[Q&A] A new album, striking Juno gold, and an upcoming tour with John Fogerty spell a good year for the Saskatchewan rockers.
During Canadian Music Week, The Mark caught up with bassist Ryan Gullen and drummer Sam Corbett of the ever-likeable band The Sheepdogs.
Congratulations on your three Juno nominations. How does it feel to be recognized in this way?
Ryan: It’s really cool. Obviously, it’s cool to be nominated for not only Best New Artist, but also for the Rock and Single categories, as well. That’s pretty cool to be considered a new artist, but also [to be] nominated for other awards that a lot more established bands are being nominated for.
Sam: As a band, you don’t make music to be nominated for awards, but it’s a very nice perk.
“I Don’t Know” was nominated for Single of the Year, alongside songs by bands like Nickelback and Hedley, which are often referred to as “cookie cutter” music. What separates bands like The Sheepdogs from that sort of thing?
Ryan: I think probably the biggest thing is that we take our musical influences from a much different place – a much older place. When [people] talk about cookie-cutter [music], they’re saying all bands sound the same – [but] we sound different. It’s pretty great that we’re able to do the type of music we like without having to make any compromises and still have successes like being on the radio and being played at a mass environment.
Sam: There’s no reason that music like ours can’t be on the radio. [At] one time, it was the biggest-selling, most popular music in the world. There’s no reason it can’t be again.
Why is your style of music, which was really popular in the ’60s and ’70s, resonating so much with young people today?
Ryan: We always talk about things like melody, harmony, groove, [etc.] that old music took a lot of pride in developing. A lot of new music doesn’t have that. People grew up listening to that music with their parents, and it has a certain place in their heart. Same with us.
Ryan, in your last interview with The Mark, we asked if you had met any of your heroes, and the first person you mentioned was John Fogerty. Now, you’re on your way to do an Australian tour with him. How does that feel?
Ryan: It’s going to be really cool. The exciting thing about that tour, too, is that he’s only playing Green River [and] Cosmos Factory, which are our two favourite Fogerty albums. To be able to go to Australia, where [our lead singer] Ewan was born and lived for a good part of his life, and to go there and play with one of our biggest musical heroes … It’s a great honour. It’s going to be a lot of fun.
Sam: We’re sorry to miss the Junos, but this is an opportunity we really can’t pass up.
You just finished recording your newest album with the help of The Black Keys drummer Patrick Carney. What was it like to record with him?
Ryan: It was awesome. Obviously, The Black Keys [is] one band that has straddled commercial success with critical acclaim. For a rock band, anyway, they’ve probably done it better than anybody else. So, that’s a great model to take. He had some great ideas for us as to how to make our music a little bit more accessible to some people but remain true to our roots. Which is exactly what they’ve done, and exactly what we want to do.
Sam, did you learn anything from Carney’s style of drumming?
Sam: It was actually great, because a lot of other producers that we’ve worked with, if they suggested a drum beat, would just sort of say, “Can you play something more like boom bat, boom boom bat bat,” whereas [Carney] would sit down and actually play it, and I could watch him play it. He came up with certain ideas that I would not have come up with on my own.
Ryan: And it meant that we got to play with him, which was pretty badass.
Sam: I also got to play his custom Ludwig kit [and] use his incredibly nice Paiste cymbals. That was an awesome experience, too. It’s also great to work with [The Black Keys] because they’re leading the charge for the classic-rock revival. Their success allowed us to have some radio success. If us doing well can open up the radio for other bands that are like us in any way, then we’re very happy to be a part of that.
“Learn and Burn” had a less polished, almost garage-style sound to it. Now that you’re recording with Atlantic Records, do you think we can expect the same sort of sound on the next album?
Ryan: That album was recorded with two microphones [on the] second floor of a house in Saskatoon. And we went down to a studio in Nashville. We definitely tried not to polish things up too much, [so we would] still have that old sound. But with going into a studio, you lose some of that aesthetic. The songs are still the same, [and the music] still has grit to it, which is an important part of it. But it’s not going to sound like an album that was recorded by some guys that didn’t really know how to record, with two microphones in a house.
Sam: It’s a natural progression of our sound. One thing is for sure: During the recording process, it’s not like the label was coming in and being like, “You need more guitars,” or “You need heavier guitars.” It was nothing like that. The guy from the label came, and he just said, “Sounds great. You guys are on the right track.” That was awesome for us.
Photo 1 courtesy of Reuters; Photo 2 courtesy of Jared Lindzon.