The Canadian rock group The Sheepdogs have gotten some pretty big press lately, and not just due to the fact that they were recently on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. These prairie boys from the small town of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan have been touring non-stop alongside some pretty big names including the legendary John Fogerty of CCR (Creedence Clearwater Revival), and aren’t stopping anytime soon.
Just after playing an absolutely hard-hitting, classic rock revival-style day’s opener at Sasquatch, lead vocalist, Ewan Currie and bass guitar player, Ryan Gullen took a couple of minutes out of their hectic schedule to talk festivals, international tours, and the Canadian bands that they’d lend a helping hand to first chance they get (and of which, they’re likely to get soon)!
Walking on stage at a venue like this: you’ve played around the world, but what’s it like opening a stage of this size in a place like the Gorge?
Gullen: It’s very cool. It’s obviously a very epic stage, maybe one of the most in the world, I don’t know. It’s such a crazy view, obviously from the stage it’s a little different but, well, the reception was unbelievably good and from start to finish we just felt very welcome, which was great!
When you walked on stage, you headed right to the mic, announced, “We are The Sheepdogs. We’re from Saskatoon. Let’s get it on!” Is that your approach to everything you do?
Currie: Exactly. Just get it on. It’s not rocket science, it’s just rock ‘n roll. You’ve gotta have the right balance between caring and not caring if that makes any sense.
I’m sure this comes up in nearly every interview you’ve had recently but, the cover of Rolling Stone: quite the feat. Big change since then?
Gullen: Absolutely! It’s just been a really great way to get our music out there and kinda get things rolling, music wise. We’ve been a band for a long time now, touring around and having marginal successes but it took things to a whole new level. It allowed us to do this full time and all the time which is tiring but it’s also fucking awesome.
Any breaks coming up for you guys to rest?
Gullen: No, not really. We just came off a three month run. We were off for four days and we get a few days here and there but no long-term time off till into next year basically.
Did you get back to Saskatoon and your friends and family at least for those four days?
Gullen: We did. It was nice to get back. It definitely doesn’t happen very often anymore. This is what we want to be doing, obviously, but it’s nice to sleep in your own home and in your own bed. Somewhere that isn’t a hotel basically.
Speaking to your tour manager about a friend of mine, the uber-talented Adaline, I heard you ran into her in Calgary? Small world, the Canadian music industry?
Gullen: Ya, we played a kick-off to the Stampede. We played… Thursday, I think it was. And ya, we saw Shawna [Beesley; Adaline’s off-stage name] in Calgary. It is, and it’s great to run into talented musicians that are friends. Makes you feel like things are going right, you know?
Stampede turns into one hell of a week-long party, are you going back for the actual event?
Currie: We’re playing the 100th Anniversary so it should be pretty crazy. We’re expecting nothing less [laughs]!
Gullen: Unfortunately we’re in and out though. We play somewhere else, on the other side of Canada I think the next day, so… But it’s one of those things that we’ve never been to before, any of us. I have friends that have gone since it’s very close to Saskatoon, but it’ll be fun this year for sure. It seems like it’s just always the craziest time when the whole city shuts down!
In terms of touring and playing shows in the rest of Canada, any tours coming up we should know about?
Currie: You know, we’re pretty busy. We have lots of summer festivals in Canada coming up that’ll bring us around a lot. In terms of an actual tour though? We’re gonna be doing the U.S. and we’ve been doing a lot of stuff overseas; the U.K., Australia, things like that. It probably won’t be until early next year till we get an actual Canadian Tour going. We’re gonna be all over though. Between Stampede, various festivals in Ontario, Osheaga in Quebec, BC…
Gullen: We’re basically playing every province over the summer.
Currie: People are gonna be able to see us all over Canada, whether it’s in the Prairies or Ontario, west, east, we’re even out to Newfoundland.
When you’re touring internationally, you’ve been playing with some pretty big names, some pretty classic names…
Currie: We did a tour with John Fogerty in Australia, which was so unbelievable. I mean… Creedence! Other than that, we’ve done some “opening” tours with some great names but I think we’re looking to do some of our own [tours] now. Trying to get people more aware of who we are outside of Canada. Grow the name out there, you know? We’re doing well in Canada, and that’s amazing, but there’s lots of room out there to go elsewhere.
Coming from small town Canada… well, Saskatoon, not really…
Gullen: Ya. It’s a small town.
Currie: Small city… give it it’s dues, man.
Well, coming from small city Canada, any other local acts or smaller Canadian acts that you’re listening to right now that you could lead the way for? Possibly give a shot to on your own tours?
Gullen: Yukon Blonde.
Currie: Ya, out of BC. Yukon Blonde are great. We took out Monster Truck from Ontario on tour with us last year and they were great too. But ya, Yukon Blonde are some great guys that we think are really good and we’ve been hanging out with lately…
Currie: Zeus are a really good band. I think bands that are around our age and that are bringing some more melody and bringing in more guitars for sure. There’s room for that right now, I think. People always like a good melody and a good rock song so that’s not only the music we want to make but the music we’re attracted to.
Although it may not be as recognized by some, do you think the rock scene in Canada is going strong right now?
Gullen: I think it’s probably small, comparatively, but I think Canada’s always had rock representation even going back to the 60’s with The Band, Guess Who, and Neil Young. Even in the 90’s with stuff like Sloan, there’s always been Canadian rock music that’s been recognized as great. Maybe not always on a big scale, you know, but by people who really appreciate music and I’d like to think that we’re a part of continuing that tradition.
Right out of the gate in most of your shows people begin to compare you to classic Canadian rock legends, if not classic rock legends at large. Ever feel daunted by the bar set before you?
Currie: That’s what you want to hear though. I mean, you don’t want to be compared to like… well… [laughs] let’s just say maybe someone you wouldn’t want to. I wanna be compared to the best! That’s what you want as a band. It’s daunting sometimes though, sure. I mean, we get the Allman Brothers a lot cause we do some, sort of “Allman-sy” stuff and that’s scary cause those guys were gigantic guitar players and, [laughs] we’re just not in that class.
Some would try to argue that point you know…
Currie: I don’t think we are at all but of course it’s really an honour because we aspire to be like those bands. For people to recognize that, it feels great!
Anything you’re recording now or that you’re about to record that you’re excited about? Excited for people to hear about possibly?
Gullen: We recorded an album in January. We did it down in Nashville with Pat Carney [multi-instrumentalist and drummer] from The Black Keys. We’re at that point where we’re just getting everything ready to go, the music’s done…
Currie: We’re just getting all the other stuff that goes along with getting an album out now. The release date hasn’t been set yet but it’s gonna be in the fall. Fall is what we’re planning for and we’re really excited for it.
I for one will be there the day this album comes out. I’ve also, although talking up plenty of the acts seen at Sasquatch this year have had Sheepdogs on constant rotation since I’ve been home and thanks to these good ole’ rock and roll boys, may just have to grow out my hair, toss on their record, and really rock out as I can only imagine the youth of yesteryear once did.