Tuesday, July 21, 2015

{INTERVIEW} sheppard

TIOJ recently caught up with George Sheppard of the lovely Australian family band Sheppard in anticipation of their show at U Street Music Hall on the 27th. Read ahead to find out about how they came to be, their current tour (including cat cafes...), and more!

Listen while you read: 

Tell us about yourselves! How did you form a band and get to where you are today? 
Sheppard was actually formed by Amy and I through a university assignment. Amy wrote a song for uni, and being a huge fan of Fleetwood Mac, decided she wanted to put in luscious harmonies. It was at that moment she heard me singing in the shower and thought I would be a good candidate for those harmonies. We finished that song together and decided to start singing/writing together as a duo from that moment on. About a year later, a friend of mine from Sydney (Jason Bovino) came on board as the third songwriter/rhythm guitarist. The three of us wrote and recorded the majority of “Bombs Away” before we had the rest of the band together. As the record was nearing completion, we realized we were going to need a band to start touring, so we auditioned for a lead guitarist (Michael Butler) and a drummer (Dean Gordon). Our younger sister Emma decided to learn the bass to play in the band. It was around this time that we managed to snag an audition with veteran Australian promoter, Michael Chugg, who was just starting a new management company. We were given the opportunity to go into his office and sing a few of our songs for him. We've been touring and promoting our music with him ever since!


How would you describe yourselves to someone who's never heard your music before? What song would you suggest they start with? 
The music we make is indie-pop. Although it’s not your conventional radio-friendly pop music, it’s still fun to listen to. Our music is essentially a throwback to the old days of well-structured, easy to listen to pop music. Our influences include the likes of Fleetwood Mac, Cat Stevens, The Beatles, Elton John, etc. If there was one song that people should listen to that ISN’T "Geronimo," then I suggest they listen to "Let Me Down Easy."

You're in the middle of a big tour -- what are you most excited about? Any shows or cities in particular? 
We are about to head to Japan to play Summer Sonic, which I’m super excited about. I’ve never been there and I’ve always been so intrigued by the country. It just has such a unique culture and a very distinct personality, plus I’ve always wanted to go to a cafe where I’m surrounded by cats…

What are your requirements to have with you on tour? 
I think the main requirement is headphones. It’s hard to be on long flights and drives without music to keep you company. An iPod or laptop is also a big necessity. Without them the headphones are useless! A suitcase full of clothes and toiletries is also pretty essential. And a never ending supply of Tim Tams. Gotta have the Tim Tams.

Click ahead to read about the dynamics of a sibling band, inspiration, and more!

How does being siblings impact your music and the dynamic of the band? 
I think its good to have siblings in the band because you’re surrounded by people you can trust. In an industry where everyone is trying to make a quick buck off you, it’s fairly important to have people around you who honestly have your best interests at heart. In terms of the music, Jason has a big input into the songs so I don’t think being siblings make much of a difference to the songwriting, but I think the harmonies benefit greatly. Having similar vocal chords really makes our harmonies stand out.

Where do you find inspiration for your music? 
Inspiration is a funny thing. It can come from anywhere, at any time. You can be walking down the street and have a melody pop into your head that you have to quickly record on your iPhone (unfortunately looking like an idiot singing into your phone), but it can also be quite elusive. Many days I sit down at the piano and nothing good comes out. I think the times when inspiration hits us, we attribute it to all of the amazing locations we’ve been to, the amazing people and the experiences we’ve all had in our lives. It’s very easy to feel inspired when you’re travelling the world, performing your music to thousands of people. A lot of our songs have been written using the excitement we feel as we’re about to go on stage.

What has it been like to hear "Geronimo" all over the radio? 
As cliched as it sounds, it’s a very surreal experience. It literally doesn’t feel real. Especially the first time you hear it. It’s even crazier to hear your song on the other side of the world. We were in Bilbao, Spain recently, and as we were driving to the airport we heard "Geronimo" on the radio in between two Spanish songs. It just doesn’t feel real, no matter how many times you hear it.

Your website describes your music as "laughing through tragedy and making sad things happy. This is music for the underdog." What a beautiful sentiment. What else do you see as the power of music, especially your music? 
I think the great thing about music is the fact that everyone interprets it differently, and because of that people use music to help them through very personal and meaningful situations. People can use music to help them through tough times, to help spur on creativity, or even to help them connect with other people, regardless of race, creed or culture. I think the power of music is that it has become the universal language. You can convey an idea, or an emotion, simply through chords and a melody.

What's next for you guys? What can we look forward to from you in the future? 
After we get back from our current tour, we begin conceptualising, writing and recording our sophomore album. We’re also looking forward to playing a main stage slot in September at Rock In Rio in Brazil before making an appearance at Austin City Limits. We also have a support slot for Elton John booked in for December that we’re all thrilled about.

What are you listening to these days that we should put on our radar? 
Personally, I’m in love with the new Wombats album, Glitterbug. The great thing about the Wombats is that they always seem to be at the forefront of the indie-rock scene, always experimenting with new sounds and interesting melodies. I’m also really enjoying the new Tame Impala album, and a new band I’ve discovered recently are Borns from Los Angeles. If you want another great Australian band to look out for, check out Ball Park Music -- an extremely fun and witty indie rock band from our home town of Brisbane.

Thank you so much to George for taking the time to chat with us! DO NOT miss these guys live -- they're playing at U Hall on the 27th. Get your tickets NOW!

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