New dogs, old tricks

Saskatoon rockers play music inspired by the era of rock ‘n’ roll they like the most

The Sheepdogs might stick out from the other guests if you invite them to a garden party, but boy do they sure rock!

It’s often said you shouldn’t live in the past – but that old adage doesn’t hold true for Saskatchewan rock outfit The Sheepdogs.

That’s because the four members look like The Allman Brothers with their shaggy hair and grubby beards, sound like CCR with pop overtones and choose to indulge in records their parents grew up with in the earlier days of rock ‘n’ roll.

“We all like the music produced between 1964 and 1974 – the rock, pop and soul of that era. That’s the music we listen to, so that’s the kind of music we like to make,” bass player Ryan Gullen said by phone last week, moments after pulling the band’s tour van into Toronto following a long trip from New York.

“As far as looks, that goes with the music. I guess we all just want to look the part.”

Having finished recording their third full-length album one day before leaving on tour, The Sheepdogs are playing 17 shows in 19 days. They’ll stop in Winnipeg this Saturday, Oct. 10 for a show at the Times Change(d).

But life wasn’t always as hectic for The Sheepdogs.

Rounded out by singer-guitarist Ewan Currie, guitarist Leot Hanson and drummer Sam Corbett, the band first formed four years ago in Saskatoon out of a common love for old music and a desire to create their own.

“We wanted a sound different from music out there today. New music is just so over-produced, over-compressed and over-analyzed to the point where they’re taking every piece of music and making it so that every instrument is perfect,” the 25-year-old Gullen said. “Every snare hit sounds the same over and over again, and the guitars are processed through the computer. We thought music recorded in the ‘60s and ‘70s had a lot more character, so that’s the style we were going for.”

As far as looks, that goes with the music. I guess we all just want to look the part.

Ryan Gullen, musician

To achieve that sound, the band uses old recording techniques such as using only two mics to record the drums.

And for their latest outing, they employed mix engineer Bill Moriarty, who is known for his use of vintage analogue gear and producing warm ‘60s-noir sounds.

The Sheepdogs have also proven to not only posses a knack for heartfelt, old-time southern rock songwriting, but also a steady work ethic.

“An album should be an experience. Not just a couple of singles and a few shitty b-sides,” Gullen said about the stock the band puts into a record.

The band has released two full-lengths and earned a nomination for best independent album of the year at the Western Canadian Music Awards for last year’s The Sheepdogs’ Big Stand.

The didn’t win, but the weekend wasn’t without any excitement. Gullen witnessed two teenagers break into Winnipeg singer-songwriter Romi Mayes’ van.

When police arrived on the scene, Gullen gave the officers a couple of Sheepdogs CDs.

“These kids are in the back of the cruiser and the cops blast our CD as they pulled away,” Gullen laughed.

“They not only got arrested, but they also had to listen to our songs all the way down to the police station.”

Published in Volume 64, Number 6 of The Uniter (October 8, 2009)

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