and compassion.

“The music is definitely a collaborative effort,” she said. “I come in with a skeleton of a song, and they put the meat on it. They’re such great guys. I come in and explain what it’s about, and they fill out the sound for it.”

BombShelter’s first c.d., Not Afraid, was released last summer, and it established the band’s passionate style, which melds emotion with a tight and often edgy sound. Jet is an above-average wordsmith, spinning out pop poetry that tackles weighty issues with a glimmer of hope. Songs like “Pink World” and “Little Joe” address, respectively, childhood innocence and the lack thereof; “Hell” takes on the topic of addiction with a shimmering pop sound. A new EP with producer David Castell (Edie Brickell & the New Bohemians, Deep Blue Something) is in the works and includes the new song “She Dreams,” which chronicles a friend’s struggle through sexual abuse. It’s not exactly your standard hook-up/break-up/make-up musical fare, and the band makes no apologies for that.

“I think there’s a lot more to write about than just falling in love,” Jet said. “I think because of the kind of music we write, our audience tends to be more mature. Not necessarily older, but they’re people who aren’t just out to get drunk and have a good time. They’re people who aren’t running from life, but are ready to embrace it.”

That doesn’t mean that good times aren’t in store at a BombShelter show. One review after another has commented on Jet’s energetic showmanship. She admits that her day job as a fitness instructor helps keep her in shape for the relentless stage show.

“I don’t feel like it’s a good show unless I’m soaking wet,” she said. “We want our words to move your heart, but we want our music to move your body. That’s my mission when I get on stage, to get everyone in the crowd moving.”

But BombShelter is hopeful that the effects of the music will last long after the band is back in the van and on the road.

“We’re not doing this for the money; that really isn’t how we measure success,” Jet said. “When we connect with people, can kind of put our arm around them with our music — then we feel like we’ve done our job.”

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