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Satellite Hearts: The Classic Rock Foundation.

November 7, 2014

SatelliteHeartsSmall02Text by Morgan James. Images by Charles Shan Cerrone.

Some herald Philadelphia as the city of soul, singer-songwriter vibes, gritty punk and/or unsullied rap. But others question if that is all the city has to offer.

“I thought this city forgot what rock ‘n’ roll was,” says Justin Pellecchia of New Hope’s Satellite Hearts. “I felt Philadelphia forgot how to rock.”

Pellecchia is the front man and lead guitarist of the tight-knit rock trio, which includes bassist Lucas Rinz of Lambertville, New Jersey and percussionist Keaton Thandi of Flemington, New Jersey.

Pellecchia dons wispy shoulder length hair and an arresting yet comforting disposition. In fact, there’s a captivating sincerity present in all three members – whether it’s Rinz’s fetching stoicism or Thandi’s wide-eyed enthusiasm.

It’s their unassuming off-stage presence that renders their onstage performance downright disarming.

When it comes to rocking ‘n’ rolling, Satellite Hearts doesn’t disappoint. They’re the real deal.

And Pellecchia, the Yardley, Pennsylvania native, is at the center of it.

His voice is powerful, jolting and sensitive all at once. On stage, he turns up the charm, Thandi drums up the kick and the typically reserved Rinz spazzes out. All the way out – jumping up and down, eyes glazed, lips turning into a smirk as if to say, “Screw you. I’m having fun.” Reticence is for the faint of heart when Satellite Hearts turns on.

The band formed in December 2009 in greater New Hope. While their first songs were Pellecchia’s creations, many of the songs from their first album, Imperial Hearts, were created organically.

“Most of the time it’s the three of us getting off on each other,” Pellecchia says with a laugh.

Indeed, they know how to groove as a unit. But that was not always the case.

The band added Dre DiMura on lead guitar during the production of their 2013 digital album, Four to the Floor. DiMura was invited to join for supplementary depth and layering, something the original members of Satellite Hearts thought the band needed then. But the cohesiveness was lacking and Satellite Hearts returned to just its three original members.

“We realized we had everything we needed to begin with and now we’re working to put us back out there,” Rinz explains.

“I think we all learned our roles better in the three-piece and learned to create more of the sound overall,” Keaton chimes in. “Not necessarily adding another dynamic – or a fourth dynamic – to the band. But using more dynamics.”

Listening to their releases, one is bound to sense notes of The Strokes there, The Beatles here and The Kinks over there – a classic rock foundation riddled with punk rock sensibilities. And hell, even a bit of Latin over yonder.

“Justin takes classical guitar lessons right now,” Keaton says. “Brazilian style. Flamenco style.”

Rinz emphasizes the importance of not wanting to be limited musically.

“You can find inspiration everywhere,” he says. “I think that was always a premise of the band when we started. To never be boxed in. It’s very easy to say we have a punky edge to our music. That’s true. But we draw inspiration from all over and our feel … where we’re coming from happens to be classic.”

Nonetheless, one of their biggest musical influences – Dean Ween of the eponymous experiential rock band Ween – hails from the band’s stomping grounds of New Hope. It was Ween who gave Satellite Hearts their first nod at New Hope haunts such as John & Peter’s. It was Ween who turned to his manager and called them “a real fucking band.”

“Being a Ween fan, that’s the greatest compliment,” Thandi says. “That means a lot to me.”

Their fanbase in New Hope is as passionate about them as Ween is explicit. Satellite Hearts doesn’t like to view them as fans, but as friends.

However, Pellecchia reflects tentatively on their humble beginnings in Philadelphia.

“Playing with a bunch of indie bands around here, they have this look and this attitude,” he says. “I felt like a lot of people didn’t get us. Like, they didn’t fully understand what we were. Or what we are.”

“Now I’m starting to see the changes. We’re coming into our own,” he enthusiastically adds. “And the city is starting to accept us for us.”

Satellite Hearts is set to release its third album, with a working title of Desire Forces the Flow, this fall or winter. They are excited to rock on in the city of Philadelphia and beyond.

But they’ll never lose sight that it’s their fans – no, their friends – in New Hope that make the place feel like home.

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