When beer calls, you answer.
Especially if you’re a member of Saskatchewan-bred retro rock act The Sheepdogs.
“Beer and rock ’n’ roll — that’s just a no-brainer, as far as pairings go,” says frontman Ewan Currie.
“Some music is maybe a soft seater and a glass of wine and we’re more a beer and a party.”
Local fans will get a whole lotta the latter this Saturday, as the band will be headlining the Big Rock Barn Burner at the local brewery, playing alongside Scenic Route To Alaska and The Silkstones.
While, no, it’s not Pilsner — the official drink of the green and white — Currie does remember serving Big Rock when he used to work in a Saskatoon bar “back in the day.”
That, of course, was a long, long time ago, before he and his hard-working crew were saved from the western Canadian club circuit by a Rolling Stone competition in 2011, which saw them voted as cover stars in a North American-wide contest.
A major-label signing, fame, stadium gigs, Juno awards and a pair of studio albums followed, including 2015’s Future Nostalgia.
According to Currie, he and the rest of the ’Dogs just finished recording the follow-up to that effort, which will be released in the new year.
And while that means he and The Sheepdogs could quite easily ride out the rest of 2017, well, beer called, they answered and they were more than happy to head this way for what is as close to a hometown gig as they could get in a different area code.
“Like you said, there’s a good vibe going on between us and Calgary,” he says.
“It’s Western Canada, I mean there’s a lot of Saskatchewan folks in Calgary, too — I’m sure they remind you all the time.”
Prior to Saturday’s Big Rock Barn Burner beer and party event, Currie spoke with theYYSCENE.
Q: Do you want to give much away about the new album: Who recorded it, where it was done?
A: There’s nothing too exciting in that realm of things. I produced it and we recorded it with a friend in Toronto. It’s pretty simple, but I think it’s a really cool album, I’m really excited for folks to hear it. We’ll play a couple of songs from it this weekend in Calgary — I think probably three songs — but it won’t be out until the next year, so just a bit of a tease, I guess.
Q: Are you heading off in a new direction or is this just a continuation from Future Nostalgia?
A: I think it’s a continuation. There’s definitely some new sounds and some new vibes and some different instruments at times, but overall the aesthetic is not a huge leap away from what people have come to expect. It’s still very much rock ’n’ roll, I think we’re just broadening our borders and do different things as well.
Q: Bringing in different influences or just expanding on the sound?
A: Yeah, always. I mean you’re listening to different music so other stuff creeps in and a few different instruments and things — maybe a little bit more trombone and some pedal steel. It’s still very much rock ’n’ roll, but just trying to throw in a few different flavours and colours as it were … It was a combination of what we were listening to. We’re obviously very into guitar rock ’n’ roll, Thin Lizzy and Led Zeppelin and Iggy Pop, and we’re also listening to old country music. But then we also like horns from soul music and even a bit of jazz. I think we try to take little bits and pieces of all the stuff that we like, but then we fit it into our general rock ’n’ roll aesthetic that we have.
Q: You did the side project with your brother (and Sheepdog bandmate Shamus — an album under the moniker Bros., which was released late 2016), did that help, to step away from The Sheepdogs for a bit and come at it and maybe think about it a little more fresh?
A: I think so. I think any work you do it’s experience and you learn from mistakes and you learn new techniques and the more you do something I think the better you get at it — just practising writing different songs is important.
Q: How fun was that for you?
A: I loved it, man, it was great. Making music is my favourite thing and it was fun to do some stuff that was maybe not as guitar focussed and try some different things, and then when I was done I was ready to rock again and get back into Sheepdog mode.
Q: Where are you based these days?
A: I’m in Toronto now … It’s been an interesting change of pace. I’ve been enjoying being around a lot more musicians. There’s just more of everything here — more people, more live shows to see, more influences. I’m definitely getting more out of it in terms of that. I think I will probably live in a lot of places during my life. It’s an interesting journey. I don’t imagine I’ll live in Toronto forever, but it’s for right now.
Q: Are the rest of the band still in Saskyland?
A: A couple of us are out here and Sam (Corbett, the drummer) still lives in Saskatoon, he’s got a house back home there.
Q: Is that tough, when the band isn’t all together, or is that maybe a good thing?
A: I mean we’ve been together for 13 years, so we’ve spent a lot of time together and we still do. Sam’s out here a lot or we’re on the road together, so it’s fine, we make it work, it’s not really a huge conundrum, it hasn’t really divided us, we’re still very much a functioning, tight unit.
The Big Rock Barn Burner takes place Sat., Sept. 16 at the Big Rock Brewery (5555 76th Ave. S.E.). For tickets please click here.
Mike Bell has been covering the Calgary music scene for the past 25 years with publications such as VOX, Fast Forward, the Calgary Sun and, most recently, the Calgary Herald. He is currently the music writer and content editor for theYYSCENE.com. Follow him on Twitter/@mrbell_23 or email him at email@example.com.