Ryan Gullen is a hard man to get a hold of. He’s the bassist for The Sheepdogs, which keeps him pretty busy touring worldwide to promote their latest album, Future Nostalgia. I managed to catch him during the four days he had off between returning from the band’s UK tour and kicking off their Canadian dates. Between interviews with other media outlets and a phone call from his mom, he chatted with me about their new album and what it’s like being in one of the biggest rock ‘n’ roll bands in Canada.
MUSE: You recorded The Sheepdog’s latest album, Future Nostalgia, in Stony Lake, Ontario. What made you decide to head to such a remote location to record the album?
Ryan: Well the thing about recording in the city is that there are a lot of distractions, so we kind of decided we liked the idea of getting away from that and making recording our only focus. So we were out in Stony Lake for about three weeks and we lived together, recorded all day every day, [and] made family style meals. It was kinda like living in a hippie commune or something like that [laughs]. I think as a result, it kind of shapes the way we made the record.
MUSE: Could you give us an example?
Ryan: A good example is a song called “Help Us All.” We were recording that song and we kinda took a break and were…hanging out, and we decided to go back in and record, and we recorded like a breakdown part. And a lot of that breakdown was recorded at like 2 in the morning when we were just playing around, and that would never happen if you’re recording in a studio where you couldn’t spontaneously decide to go and do that. So there’s something to be said about immersing yourself completely into the recording where there is no distractions.
MUSE: Do you think that you want to record future albums the same way?
Ryan: Probably not. It’s nice to do things a little bit differently and see what the result is. But it was cool to be able to be in the setting that we were for this album, and like the artwork and everything, it all comes from that experience. Even one of the songs, I’m not sure if you can hear it very clearly on the record, but there’s like an acoustic guitar part and as you finish the guitar part you can hear like birds chirping, because it was really hot that day and the door was open to get some airflow and you can actually hear the birds outside [laughs].
MUSE: You guys have mentioned in past interviews that you believe touring is a really important aspect of being musicians, what’s the biggest adjustment you’ve had to make to being on the road as often as you are?
Ryan: Well we’ve been touring since like 2006, so it’s been a long time since I’ve had a “regular life,” but I think the biggest adjustment is that your life doesn’t really line up with the lives of people you grew up with or your friends, outside of your musician friends. I mean I’m very used to it, but you know you miss out on a lot of things, like weddings and people’s birthdays because of it. But it’s also like you’re travelling around seeing all these places and experiencing all these things, so it’s definitely a tradeoff. But that’s very much what being in a rock ‘n’ roll band is: you go out on the road, you promote your band, and you try to get the word out there.
MUSE: What’s been your favourite memory/moment from being part of The Sheepdogs?
Ryan: Aw man, there’s so many! But here’s one of the cooler ones for me: so when the Saskatchewan Roughriders were in the Grey Cup in 2013, we kicked off the broadcast and it was in Regina. Growing up in Saskatchewan, you’re pretty much guaranteed to be a Roughriders fan. So being able to play the kickoff, and getting to stand on the sidelines and watch them win the Grey Cup in your home province, that’s pretty huge. That was a pretty unique experience because it very much ties into where we came from, and so not only was it a big moment for us, but it was a big moment as a fan.
The Sheepdogs will be in Kingston March 9th playing at Alehouse. You can grab tickets here.
Paige Guscott, Online Reviewer
Image: Courtesy of Warner Music Canada