Sheppard - Interview

17 June 2015

An Interview with Sheppard at Isle Of Wight Festival 2015

An Interview with Sheppard at Isle Of Wight Festival 2015

Australian indie-pop band Sheppard may not be on your radar yet, but they're about to be. The six-piece outfit released debut album 'Bombs Away' in their home country a year ago. Hit single 'Geronimo' went on to 5x Platinum sales in Australia, knocking Pharrell Williams' 'Happy' off the top of the charts in the process. The song has already clocked up over 3 million Spotify plays here in the UK. Now, as the band roll out 'Bombs Away' to a European audience, they're hitting the festival circuit. Contactmusic caught up with singers George and Amy Sheppard following their recent afternoon performance in the Big Top at the Isle of Wight Festival.

Contactmusic: Congratulations on the last year, it's been quite a rollercoaster for you. For those readers who may not know much about the band how would you describe Sheppard? In a word I'd say versatile.
Amy Sheppard: I'd say eclectic, energetic.

CM: The album came out in Australia a year ago, you've then been preparing for it to be released internationally. What have the highs and lows of the last twelve months been?
George Sheppard: The fact that the record has been out of sync. We started in Australia and because it did what it did over there, it's branched out into the rest of the world. We've got to do the whole cycle over again. Most bands would have everything in sync, you sign to a record label and release material worldwide. We've had to do three or four whole sets of promo, which was a bit of a drag, but the fact that we have done that and that the record is worldwide at the moment is bigger than what we dreamed was possible with this whole band. We started as a university assignment. Amy wanted to be a musician from an early age, but we really didn't expect anything huge to happen. That it has, is a dream come true.

CM: Having 'Geronimo' as the main hook for the album, knocking Pharrell of the Australian number one spot, that's a big thing for a new band. How did that feel?
AS: It felt great, actually. We felt a bit like, "Oh, sorry Pharrell, not so happy anymore huh?" Seriously, 'Happy' was definitely on its last few weeks at the top anyway, but hey, it's a good story. (Laughs)

GS: He was about to break a record for the longest running number one single in Australia ever. He had something like thirteen weeks, and if he hit fourteen he would have beaten Eminem's 'Lose Yourself', we kind of cut that short for him. Sorry Pharrell, if you ever read this, I'm so sorry. We should have waited another week and then it would have been fine, but that's the way it goes.

CM: Writing 'Geronimo' then, did you know at the time, as the first song on the album that it was going to have that impact?
AS: Not at all, our first single in Australia was 'Let Me Down Easy', which is our follow up here. That did really well; it got radio play, which was exciting for us. Everyone was asking, "What's your follow up single going to be?"

GS: We've got this song called 'Geronimo', it's going to do ok.

AS: We were just hoping that it would do as well as 'Let Me Down Easy'. When we wrote it we thought, we've got something here, and then when we went to the studio and recorded it we thought this is pretty cool, it might do well. Never in our wildest dreams did we expect that it was going to go international and break all of these records. It's crazy.

GS: It's such an unpredictable industry and I'm sure a lot of musicians feel good about a lot of their songs. Even though we had that feeling about it, you can never tell, it's always a bit of a gamble.

CM: That's the one song that references the album title. Was that the first to come out of the can, or one of the last when you were putting the album together?
AS: It was one of the last. We had the luxury of when you make your first album to have quite a few tracks to choose from. A huge collection from every song you've ever written. 'Geronimo' was obviously a hit. We thought it's our debut album so. 'Bombs Away'! Here goes nothing.

GS: The metaphor fits nicely.

CM: Let's take you back to the start then. What's it like having that family dynamic in a band? You've also got heritage in Papua New Guinea.
GS: We actually just grew up there. There's no-one in the family that's Papua New Guinean blood, but the fact that we grew up there, went to school there, and that a lot of our friends are still there, it feels like part of our heritage and our home. We love to go back and visit every now and again. My father still works there, so it's definitely had a big influence on our lives. Growing up in such a different environment to how a lot of first world children experience life.

CM: You look at bands that usually have four members, you've got six, you're starting to verge towards Arcade Fire territory. How is it having six members when you're writing material?
AS: It's going pretty well, we all get along. We're all friends. There are a lot of people to choose from if you get sick of one person. (Laughs) I think the hardest part is the tour bus and keeping it quiet when some of us want to sleep.

CM: How is the tour bus dynamic now that you're on the road further from home then?
GS: It makes it easier when you're lugging heavy equipment around. You don't have to check into airports all the time, go through security.

AS: It's like a base, you feel like it's a bit of a home.

GS: At the same time, you can't have a shower. There are all sorts of restrictions like that, which you can't indulge in. It's overall a better situation in the long run and it's a lot of fun being together and the whole travelling touring band thing is realised in a tour bus.

CM: Is the road a bit of a blur for you at the moment because you're travelling so far?
AS: It's been a lot of fun. We're doing festivals and shows, it's been crazy, night after night, day after day, playing and doing what we love. We're best on stage, so it's pretty cool to be interacting with fans. I just went for a walk around outside to meet some fans.

CM: Where would you like to see yourselves in six months time in the UK?
GS: I think we just want to be able to come back. We really like the UK; people here have been really supportive so far. That's a good sign. Every time we play a show more people are coming each time and the rise has been consistent which has been nice. I hope that continues and that we can eventually play something like Glastonbury, more festivals that are world renowned, and that we can have a good time while doing it.

CM: How have you found the experience of Isle Of Wight Festival and your performance?
AS: Onstage, there was a great vibe. Sometimes you can play to a tent full of people and there's no atmosphere. Today everyone was into it, singing the songs, everyone's just really happy. There's no-one too out of control.

GS: It's kind of funny showing up on the last day of the festival. I feel like the history has already been ingrained in the ground, everyone's trudged across the site already. You show up on the fourth day of a festival, everyone smells horrible, it's cool to jump straight into that where everyone is in the thick of it already instead of having to build up to it. It's a very cool festival. You can tell there's a great vibe, good people around, great acts, it's a renowned festival that we've been lucky enough to play.

CM: We'll look forward to hearing more from you in the future, but is there something exclusive you can tell our readers about your plans?
GS: We're writing the second album on the bus.

AS: We do have more songs than just 'Geronimo'. Thanks for supporting us; you can find us on social media under @wearesheppard.

GS: Although we are writing new songs, we want to be out of the head phase of the first album, to be able to start honing in on the themes and sounds we're going for. I think you could see a single from a second album early next year.

Jim Pusey

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