“It’s an isolated city,” begins Ewan Currie, vocalist and guitarist for Saskatoon, SK-based rock and roll outfit The Sheepdogs about how their home base in the Canadian prairies shaped his band’s sound. “It really gave us the freedom to do our own thing; we never felt the need to be a part of an existing scene or trend.”
Some listeners may argue that the sounds soaring from their speakers while listening to the band’s latest EP, Five Easy Pieces, or preceding full-length, Learn & Burn, are familiar relics of decades past, and they’d be right; however, it’s the manner in which The Sheepdogs borrow bits from classic, psychedelic, and boogie rock iconoclasts like Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Allman Brothers, and The Grateful Dead and mix them with modern rock sensibilities that really sets them apart.
From the always silky-smooth three-part vocal harmonies prominent in tracks like “Why?” or the single “I Don’t Know” through to the dual-guitar interplay and pulsing rhythmic beds found on, well, pretty much every tune, The Sheepdogs don’t so much bring listeners “back in time” as they do weave the past with the present for an undeniable aural experience that appeals to audiences of all ages.
That appeal was recently proven when The Sheepdogs, via 1.5 million public votes, were declared the winners of a contest that found them as the first unsigned band to grace the cover of iconic rock rag Rolling Stone and, subsequently, landed them a deal with Atlantic Records. To
the many that first caught wind of this decade-defying musical force surrounding that swirl of media attention, they may seem like something of an overnight success, though in reality, The Sheepdogs are anything but.
“Being from a small town, we were all looking to get out there – maybe try some new things,” says bassist Ryan Gullen about how he, Currie, drummer Sam Corbett, and guitarist Leot Hanson first came together to make music. All fans of the same kind of meat-and-potatoes rock and roll from the past, as well as its resurgence in the music of acts like The White Stripes or Kings Of Leon, it was their mutual musical mindsets that made for an undeniable chemistry. “It came from a very honest place,” continues the bassist. “We weren’t trying to be anything specific,” and with time, the band would only grow tighter and more comfortable with their sharpening sound.
Over the years, The Sheepdogs have trekked across Canada in their beaten-down van playing as many new cities as possible. The shows themselves were usually smokin’; the circumstances surrounding them often weren’t. “It was such a challenge pushing through roadblock after roadblock,” recounts Gullen, recalling the trying times of indifference from the industry. “We could rock any crowd we played to,” he says, but seemingly couldn’t shake the stereotypical struggles of the touring rock band. Those struggles often emerge in Currie’s lyrical content, along with musings from ladies, love, and loneliness through to isolation, drugs, and other demons.
Since having their unshaven mugs showcased in Rolling Stone and onstage at Bonnaroo, though, it seems the band has finally found their break and are ready to capitalize on the opportunity. “It used to be that we wanted to quit our day jobs and just make music,” says Currie of the band’s aspirations. “Now, it’s about hitting the road, playing some kick-ass shows, and getting ready to impress people with a new record.”
That full-length, expected in 2012, will surely cement the fact that, though they’ve had a bit of luck on their side, the only thing responsible for The Sheepdogs’ recent slew of success is the sweat they’ve left onstage and the sweet, sticky throwback tunes that share their infectious grooves with anyone taking them in.