For more than thirty years, the CMJ Music Marathon has been the world’s most important platform for learning about new bands and discovering new, untapped wells of glorious music. This year, October 15-19, at more than 80 different music venues in Manhattan and Brooklyn more than 100,000 fans came out to see more than 1300 artist performances. At the festival’s Hotel on Rivington press lounge on one of those days I was lucky enough to get to sit down and chat with seven new bands and talk to them about their music and their future.
My next interview was with the already popular in so many other parts of the world Australian group Sheppard. Sheppard are constantly touring and they are probably usually bickering. This is because this band features siblings Amy, George and Emma Sheppard along with friends Jay Bovino, Michael Butler and Dean Gordon. Whether or not you have a sibling you’ve no doubt seen siblings fight so you can imagine the tensions which go on in that bus. Still they do a great job creating a unique mix of party atmosphere and good-time melody that is taking Australia, and the world, by storm.
Sheppard has played headline shows, festivals and showcase performances in the UK, USA, The Philippines, South Africa (Oppikoppi Festival), and even India where they played the NH7 Weekend Festival in Pune, Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore.
Sheppard’s recent hit single Let Me Down Easy debuted in the Australian Top 50, becoming one of the biggest independent hits on Australian radio this decade. The track spent 17 weeks at #1 on OZ indie charts and reached the top 10 in OZ music charts 15 weeks. Having played alongside the likes of Jason Mraz and Pitbull this group all came to me and we bantered about much of the time. Unfortunately because it was six people and this was my last interview of the day, my record keeping for who was speaking when is pretty shoddy. I’m speaking mostly to the three siblings, George, Amy and Emma.
What would you say your groups influences are?
“We have three different writers in the band. I’m more into stadium rock Coldplay. Katie’s into Fleetwood Mac and Jay’s into fun. We all represent a different demographic and that’s what makes the song have such a broad reach.”
I’m just curious about the influences you mentioned; many of those are bands popular here in the West; is radio similar for you in Australia?
“A lot of it is yeah, music, TV…”
What is the Aussie sound?
“There’s definitely great original music coming out from Australia. INXS. AC/DC would probably be the quintessential Australian band.”
“Unless you’re talking about Australian hip hop.”
Is there Australian hip hop?
“Yeah it’s just these guys rapping in real Aussie accents.”
“It might be even better for Americans.”
“When we see an Australian movie and we hear an Australian accent in a movie it’s like “I don’t know.” American movies it’s a different world because we get to escape and so we’re suspicious when we hear Australian being “done.” Australia’s a bit like that though. It’s a combination of European and American and we just take what we want.”
You guys have a pretty big following back in Australia?
“Yeah since about April it’s been pretty huge. We’ve gotten a lot of commercial radio airplay and the songs gone Platinum; they just flogged it on the radio.”
Are you guys sick of your own music?
“We’ve got a lot of respect for the song, of course. But if it came up on the Hi-Fi I might just hit “next.””
What’s it like to be in NYC at CMJ?
“We’ve spent a lot of time and energy getting into the Australian market but after that it’s time to go overseas. New York’s obviously the first place to do that here. When we got the email from CMJ saying that we were accepted we were jumping for joy. Showcasing ourselves in the United States is amazing.”
Auto-Tune: For or against?
So you guys don’t use it?
“For a recording we might tweak something if it’s just a bit out of place but when people use it because they can’t sing I think it’s a crime.”
If you could score any film or director who would it be?
“Sam Mendes is huge. Wes Andersen. Have you seen “Children of Men?” Clive Owen running through this war scene for like 15 minutes in one wide shot; it’s incredible.”
What do you think of Lady Gaga?
“Anyone that can express themselves in such a creative way, is great.”
Do you have any advice for a band anywhere in the world who’s out there reading this interview with Sheppard and they say, “I want to go to the CMJ Music Marathon?”
“Have fun, focus on the songwriting, it’s all about the song.”
“If you get knocked down get back up again.”
Sheppard also was nice enough to say some nice things about my NOT asking about how it is for siblings to work together, which was very nice. Then we all grooved out to some Aussie hip hop and buzzed out on the cool vibe.
If you’d like to learn more about Sheppard you can check out their website or Facebook page. And even if you don’t move to Australia and you stand still the chances are that the band will let you down easy as they may be coming to play near you sooner or later!