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Nothing vintage about The Sheepdogs

The Sheepdogs’ musicians already sport long hair, beards and fringe leather vests. Now their G.I. Joe-like Feeling Good music video totally references 1970s toys and B-movie pop culture.

Although the group’s boogie-rock tunes have also been likened to the garage band sound of some 40 years ago, there’s nothing vintage about playing good, old-fashioned rock and roll, insists the group’s bassist Ryan Gullen.

“It’s always going to be there. There’s always going to be a thirst” for rock, said the 30-year-old, who believes the push-pull between rock music and electronica or pop these days is no different than the competition between rock and disco in the 1970s.

“Things come and go, but rock and roll has always struck around.”

Fans of The Sheepdogs, who perform at Red Deer’s Centrium for Westerner Days fair-goers on Saturday, July 19, will be relieved to hear the band has no plans to jump onto any passing musical bandwagon just because it’s trendy. “We’re not planning to produce any dance music, regardless,” said Gullen, with a chuckle.

The Saskatoon band that became famous in 2011 by becoming the first indie group to be featured on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine, is actually celebrating a decade in the business.

The Sheepdogs didn’t exactly start in somebody’ garage — but it was close. “We started practising in the basement of our drummer (Sam Corbett’s) parent’s place,” recalled Gullen. “We were all in university and we all liked music and we thought, let’s see if we can do something a little different . . . ”

While the musicians, who met in high school, loved some ’70s bands, such as Creedence Clearwater Revival, a lot of their influences were pretty current, including The White Stripes and Kings of Leon.

Gullen, an international studies major, and his band mates all quit university to follow their passion — although vocalist Ewan Currie did go on to get his psychology degree through extension courses.

“As fun as performing is, it’s the creation of music, in the end, that makes this job the best,” said the bassist. With that in mind, the musicians are planning to enter the studio again this fall to make a follow-up album to The Sheepdogs’ critically praised and best-selling 2012 release. The self-titled album added the hits The Way It Is and Feeling Good, to the group’s previous alt-rock radio favourites I Don’t Know from the Learn & Burn album and Who? from Five Easy Pieces.

But it will be a different experience this time around, without guitarist Leot Hanson, who recently left the band for undisclosed reasons after opening a bar in Saskatoon.

He’s being replaced on the band’s tours this summer by Rusty Matyas, the guitarist for Winnipeg group Imaginary Cities. (Shamus Currie, on keyboards and trombone, also regularly performs with the band.)

“It’s a tough situation, but we have to roll with the punches,” said Gullen. Although it’s too early to say whether Matyas will be involved beyond the summer, Gullen believes remaining group members will pull together and the studio experience “will be fine.”

The music creation process usually starts with Ewan Currie coming up with “an original riff, melody line, or sometimes relatively formed song,” said Gullen, and the other musicians jump in.

Who knows where the new album will lead, when the last few years have already been pretty spectacular.

Gullen said some highlights include a 2013 Canada Day show for tens of thousands of people in London’s Trafalgar Square, touring Australia with John Fogerty, and performing at last year’s Grey Cup when the Saskatchewan Roughriders won a fourth championship. “That was really cool.”

The 8:30 p.m. concert is free with Westerner Days Fair admission. (Doors open at 7:30 p.m.).

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