Canada’s beloved, The Sheepdogs, are at it again, shaping up to release their fifth studio album, “Future Nostalgia” on Oct. 2, 2015. Now officially a 5-member band, multi-instrumentalist, Shamus Currie, who has toured with the band since 2012, also appears on the album playing keys, trombone, and tambourine. The boys are currently on a North American/European tour in support of their newest effort, with single, “Downtown” receiving massive airplay and quickly climbing to the top of the charts.
After 11 years together, their music maintains that refreshing time warp back to the essential classic rock goodness of memorable guitar riffs, infectious rhythms, great bass lines, well-written vocal melodies with plenty of harmonies, and a melange of keyboard work ranging from raw piano backbone, to the growl of the Hammond organ. Their songs run the gamut from sixties psychedelic, to the seventies rock spectrum including boogie rock, jazz, pop/rock, and fusion elements. The voice of lead singer/songwriter/producer, Ewan Currie, also bears a strong nostalgic tone, bringing to mind the crisp, mid-range, and pure vocals of singers in bands of the time like, Chuck Negron of Three Dog Night, Robert Lamm of Chicago, and Mark Farner of Grand Funk Railroad. Music Express caught up with Ewan during the band’s recent visit to Ottawa’s CityFolk Festival, to chat about the essence and influences of the band:
“Obviously I love the rock music from the 60’s and 70’s. To me, that was the greatest era and one where the most popular bands were ones that wrote, sang, and recorded their own music…there wasn’t a big team of people writing songs, or a big marketing thing. It was about real artists and real stories from their lives. So we’ve always tried to emulate those types of people. If you listen to our album, it’s us playin’ it, it’s us writing, it’s stories about us…it’s our lives.”
“Future Nostalgia”, also self-produced, is 18 tracks of pure, classic rock ear candy. Under 50 minutes long, each song is distinctly different from the next, and features a 6-song medley at the end. All are marked with some kind of memorable hook, whether it be a guitar lick, a familiar vibe, or an infectious vocal melody.
“When I go out to eat, I always thought it more fun to have a whole bunch of little plates, rather than one big plate of the same thing…that’s sort of how we approached it musically. We wanted to make the album on our own, but we didn’t want it to be too lo-fi, so we brought in some good gear, and an engineer from Memphis, picked out the right guitar and the right amp, tried to make it sound as cool as we could…and just had fun.”
The smorgasbord begins with “Gonna Be Myself”, and its driving rock melody, layered vocals, and signature guitar harmonies by Ewan Currie and lead guitarist, Rusty Matyas, which are also prevalent during the great walking pace of “Take A Trip”. One called, “Bad Lieutenant”, has a great early sixties Mersey beat flavour, garnished with sharp guitar accents over the gentle hum of the organ, and features Ewan’s wonderful long vocal sustains. I love the warm keyboard sound along with a great shuffling blend of bass and drums by Ryan Gullen and Sam Corbett in “Nothing All Of The Time”, and the heavy dose of Shamus’ southern boogie-woogie piano in “Same Old Feeling”.
“That honky tonk/boogie-woogie piano is always something I’ve enjoyed. I came up with the song’s chord changes and knew I had to have a piano part. My brother, Shamus, was going to school in Toronto, and I was in Saskatoon writing songs. So basically I recorded a demo of the track and sent it to him and asked if he’d lay down some piano ideas in that style. He did and sent it back to me, and it was perfect.”
“Darryl & Dwight” oozes with texture in its minor descending chords, prominent bass rhythm, vintage organ sound, dry “Lemon Song” drums, and melancholy mood. I asked Ewan to tell me the story behind the names:
“Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Goodman were young phenom ball players on a 1986 Mets team with tons of promise and incredible talent. Their careers flamed up and out pretty quickly due to drugs and alcohol. I’d always thought they were two very interesting characters on the same team that won the world series. I decided instead of writing a mournful tune about a girl or about love, I’d write it about baseball players.”
The last 6 songs on the album are strung together in a medley format and are 2-3 minutes each. Musical colours here range from the deep tones of the Hammond, to various guitar textures, slow churning grooves, double-timed rhythms, and lots of multiple vocal harmonies, which the boys take great pride in being able to deliver.
“I’ve always really liked when music segues into one another like the Beatles did with Abbey Road. Other acts did that too, like Queen…it’s almost become a lost art. It’s something we did in the past on our “Learn And Burn” album, and we’d always wanted to bring back. I’m a sucker for medleys.”
“Future Nostalgia” shines in its full-sounding instrumentation and self-crafted production. It delivers more of their honed sound, derived from their tradition of exploration, experimentation, and combination of flavours from their big land of rock influences, while keeping the music real. Their successful songwriting formula appeals to a wide array of fans ranging from the diehard classic rock lovers of the baby boomer generation, to the wealth of young appreciators that have become the new keepers of the music’s flame.
For more information on The Sheepdogs and their new album, “Future Nostalgia” via Warner Music Canada, please visit www.thesheepdogs.com.
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