When you step back at take a gander at the Canadian musical landscape, it’s easy to spot a healthy stream of rootsy rock ‘n’ roll flowing like the St. Lawrence down the banks of time. Our vast, open land has served as the perfect inspiration for many road-worn storytellers with affection for simple, chordy guitar.
That being said, Canada’s tradition of straightforward rock ‘n’ roll is still very much alive. Our latest treat to the world is Saskatoon’s Sheepdogs, who, over the past year, have leapt from the cramped backseat of a tiny tour van to the front cover of the most fabled publication in music, Rolling Stone.
Recently, ANDY caught up with Ryan Gullen, bass player for the Sheepdogs, to chat about standing at the helm of a rich tradition and the expectations, opportunities and experiences that arise from such attention.
“We’re into older music, you know? The Band, Neil Young and the Guess Who, that’s the stuff that really inspires us. It’s definitely a sort of Canadian tradition,” laughed Gullen. The Sheepdogs are heavily indebted to this lineage, as pointed out by the countless critics who liken the band to the roots of rock ‘n’ roll past.
“I don’t necessarily feel a constraint,” he said confidently when asked about the expectations placed on them by the media. “People do make the connection to the classic rock ‘n’ roll bands, but that’s the type of music we like to listen to and, as a result, that’s what comes out.”
He continued, “There are lots of bands nowadays that take cues from the ‘80s. They’re considered modern pop music, yet their music is also derivative of another time. We play what we like and hope that other people will like it too.”
The skyrocketing popularity of the Sheepdogs owes greatly to their winning of the first ever “Choose Your Own Cover Contest” hosted by Rolling Stone. Unbeknownst to the band, the contest also offered a spot on the popular fashion-focused reality television program Project Runway.
“We were told shortly before that if we did in fact win, we’d have to appear on the show,” Gullen admitted. “Of course, none of us had ever watched the show. Initially they wanted us on the runway, and we wanted to play. Eventually, they came back and told us that they’d love to have us be the first band to play on the show.
“It was definitely a weird experience,” Gullen laughed. He went on to praise the show for allowing them to bring a sense of humour to it. Gullen proudly revealed the sense of irony they felt when they approached the show with garnered acclaim from one of the most notable rock critics, Chuck Klosterman.
As a result of their newfound superstardom, the Sheepdogs have been forced, on the Canadian leg of the tour, to move gigs into larger venues. “Our [Studio at Hamilton Place] show sold out in the pre-sale, but there were a lot of people in Hamilton and the surrounding area talking to us through social media and telling us that they wanted to come.” The show was subsequently moved to Copps Coliseum.
Gullen went on to celebrate the music-mad audiences that our city fosters. “Hamilton has historically been an great place for us to play,” he said. With tickets still on sale, make sure you catch what the buzz is all about.
The Sheepdogs perform Saturday, Nov. 26 at Copps Coliseum