In true fashion of the musical pioneers that came before them, the Sheepdogs sport shaggy hair and typically laid back attire, perhaps in reference to their name. But don’t let the ragged exterior fool you: they are music’s new heroes, here to resuscitate rock ‘n’ roll.
Originally from Saskatoon, Sask., the band was formed in 2005 by a group of friends: Ewan Currie (lead vocals, guitar), Leot Hanson (guitar, backing vocals), Ryan Gullen (bass, backing vocals), and Sam Corbett (drums, backing vocals).
“We [were] all at a point in our lives where we wanted something different and new and I could play a little bit of guitar,” said Currie. Corbett rented a drum kit and they immediately began to write and play originals, improving as musicians through the process. “From day one we really took it seriously even though we never had like… musical talent at all. Even from our first jam we committed [to the band], maybe a bit foolishly, but it actually worked out really well.”
Often compared to great classics like Humble Pie, The Allman Brothers, and Free, The Sheepdogs’ music spills over to jazz, country, old soul and blues with influences like Curtis Mayfield and Derek And The Dominoes.
They established a strong fan-base both in Saskatoon and Winnipeg, which Currie calls their second home. But who knew that the group of friends who could barely play their instruments would eventually be making waves all the way to Eastern Canada? Not only have they been nominated for Artist of the Year on XM radio’s The Verge, their second album Big Stand was nominated for a Western Canadian Music Award for Independent Album of the Year. They have also played events like Junofest, the Red Gorilla Festival in Austin, Texas and recently North by Northeast, a large-scale industry music and film festival in Toronto.
Playing in Toronto sparked a collaboration with music-video director and editor Frank Guidoccio, who introduced himself after one of their shows and expressed his willingness to direct their first video. The official music video “I Don’t Know,” depicts two boys taking an automotive joyride of adolescent discovery. Aptly it has a Dazed and Confused vibe and a “70s wardrobe.
“We really like the video. We [shot] it in one afternoon and Frank did a really good job editing it together. We did it without any resources, just with Frank’s ingenuity. We’re hoping to make another video with Frank “cause if this is what he can do with, you know, no resources imagine what he can do” with them.
After their first two albums Trying To Grow (2007) and Big Stand (2008), they decided to take the production process into their own hands. Learn & Burn, which was released in early 2010, was recorded entirely on a computer, using Pro Tools and a microphone set. The band is pleased with the direction their album has taken, and feels Learn & Burn is the closest they’ve ever come to an end product that resembles their initial goal of how it would sound.
Though their fan base mainly stretches throughout Western Canada, the Sheepdogs are no strangers to Montreal. This time around, they will be headlining a showcase at Montreal’s International Music Festival, POP Montreal, with Dog Day, Sister, and Dan Romano Oct. 1 at O Patro Vys.
“We’re very excited about POP. I just hope if there are people out there that dig rock ‘n’ roll, guitar solos, harmonies, big choruses and just a nice groove, they’ll come down and rock out.”
If you believe true rock ‘n’ roll was buried in the “80s, let the Sheepdogs be a brightly shining beacon of hope. They play catchy tunes, wear leather and headbands and sound like your parents’ dusty vinyls. And their nostalgic rock sound may very well revive your faith in rock ‘n’ roll.
Catch the Sheepdogs at 1 a.m. Oct. 1 at O Patro Vys during Pop Montreal, or on Oct. 12 at Barfly. Listen to them by visiting this week’s 8tracks playlist of Pop Montreal artists: 8tracks.com/the_concordian/pop-montreal-taster.