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Photo by Vanessa Heins, courtesy of the Sheepdogs.

The Sheepdogs: Keepers of rock ‘n roll flame + win tickets

By Terry Steeves on February 29, 2016

Hardworking Saskatchewan rockers The Sheepdogs are back out on a 6-week Canadian tour, with a stop in Ottawa on Friday, Mar. 11 at the Bronson Centre. This time, the boys have broadened their path of major cities to include several theatre venues in smaller towns. I caught up with the band in Cranbrook, BC, where bassist Ryan Gullen shared with me the excitement of the tour this time around:

“It’s cool that we can play these big shows in the big cities, but then we’ve also got a fan base that expands outside of that. We’re originally from a small Saskatchewan town, so we always got passed over to see some of the more major acts that you had to travel to Calgary or Edmonton to see. So we’re trying to pay some of that back and do some gigs in places that don’t get to see a lot of shows. It’s been a fun experience, and added some extra well-rounded flavour to the tour.”

The Sheepdogs continue to ride the crest of their popularity, which they’ve carved out through their credo of simply making the music they love, and rocking it out with every performance. Their live shows continue to draw crowds with an age demographic that spans from teenagers to those in their 60’s and 70’s. Their fifth and latest record, Future Nostalgia (Oct. 2015) is another self-produced work which exhibits their refreshing classic rock formula that runs the gamut of 60’s psychedelic, to the 70’s rock spectrum of boogie rock, jazz, pop/rock, and fusion elements. The album is under 50 minutes long, and is 18 distinctly different tracks marked with some kind of memorable hook, whether it be a guitar lick, a familiar vibe, or an infectious vocal melody. It has also received a Juno nomination this year for Rock Album of the Year.

“Last night we played in Nelson, and there were 19 year-olds as well as 70 year-olds in the crowd. It’s pretty cool that we have that kind of reach…it speaks for itself in what rock ‘n roll music does. I think rock is very much alive and well, even though at times it’s not so much in the forefront. It just has a way of making you feel good. It’s melodies, harmonies, electric guitars, and those things that influence us that we try to put in our music and that we’re conscious of when we’re making a record. We’re not in it to be super popular, we’re in it cause we like making and playing music, love what we do, and try to bring it to our live shows. That‘s the real way to market yourself as a rock ‘n roll band, and that‘s what we‘ve done for years and years.”

This tour has seen the recent departure of band member, Rusty Matyas, and the addition of guitarist, Jimmy Bowskill, who at just 25, has been playing live shows for 15 years: since the age of 10. By the age of 19 he’d put out 4 of his own albums that feature his blues/rock style of playing, which has made him a perfect fit with the band.

“Jimmy’s amazing. He’s just a wild, wild guitar player, does some great slide work, and can play pedal steel as well. He’s really brought a whole new dimension to our live shows, and has added a new and exciting element to our band.”

The band’s latest video, “I’m Gonna Be Myself”, directed by Sean Cartwright, has an almost movie trailer feel, with its classic Easy Rider-influenced biker scenes, crossed with bar-brawling Roadhouse-inspired segments. Gullen talked about the making of the video, and his own love for vintage motorcycles:

“I’m really into vintage motorcycles. It’s one of my favourite things to do… during the summer months, I’m usually off touring somewhere. The video features a bunch of my motorcycle buddies, and the main character is a friend of mine riding a chopper that I built. It was cool to mix all those choppers and bikers with our music, and worked perfectly to deliver this 60’s-styled Easy Rider feel.”

Immediately following the Canadian tour, the band will be off on another round of dates in the UK and Europe, where the popularity of rock music continues to thrive, as do the keepers of its flame, The Sheepdogs.

To enter to win a pair of tickets to The Sheepsdogs on March 11, send an email to apartment613@gmail.com with the subject line “I’m Gonna Be Myself”.  The winner will be drawn on Wednesday, March 9th, at noon.

The Sheepdogs perform at The Bronson Centre (211 Bronson Ave) on Fri. Mar. 11, 2016.  Tickets are $32.50 and can be purchased here.

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