Somewhere between the self-promotional sideshow of Lady Gaga and the groundswell of mundane hip hop artists contaminating the airwaves with rhymes that make the brilliance of Public Enemy feel like a lifetime ago, the music industry lost its soul.
Executives can deny or choose to ignore the reality, but it’s all around us. It’s in every MTV reality show you watch, it’s in every Taylor Swift concert you attend, and it’s the main reason I’m ready to heave my radio out the window whenever anything Top-40 related comes on.
Consumers of pop culture appear to have lowered their standards to the point that anyone with a microphone and a smile can become a star without taking substance or individuality into account.
What used to be a platform for virtuosity and uncompromising social commentary has now been relegated to a box into which everything that is manufactured to sell records fits neatly with few questions asked.
Enter The Sheepdogs, and suddenly the picture becomes much brighter given the band’s Southern sensibility and vocals that drip with the soul of a thousand men.
Instead of allowing the sign of the times to dictate what type of record they should make, the foursome from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan sticks to its guns, and produces harmonically elegant garage rock reminiscent of The Allman Brothers Band and The Black Keys.
Under the production guise of The Black Keys’s Patrick Carney, their latest release is a beautiful collection of feel-good tunes that emit a touch of Canadian legends The Band upon first listen. I saw them open for Gov’t Mule back in June, and, if that show was any indication, these new tracks will really cook in a live setting.
I spoke with singer Ewan Currie via telephone recently to discuss the album as well as the band’s first headlining tour in the United States set to begin in Niagara Falls on September 16.
Here’s how it went down:
Question: How does your latest release build upon what you guys did with “Learn & Burn?”
Currie: I don’t know if it builds on it necessarily, but it does contain a similar style of down-to-earth rock and roll. There are a few different things thrown in and some different colors and sounds, so we’re excited about it.
Question: What did Patrick Carney bring to the process that you felt was a good fit with the band?
Currie: He helped us to focus and cut the fat, mostly. A lot of making rock and roll is about cutting the fat and being a good filter. In the studio, he helped us refine the songs and found the best representation of each one possible. Plus, we wanted to be able to incorporate all different styles, and I think our albums run the gamut.
Question: How did the landscape of Saskatoon influence your musical direction?
Currie: Well, being isolated from major cities made us more independent and eager to travel to let the world know about our band. It’s tough to come from far away and attain national recognition, but we knew what we had to do from the beginning.
Question: Where did the Southern rock influence of your sound originate from?
Currie: It came from enjoying The Allman Brothers Band in addition to Blues and Roots music that contains the type of soul we want to insert into our own material.
Question: What can audiences expect from your first headlining tour?
Currie: They can expect an up-tempo show full of harmonies and twin guitar interplay that makes for an old school rock show with no flash or filler.
Question: What about “The Way it Is” made you guys decide that it would make for a great first single?
Currie: We sent the demos to Patrick and that was the song that made him think that we really had something. The band dove into that song and that’s the one we tended to gravitate toward when putting the record together.
Question: What was your reaction when you first realized that the band had made the cover of Rolling Stone?
Currie: I was relieved most of all, because we spent a lot of time going through the competition process and performing for judges. We were all thrilled and excited to finally be announced as the winners though.
Question: What do you do to unwind when you’re not touring or in the studio?
Currie: Well, I rarely have a lot of free time given our schedule, but I do enjoy watching sports or even recording music by myself sometimes.