By Poppy Tohill
Being the first independent act to hit the top of the ARIA Singles Chart in a decade with their single'Geronimo' knocking out Pharrell Williams song 'Happy,' from the top spot, Australian band Sheppardproduced the first #1 single ever recorded in Brisbane, also breaking the record for making 'Geronimo' run as the longest independently released #1.
With 2014 proving a whirlwind of a year for the band, who have been on the road for the past 18 months, guitarist Jay Bovino took some time to respond to my questions regarding their debut album (Bombs Away), their recent success and what the future holds for the band, via email, while they were in the UK to perform at V Festival alongside the likes of Vance Joy, Howling Bells and comedian Adam Hills.
I saw recently on your Facebook you guys said ‘Geronimo' has started getting some airplay on radio stations in The States - congrats!! Coming from a reasonably small country, how does it feel knowing your music is beginning to be heard all around the world?
It's insane really. As you said, Australia is relatively small (there are almost as many people in New York alone) so the idea that it's being heard by so many more people around the world is hard to comprehend.
Where were you the first time you heard one of your songs on the radio and what was your reaction like?
It was 'Let Me Down Easy' and I was actually in a cab with Amy. We couldn't sit still. The cab driver must have thought we were crazy. It was always a dream to hear my music on commercial radio.
‘Geronimo'is a huge hit, which you've achieved great success with to date, what's life been like for Sheppard since the release of both the single and your debut album?
Thank you! It's been a whirlwind of a year. We haven't had a chance to breathe since the single was released. I don't know how much has changed though. We've been on the road for the last 18 months, so it all just blends together these days.
Did you ever think ‘Geronimo'was going to be such a massive hit?
I don't think you can ever KNOW that. We did however know that WE liked it, and in the few months of playing it live before its release, it always got a great response, so there was a hunch that it might do well.
Out of interest I Googled to see if the term ‘Geronimo' meant anything, and found there was a leader named Geronimo who fought against Mexico and Texas in the ‘Apache Wars' in the early 1880s. Does the story behind the song have anything to do with that/him or is the meaning and message you're portraying throughout the song about something completely different all together?
That's true. There was a famous Native American called Geronimo! There's always been a popular tradition to yell Geronimo before taking a leap, so that's basically where the song comes from. We've been told the story dates back to WW2. A group of paratroopers went out and saw a film named "Geronimo" the night before a jump. Apparently, at the end, one soldier said to another, you'll be so scared before you jump tomorrow you're going to forget the name of the film. So the soldier said, "No I won't, and to prove it, I'll yell the name when I take the leap." Not sure how true that is but it's a great story!
I absolutely love both of the music videos that have been released for the single, what was the reasoning for releasing two different videos and how much creative input did the band have into each of these?
We made the first one (cardboard monster) in Australia. A really talented director friend I went to school with came up with the concept and we kind of fleshed it out together from there. It was an amazing production; the set was designed entirely from cardboard, single-handedly by a guy called Nicholas Aplin! The reason behind making another was our UK label's call. As it was going to be the first single the international market would hear/see from us, they wanted something that featured the band more prominently.
‘Let Me Down Easy' was your first big hit and was essentially what introduced most of us to Sheppard. How do you think the band has evolved and grown since the release of that single and the EP in 2012?
That was written and released over two years ago now, so as songwriters, in that time, I feel we've definitely honed in on our "sound" and as a band we are much tighter and closer. Two years of touring will do that to a band!
With three siblings in the band, I'm going to assume that George, Amy & Emma must have had a pretty musical upbringing, how important was music to the Sheppard siblings growing up and what made you want to start the band?
I'm not one of the siblings, but I think they, like the rest of us, had a lot of influence from their father's record collection. One thing we have in common is that we grew up listening to classics! They also grew up and went to a very musical school in Papua New Guinea, so that definitely would have played a part.
What's the best and worst thing about working with siblings?
Amy says the best thing is travelling with your family and the worst thing is travelling with your family!
The band's debut album ‘Bombs Away' was released in July, what has the reception towards it been like so far?
So far so good! We've been overwhelmed by the positive response. The first review we got through was 4 stars from Rolling Stone; needless to say, we were over the moon. I think as a "pop" band we never expected critical acclaim, as pop music is usually frowned upon in that world, but we've been ecstatic with the response from both fans and critics alike!
How would you best describe the album in one sentence?
Bombs Away is an eclectic mix of pop songs that centre around the theme of picking yourself back up!
Can you tell us a bit about the album? What inspired it, where it was recorded and what the songwriting process was like?
The album was entirely recorded in Brisbane. It's a collection and selection of songs we put together over the course of three years. The band has three songwriters, myself- Jay, Amy and George. We don't have a standard writing process. Sometimes one of us will come up with the bulk of a song and the other two will add their touch, or other times we can sit around and it can be a completely collaborative process as we throw out ideas.
In terms of songwriting, a lot of your lyrics are very personable and relatable, what inspires the lyrical themes of your songs?
We tend to reflect a lot in our writing and generally sing about past relationships, which is very relatable, as everyone has had their heartbroken at one point or another. We've been told our songs have an "underdog" theme. We like that idea. We think of them as hopeful songs about - and for - the downhearted.
You've already toured quite a bit this past year, what's your most memorable touring memory so far and what is one country in the world you would love to tour some day?
Our most recent album launch tour was probably the highlight of our career so far. Coming home after being overseas for most of the year and playing to two thousand people in our hometown was unforgettable. We haven't visited much of Asia yet, and we'd all love to check out Japan.
By the time these questions get to you, you probably would have performed at the V Festival in the UK, how'd it go and what was that experience like?
It's a two-day festival and we played both shows. The first was a bit of a shambles, due to technical difficulties, but thankfully the second ran a lot smoother and we had a great day. It was just amazing being on such an impressive line up, and to top it off we got to watch The Killers side of stage!
Does anyone in the band have any strange pre-show warms up to help calm the nerves?
Not really, actually. We all kind of just do our own thing until we're ready to go on. George and Amy always sip on lemon and ginger tea, while Dean bangs his sticks on any surface he can find... That's within three inches of our ears!
Can we expect to see Sheppard on New Zealand shores for a tour any time soon?
Hopefully! We've got a national tour in October and we'd love to pass through NZ. So fingers crossed!
Whether it's in the near future or further away, what can fans expect and look forward to from a live Sheppard's how when you do make it to our shores?
We're very energetic when we perform. We love to jump around and rock out. You'll be surprised. We perform our songs live with a lot more "oomph" than on our recordings. We like to treat the fans to a little more than what they get on the CD.
What does the next year have in store for the band musically?
Touring! For the rest of the year we've set our sights on conquering the overseas market, so It's looking Ike we'll be on the road (and in the air) a lot more over the next year.
Last of all- Where would you like to see Sheppard in the next three years?
I guess it all depends on what happens with the single and album overseas, but there will definitely be a lot of touring and eventually album number two.