Ewan Currie wasn’t always a rockstar. Before he made the cover of Rolling Stone and launched his group alongside his brother, the longhaired hippie worked in a nursery. He found he wasn’t suited for the work.
"I used to get stoned the whole time moving plants around. I had a one-hitter and I listened to Sam Roberts’ Chemical City, get ripped and then moved soil,” says Currie, in an interview with kind magazine to promote No Simple Thing, a fun-loving EP the group dropped in May. “I hate labour jobs, I’m not cut out to do that kind of stuff, but I had my little sanctuary in my piece of shit car and I’d listen to Sam, get baked and come back and slug it out. That’s what music is—a little thing to remind you about what makes life worth living."
If music is what makes life worth living than the Sheepdogs author the perfect soundtrack to summer fun. Nostalgic ’70s rock that echoes the Allman Brothers, Tom Petty and Neil Young, the Sheepdogs have always said that they make music they themselves like listening to: groovy, rhythmic rock ‘n’ roll that uplifts the soul while making you nod your head. It's good music for an outdoor jay.
“Our mantra has always been to do the shit we like and hope other people like it. We’re not going to change the way we do things to get on the radio or garner success,” says bass player Ryan Gullen, adding that their new record was made when the band found themselves together in Montreal to play a virtual concert and felt the pull of the studio calling them to make new tracks. “Our heroes are the old dudes from back in the day, ’60s and ’70s, but they all got super rich back when you could make money off record sales and became drunks and drug addicts. I don’t know any other area where people have success and become obsessed with chasing more success. We just want to refuel anything that comes our way into the cool things we wanted to do at 16.”
The band says their mission on No Simple Thing was to make the most Sheepdogs-ish album they could and to that effect, the album’s a homerun. Recorded live off the floor, the group didn’t want to make a “COVID record.” After seeing their summer tour with the Black Keys erased from the schedule, they were as bummed as everybody else, but they reversed that sentiment and preached joy instead of frustration.
“As soon as we’re out of this, we’re going to want to forget it forever,” says Currie, adding that he can’t wait to wipe the term ‘social-distancing’ from his vocabulary. “It just feels good to get together and play rock ‘n’ roll and we’re hoping it sounds just as good to our fans.”
The band makes no bones about being fans of other musicians and it’s hard to listen to this album without imagining the Sheepdogs onstage at a summer festival. Currie misses summer rock shows with every beat of his heart. “We played Bonnaroo a couple times and I was stoked to play, but the best thing was seeing the other acts on the lineup,” says Currie, who saw Dr. John play with Allen Toussaint and then caught a transcendent set from Greg Allman.
It just feels good to get together and play rock ‘n’ roll and we’re hoping it sounds just as good to our fans.
“Greg Allman was sick at the concert. He didn’t die much longer after this, and there’s a song on the record where he does this vocal move and I was standing there, the sun streaming everywhere, it’s hot and dusty, I’m all by myself and Greg took a breathe, then belted it out like the record—better—and I teared up. This sick old soldier of rock ‘n’ roll, he’s going to hit that high note and he fucking did it and we're all there, sharing. It’s a memory that I’ll never forget.”
The Sheepdogs say that memories like that will soon return. They miss the stage and they miss the clubs, but they're confident that this too—COVID-19—will pass.
“Rock ‘n’ roll is coming back and we’ll be back together again. Human beings need to let loose,” Gullen says. “We’re not built to fucking live forever on Zoom.”