Standing on the shores of Randall's Island, the Sheepdogs are trying to get a handle on where they are. "Doesn't Kramer get thrown into the East River in a sack?" asks lead singer and guitarist Ewan Currie. "Seinfeld is how we know New York, basically."
It's a long haul from the quartet's hometown of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan ("It's where Joni Mitchell went to high school, but for the most part in the middle of nowhere," explains Currie), and it's been a long year for the bluesy rockers. This week marks one year since the Sheepdogs became the first unsigned band to appear on the cover of Rolling Stone, winning the "Choose Our Cover" contest, launching themselves firmly into the mainstream and landing a deal with Atlantic Records in the process.
The cover "gave us an unrealistic level of publicity that we never had," says Currie, sipping on a beer after his band's set at last weekend's Catalpa Festival. "It opens doors across the map for us, but it's on us to come through. It's not enough to just be on the cover – you have to kick ass onstage, prove to people that you're worth it. Otherwise, people are like, 'Who the hell are these guys?'"
The band left behind their part-time jobs in Saskatchewan, which helped pay the bills when tours would leave the band in a monetary hole, and threw themselves into touring and building their brand. "It's been crazy, it's been nonstop, but that's what we always wanted to do," says Currie.
The momentum continued when they went into the studio in January with Black Keys drummer Patrick Carney as producer. Their U.S. major label debut, The Sheepdogs, will be out on September 4th. The band's previous album, 2011's Learn & Burn (Warner Music Canada), earned them enough recognition to bring home a trio of Canada's Juno Awards for new group of the year, rock album of the year, and single of the year for "I Don't Know," a track they debuted twice in the same show in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan at a performance where they played for so long that they ran out of songs.
Now, with a new album on the way and a headlining tour around the U.S. on deck for the fall, the band is fully equipped to gain the type of notoriety in the States that they've enjoyed in Canada.
"In Canada our fans are just fantastic, and now we've got a real good opportunity to put our name out in the U.S.," says Currie. "Now we can go out and show everybody we deserve the attention we got."