Sheppard has the sort of accolades as a band that are amazing, yet are only possible in this day and age. The band’s breakthrough single “Geronimo” is RIAA-certified at the Platinum level (over one million units sold), yet it has over 140 million streams on Spotify. The success of “Geronimo” is not exclusive to the U.S. or the group’s native Australia as it hit the Top 10 on the singles charts of 12 countries. In Australia, Sheppard won two APRA awards (think Australian Grammys), including “Pop Work Of The Year,” and was nominated for seven ARIA awards including “Best Band,” and yet their globally-acclaimed album Bomb Away only got its U.S. release back in March.
I had the absolute pleasure of asking questions to Sheppard frontman and co-founder George Sheppard in support of their July 22nd show at Webster Hall’s Marlin Room. George provided refreshingly-honest responses as to what it is like to tour internationally as an Australian band and what it is like to be on tour in general.
What do you wish more people knew about Sheppard?
Sheppard’s George Sheppard: That we’re an honest, self-made, hard-working band. It’s taken us a lot longer to get to where we are than most people think, through a lot of trial and error, and a LOT of mistakes. We also write, co-produce and perform all of our own original music.
A lot of people think of Sheppard as a “family band,” is that something you celebrate? Or would you rather just be thought of as a band that happens to have a few siblings in it?
G: Although Sheppard certainly began as a “family band,” we’ve certainly developed ourselves to a point where we are a band that happens to have a few siblings in it. Although the main image of the band are the siblings, the other three members bring so much to the table. They certainly aren’t “background” musicians. Jason [Bovino] writes the songs with Amy [Sheppard] and I, and Dean [Gordon] and Michael [Butler] have such a huge presence in the live show that it would be unfair to call this a “family band.”
What do you think is the biggest misconception about being a band from Australia?
G: These are great questions! I think the biggest misconception about being a band from Australia is that we all ride kangaroos to work. Just kidding. I think the biggest thing is that thanks to the likes of recent Australian successes like 5 Seconds Of Summer, Iggy Azalea, Chet Faker and Vance Joy, people think there’s a new wave of Australian bands making it overseas, and that it might be easier for an Australian band to make it overseas. But back home, the competition is just as fierce, if not more so. There’s only one radio station that really plays new Australian music, and only after making it onto that station are you able to crossover onto commercial radio. So if you don’t make it onto that station, your options are practically exhausted. So any Australian band that can actually make it overseas is actually INCREDIBLY lucky and has had to work themselves to the bone to get there.
Your album Bombs Away was released nearly nine months earlier in Australia than it was here in the States. Does that mean that another album in already in the works? Or are you happy to keep playing the songs of Bombs Away for as long as the demand is there?
G: Well, it’s been quite tough for us, because the release has been so out of sync, we’ve been on the world’s longest album cycle. After we had pretty much finished our album cycle in Australia, it was time for the European release, so we went and did that. Then it was time for the U.S. release, so we went and did that. Then it was time for the U.K. Release (laughs). So we’re quite exhausted, but we’re certainly ready to start working on some new music. We have some really interesting ideas as to where we want to take this next album. We definitely don’t want to make Bomb’s Away twice. We want to grow with every single, every album, every show. I think from all the touring we’ve done and amazing experiences we’ve had, this next album is going to be quite experimental. So far, Amy, Jason and I have agreed on the influences of Coldplay, Mumford & Sons, London Grammar and Borns.
Being a New York City-based publication, what comes to mind when you think about your first trip to New York as a musician?
G: Our first trip to New York was to play Australia Day at Summer Stage. Although I’d been to New York once before, it had been during the dead of winter and I didn’t get to spend much of my time outside. This particular visit though, was during the beautiful sunshine in Central Park. I couldn’t believe how different the city was during the summer. It was like I had stepped into a movie. Ever since that moment, NYC has been one of my favorite cities in the world. The atmosphere is almost tangible, the people are some of the most welcoming and friendly I’ve met, and I’ve had some of my most memorable adventures in NYC. I can’t wait to get back.
For people who haven’t seen Sheppard live before, what should they expect from your upcoming show at Webster Hall?
G: In a word? Energy. Touring is hard. Arduous airport check ins, lugging heavy equipment around, stupidly long drives, living out of suitcases — it’s not fun. The part that is fun? GETTING ON STAGE AND PLAYING FOR PEOPLE WHO ENJOY YOUR MUSIC. We treat those moments as the time for us to forget about the hard work and to simply have some real fun. So you can sure as hell expect us to have the best time we’ve ever had on that stage in Webster Hall. Also, the songs get a different treatment live as the recording is done by three, performed by six. So you won’t just be listening to the record being played in a live setting, it’ll be a more organic, more powerful version of Bombs Away.
When you’re not busy playing and doing press on the road, what do you enjoy doing?
G: Well I’m a bit of a video game nerd, so when I get home I always love to go to the shops and see which new Xbox games I’ve missed out on whilst being away. I’m also a massive movie buff. One of my favorite things to do is go to the cinema. When a movie you’ve been anticipating is finally out — that moment the studio logos start rolling around is one of my favorite moments to experience. I also love the ocean. Any time I get to spend swimming in the deep blue water, whether off a boat or at the beach, is time well spent. I’m currently writing this from a holiday villa in Costa Brava, Spain. So we’ve all been getting plenty of sun and sea. Happy days!
Finally, George, any last words for the kids?
G: I just want to say to anyone who loves our band, anyone who has purchased our music, thank you! You are keeping music alive, and you’re the reason we are able to do a job that we love, and we truly appreciate you all! We can’t wait to get to Webster Hall and party with you guys. Until then!
Check out the music video for their single, “Geronimo,” here:
-by Darren Paltrowitz