Interview with The Sheepdogs
- By Joyce Edwards -
- Aug 28, 2012
After cancelled flights and almost missing their performance at Lollapalooza, the guys of Canadian rock group, The Sheepdogs, were happy to have just made it in one piece, let alone draw one of the largest crowds the festival saw all Sunday. With a new self-titled album produced by Patrick Carney of The Black Keys coming out September fourth and a Rolling Stone cover under their belt, the shaggy rockers are eager to give life to their new tracks by playing them live. After a packed performance, bassist Ryan Gullen and drummer Sam Corbett stopped to chat about a fortuitous text message, staying true to their sound, and a made up person in Australia with a fondness for sheep dogs.
Virgin Red Room: How was your show?
Ryan: It was awesome. It was really good, yeah.
Sam: We got really good feedback from the crowds. Some people were saying it was the biggest crowd at that stage all weekend. I don’t know about that, but we’ll take it if it’s true.
I definitely heard that that’s true. Do you guys prefer large festival crowds or more of a club setting?
Ryan: Each show has its own merits. The best thing about festivals, especially for us being a Canadian band, is about discovery. Like, people walking by and discovering our band. You have a lot of open-minded people just going out to enjoy music. Whereas a club show is kind of sweaty, crazy kind of thing where people are coming to see just you. We like both, but I think that where we’re at right now to be able to come do something like this, and to play for that many people, most who probably haven’t heard of us before is really cool.
Sam: This is actually our first time playing in Chicago so I’m assuming there are probably a lot of people who haven’t heard us. It’s awesome we’re so excited to be here.
Welcome to Chicago! So where did you guys come up with the name The Sheepdogs?
Ryan: There really isn’t a story at all.
Ryan: We sometimes have made up stories, but no it’s …Okay, so what happened was that we had a different band name, and this was about seven or eight years ago. And we found out that a bunch of other people had the same name. We spent so much time deciding on what that name would be that we were just like, “Ahh, whatever.” And we just picked this one. It worked out with our shaggy appearances that kind of came over time.
Sam: We sort of grew into the name. There’s really no story to speak of.
What are some of the fake stories that you tell?
Ryan: Ewan (vocals and guitar) always tells a story where he was in Australia and met this friend whom he told that if he ever made a band he would call it The Sheepdogs. So when finally came up with the band he was so excited and called his friend to tell him about it…and his friend had died. But it’s not true!
What a sad ending to a very fake story! So your new album is coming out September fourth and Patrick Carney of The Black Keys produced it. What was that like having him as part of the process?
Ryan: It was cool. We met Pat through friends at a Tom Petty tribute thing we played at in New York. We were just talking about music and he kind of seemed passionately interested in what we are doing and what our albums are like. So we were like, “Hey, like, we’re big fans and have been for a long time when we started our band eight years ago. You should produce our album.” And he was like, “Nahh, no, no I’m way too busy I can’t do that.” So I was like, “Okay yeah that’s cool.” But a couple of months later I texted him and was like, “Hey, uhh, still any idea about maybe producing the album?” And he was just like, “Yeah, let’s do it!” That’s basically how it happened. It’s really cool working with him. He’s very like-minded in music, listening and talking about music. Also in terms of ‘trimming the fat’ of a song and just getting the really juicy parts. So it was cool to work with someone that we obviously respect musically, as well as someone who’s also very smart musically.
That’s a really cool idea of trimming off the fat. Is there a song off the new album in particular that is full of those juicy bits?
Sam: Well we’ve performed maybe three or four songs off the album so far. We’re actually going to do some rehearsals in a week and try to the rest of the album in shape so we can play it on our fall tour. I don’t know, I think all of us probably have different favorite tracks. There are a lot of tracks that I really love a lot. It’s hard to pick a favorite.
Ryan: There’s also the aspect of playing live. I think playing a song live gives it a new life. You go on the road and play new songs and the songs change. This new album sounds like we made it in a studio with Pat and just hung out. So I think that we have to give it live life. Once we get a chance to play all of those songs I think we’ll enjoy playing them live. Because once you’ve made a record the only life those songs have is when you sit around and listen to your own record. But those favorite songs normally come out of playing it live.
Has there been a transition between albums in terms of your sound evolving, or something your trying to do differently?
Sam: Definitely not a drastic one. This album definitely sounds like a Sheepdogs album. But with all of our albums we try to do slightly different things like try a song that maybe wouldn’t have been part of our repertoire before. We want to be open-minded to different sounds.
Ryan: There’s always a natural progression when you have a couple years between records. You have people getting into different stuff and we all become more competent as musicians as we evolve. There are always changes that will happen but we’re very rooted in the sound that we like. The basis of our music is that we make music that we like to listen to and hope other people like it as well. Obviously our tastes will change, but not drastically regardless of things that have happened in the last year nothing’s changed who we are as musicians. If we made the same record over and over you’d be bored, and I’d be bored. It’d be so boring if a band did that. Maybe with a handful of bands I would have wished that they did it over and over again, but ehh, you’re making music for yourself and for other people and you have to be conscious of repeating yourself.
So this past year you guys won Rolling Stone’s ‘Choose the Cover’ contest and were featured on the front cover of the magazine. What was it like for an already established band to get such sudden publicity?
Ryan: Well we had been a band for seven years at that point, and it’s actually a year ago this weekend that we were on the cover. Certainly for any band, but especially as a Canadian band, getting that kind of U.S. publicity is huge. Anytime you can be successful outside as well as inside of the country you’re from it’s cool. For us it was all about getting our name out and getting our music out there. There were times were it was kind of tiring and things were a little bit weird. It’s being in a contest. The biggest thing for us was that we took the experience and continued to do what we’re doing and try to do it on a larger scale. Things have changed, I mean the fact that we can do this full time as a job, which we couldn’t before. We’d work one sometimes two jobs. So that’s the biggest change for us for sure.
What are you plans for touring after your album drops on September fourth?
Ryan: Lots and lots of touring. A big U.S. tour and a Canadian tour and we’ll be going overseas too. We’ll be spending some time over in Australia and Europe. Spreading the word, spreading the good word.
Sam: You know we were on the cover of Rolling Stone, which is incredible, but it seems like most people from the States recognize us from being on Project Runway.
I definitely saw that episode and wanted to ask you about that.
Sam: Well that’s okay too. But we definitely want to capitalize on the momentum we got from the cover but we want to establish ourselves as a real band and to have people appreciate us for our music and not only for being on Project Runway.
And with Project Runway you probably reached a way different audience.
Sam: A lot of people heard our music for the first time and that was great. Sometimes with winning a contest people might associate us with an American Idol type-thing. We don’t want to be seen as something that’s manufactured or that we didn’t deserve this success. We want to put our stuff out there and hopefully people respond to it.
Who are you guys checking out tonight at Lollapalooza?
Ryan: We like just got here literally, so I really don’t know yet. I haven’t even sat down. But we saw Jack White at Sasquatch and I wouldn’t mind seeing him again, but I don’t know what else is going on. There’s another band, Empires, that was in the Rolling Stone thing with us and they’re playing in a little bit so I might go check them out.
Sam: A lot of people told me that Justice is really awesome so I might try to check that out as well.
Did you guys ever see Jack White’s documentary Under Great White Northern White Lights that takes place all over Canada?
Sam: No, but we were at the show he played at the bowling alley in Saskatoon!
Ryan: We were playing eight hours outside of Saskatoon the night before and we drove right back and went to that concert. But I remember seeing on Facebook beforehand people going, “Oh my God they’re playing at a bowling alley!” I’ve never seen the documentary but I saw It Might Get Loud with Jack White. I should check that out though.
Yeah it’s pretty awesome. Jack and Meg go to an Inuit village and eat raw deer.
Ryan: Oh yeah right on. Taking in some Canada. There’s a lot to see.
The Sheepdogs' new self titled album, is out on September 4th, 2012.
This guest blog complies to Virgin.com terms & conditions.