On March 7, Brock students gave a rousing, foot stomping welcome to Beat Cops and The Sheepdogs at Isaac’s Bar & Grill. The night began with an opening set by Beat Cops that showcased their brand of alternative rock, a mix of classical and hard rock that often incorporated punk influences, which energized the crowd with its deafening vocals and crunching guitars. That being said, the real roar came when The Sheepdogs sauntered onstage, outfitted entirely in 70s inspired button-downs and jeans and rearing to delve into an eclectic mix of 20 songs strung together with their signature style of a modern take on classic Rock n’ Roll. The Brock Press caught up with band-member and bassist Ryan Gullen preceding the event to discuss their music, the performance and their tour.
“It isn’t that we’re pretending it’s 1971,” Gullen said, “We are of the era and we’re not fooling ourselves, but our music does come from a love of that kind of sound. When we started the band, it was because we were all friends that came together on account of our love for that music, so when we started playing we gravitated naturally towards that: old school rock, blues.”
The Sheepdogs’ most recent album, Future Nostalgia has been nominated for the 2016 JUNO award for Rock Album of the Year. Featuring 18 tracks, The Sheepdogs explored their sound with some feel-good, classic rock songs like “I’m Gonna Be Myself” and “I Really Wanna Be Your Man”, as well as an intricately melodious instrumental called “Jim Sullivan”, and then ending with some songs more attuned to the genre of Blues, such as “Same Old Feeling”.
“Every time we approach a new project, we’re big into how an album is laid out,” noted Gullen. “We like to put records on and listen to how it flows together, and we want our work to be the same. We want to have fun with it, too. Making music is serious at time but in the end we want to make music that people can have a good time too. We recorded Future Nostalgia in a cottage by a barn that we set up a make shift studio in, spent three weeks there in Stony Lake; we got up early in the morning and worked sometimes until three a.m. We just made it our only focus; what was nice about it is there are so many distractions in the city and it afforded us an opportunity to spend a little core time with it, figuring out how we could make it better. That extra time to do it is beautiful, we made it our only focus. It sounds very romantic, but it was more just a way that we could step back and create what’s going to be the next chapter of our career.”
The Sheepdogs have been on the road since Jan. 31, embarking on a tour that began in Montreal, and stretches all the way to Vancouver, before redirecting eastward and returning once again to Southern Ontario. After Sunday, the band again moves on in the direction of Halifax, Nova Scotia, before hopping the pond and landing in the UK and Europe to continue the tour. Gullen noted that after this tour finishes, the band will get right back to playing shows upon returning to Canada for the summer festival season; despite the quick turnaround, he doesn’t seem to mind being busy.
“We’ve been a touring band since we first went on tour in 2006; touring these days is nice, instead of piling into a van and driving around the country, we’ve got the bus now,” Gullen reflected. “It’s fun to see the country and I always feel fortunate that we get to do that.”
The crowd at Sunday’s show certainly felt fortunate to listen to a seamless set by The Sheepdogs, who brought them practically to their knees with stunning renditions of their songs, including the hits “I’m Gonna Be Myself”, “Right On”, “Downtown”, and “I Don’t Know”. Guitarist Jimmy Bowskill and lead singer and guitarist Ewan Currie masterfully plucked their strings to “Southern Dreaming”, a song abounding with Blue Grass and Country influence, and Gullen lent his voice to both of theirs to create a perfectly pitched vocal harmony for the song “Right On”. Shamus Currie, younger brother of Ewan Currie, played throughout the night, switching from the keyboard to a tambourine, to a trombone.
“I wasn’t sure what to expect on a Sunday night,” the younger Currie brother admitted after the show had finished and much of the crowd had dissipated. “You never know with school venues, because the sound in a cafeteria might not be the sound you’re used to hearing at a live show. The crowd was amazing, though, and the enthusiasm they brought to this show was great. In one sentence: good energy and good vibes.”
To learn more about The Sheepdogs, such as upcoming tour dates and music updates, visit thesheepdogs.com.