Tribute band to honor Tom Petty at SOhO
Make It Last All Night, a Tom Petty tribute band
When: 8:30 p.m. June 7
Cost: $12; you must be 21 or older to attend.
Where: SOhO Restaurant & Music Club, 1221 State St., Suite 205.
Information: SOhO at 962-7776, www.sohosb.com, makeitlastallnight.com.
People kept telling Erich Schneider that he looked and sounded like Tom Petty.
“I’ve been in cover bands playing bars, weddings and all sorts of events. I’ve always done the songs ‘American Girl,’ ‘Mary Jane’s Last Dance’ and ‘Free Fallin’,” the 42-year-old UCSB graduate told the News-Press by phone from his Alhambra home. “People would come up to my shows and tell me, ‘You look just Tom Petty. You should do a tribute.’ ”
In 2013 Mr. Schneider took the advice of fans and his lead guitarist Cary Park, who also thought he could double for Mr. Petty, and started Make It Last All Night. The band got its name from a line in Mr. Petty’s “American Girl.”
The five-piece Tom Petty tribute band will play at 8:30 p.m. June 7 during its first gig at SOhO Restaurant & Music Club, 1221 State St., Suite 205.
Mr. Schneider, the lead singer and one of the guitarists, talked about Mr. Petty’s legacy during a recent conference call that included drummer Jon Harris at his Solvang home and band manager Brian Crancer at his Santa Barbara residence.
Like his fans, Mr. Schneider, who dresses like Mr. Petty for the concerts (sometimes with the top hat and sunglasses), has noticed the resemblance.
“I was a huge Guns N’ Roses fan,” said Mr. Schneider, who grew up in Pasadena during Mr. Petty’s prime years in the 1980s and ’90s. “The first time I ever saw Tom Petty was on the last number of that show. Tom Petty was playing ‘Free Fallin’ ’ with the guys from Guns N’ Roses.
“I saw this guy, who looked like an older version of me singing ‘Free Fallin’.’ That was my first exposure to him,” he said. “And I loved it.”
Mr. Schneider met Mr. Harris, 41, at UCSB, where both earned their bachelor’s degrees in music — Mr. Schneider in 1991 and Mr. Harris in 2001. They ended up playing in various bands and found a demand with Make It Last All Night at a time when tribute bands are becoming more popular, especially as classic rockers retire or die.
“The Tom Petty band was a fun thing we did five or six times a year,” Mr. Schneider said. “But the day after Tom died (in 2017), my phone started ringing like crazy. And now we’re doing like four times the amount of gigs we were doing before.”
He said his band honors Mr. Petty’s legacy but brings its own interpretation to his songs.
“I’m not a big fan of tributes that do note for note exactly like the record,” Mr. Schneider said. “I think that gets a little boring, and everyone has already heard that. Let’s do what the band would have done live and bring our own personality to it.
“But I feel the beginning of the song has to sound exactly like the record,” he said.
Mr. Schneider said he also works to sing the songs exactly as Mr. Petty did.
“I don’t want to be some guy up here adding a blues scale to a note where Tom just held out one note,” Mr. Schneider said. “The thing that’s lucky for me is that besides just looking like him, I have the same exact vocal range as Tom Petty.
“There’s one part in ‘Refugee’ when he hits this really high note and you can tell that note was hurting him,” Mr. Schneider said. “When I hit that note, I barely get it out, and he barely got it out too. That’s part of the drama and the excitement of music.
“The crowd knows this guy is really working for this right now, and they relate to that,” he said.
Mr. Schneider added that his entire band is careful to perform some of Mr. Petty’s more iconic songs in the same way that Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers recorded them. “We play ‘I Won’t Back Down,’ note for note, like the record.”
Mr. Schneider and Mr. Harris agreed that song inspired them in their lives and careers.
“I almost feel like that’s Tom Petty being a self-help person or a life coach in a song,” Mr. Schneider said. “He’s telling whoever’s listening to that song, ‘Go for whatever you’re going to do. Don’t back down, no matter what anyone tells you.’ It’s such a positive message.”
Mr. Harris noted he liked how Mr. Petty gave the song a bit of a country flavor, which was part of his blending of styles.
Mr. Schneider said he doesn’t know what some of Mr. Petty’s songs mean in their entirety, but noted they contain lines that fans find relevant.
“I know there are lines in ‘Free Fallin’ ’ that hit me on a very visceral level and relate to my own life,” he said, reciting the lyrics: “And all the bad boys are standing in the shadows. And all the good girls are home with broken hearts.”
“That’s such a great line that says it all about my high school experience,” Mr. Schneider said. “I don’t know what ‘Free Fallin’ ’ means. But he’s got all these lines you can relate to when you hear his music.”
Besides his music with the Heartbreakers, Mr. Petty joined legendary singers and guitarists for the two “Traveling Wilbury” albums in 1988 and 1990.
Mr. Schneider and Mr. Harris said they’ve performed two songs from the first album, “Handle with Care” and “End of the Line,” at their concerts.
“The Traveling Wilburys songs are fun in our concert because the guitar player and the bass player get to do a lot more singing than just backgrounds,” Mr. Harris said.
Besides Mr. Schneider and Mr. Harris, the band consists of lead guitarist Matthew Dahlgren, who replaced Mike Khalil; keyboardist and singer Chris Joyce; and bassist and singer Alex Pauley.
Mr. Schneider said he sees the “Traveling Wilbury” albums as a testament to Mr. Petty’s strength as a young musician.
“He was like a kid in that band,” Mr. Schneider said.
“He was playing with legends — George Harrison of The Beatles; Bob Dylan, the voice of a generation, and Roy Orbison, the voice of the ’50s,” he said about the band, which also included fellow guitarist and singer Jeff Lynne and drummer Jim Keltner.
“All of these guys are, ‘Yeah, we’ll play in a band with Tom Petty, this new guy who’s 20 years younger than us.’ ”