INTERVIEW WITH SHEPHERD
FIRST HAND…Blurring The Lines Of Metal Genres!
By Stephanie Stevens
Welcome to the world where Stoner and Doom soundscapes intertwine with Modern Metal. Denver, Colorado’s SHEPHERD is crossing genres all over the place, with the band’s latest full EP “FIRST HAND”. The heaviness is sustainable throughout the record, but it weaves in and out with layers of Post-Metal, Rock and even hints of Hardcore. From songs like ‘CHARIOT’, ‘SEA CAVE’ and ‘PERSEPHONE’ you will be guided into the not normal atmosphere of Doom Metal and it’s just a really breathtaking freshness.
I had a chance to speak to the guys about working with Juggernaut Audio, how they fell into the love for Doom Metal and what brings them happiness in a live show setting.
Q. Tell us a little bit about the members of SHEPHERD and how long you have been playing music?
A: We’re a few blue-collar dudes from the burbs north of Denver who’ve been fortunate enough to live most of our lives here in Colorado. We’ve all been in several bands throughout childhood with and without each other and after the last project we were all involved in went belly up we moved forward with the power trio line-up to fully realize our sound and fine-tune our craft.
Q. What instilled your love for the Doom/Stoner rock vibe that you guys have made and is there a particular band in this genre who influenced you the most?
A: We all listened to a lot of metal and metal sub-genres in high school which I suppose made for a solid foundation. Coming out of high school and gaining new perspectives we all branched out a great deal and gained a lot of new influences. Once we finally came back together, we really intersected on Deftones which is kind of outside the stoner sound, but I think their fingerprints can be found on this album and will continue to be an influence for us as a group.
Q. In November you released your debut EP, “FIRST HAND”. What can you tell people about finishing a project you put your heart and soul into and knowing the world will be listening soon. What emotions do you go through during that process?
A: When “First Hand” finally came out, one of the chief emotions was definitely relief, followed by a sense of pride for having accomplished the entire process of writing, recording, and releasing an album. Given everything that has transpired this year both during the process and up until the time we released it, we were definitely in need of a win. We’re proud of this album as our first entry into our career as a band and we’re thrilled with the response we’ve received so far.
Q. What is the biggest thing you learned about yourself as musicians working with Juggernaut Audio and what would you tell other bands if they are looking for a studio?
A: Ben at Juggernaut has been our biggest supporter and someone who has imparted a lot of lessons upon us throughout this endeavour. This was our first real studio experience since we’ve all been playing music and while we came well prepared, there’s a lot of unexpected things that can come up in the weeks or months that it takes to finish an album and Ben was instrumental in guiding us through the whole enchilada. We would highly recommend him to anyone in the Denver area and abroad who’s looking for a professional and seasoned audio engineer, whether the music is metal or otherwise.
Q. ‘CHARIOT’ was your first single. What made that song stick out to be the platform song for the EP and how did you approach the songwriting aspect of that track?
A: ‘Chariot’ has a really catchy bridge part that we amended somewhat on the fly while we were in the studio and once it all came together in an hour or so we really thought it elevated the song in a lot of ways and gave the clearest impression of our sound and what to expect from the rest of the record.
Q. ‘PERSEPHONE’ is the newest single and it’s a song about a mythic tale. What made you dive in lyrically to a song like this and what was the best thing about writing a story like this?
A: We pulled that one together almost a year ago now in the midst of the doldrums of winter, which I think can be heard in the overall mood or tone of the song. ‘Persephone’ has some pretty clear surface themes which don’t pose too much of an issue to dissect, but it does have some more personal subtext in the lyrics and hopefully, where they’re a little bit more peculiar a listener, could take something away of their own. The best thing about writing a song that could be perceived as fiction is that there really aren’t any rules or anything grounding you into a preconceived notion or idea, you can be free to create your own little world and populate it with whatever you like.
Q. For people who are new to your style of music, how do you guys get that blizzard of distortion into your songs, and how fun is it to play in a live setting?
A: Our sound comes from adoration for the monster rigs of bands past and present. There’s something so powerful about the idea and the image of a wall of amplifiers that has always driven us to pursue some level of that in a live setting. We’re also huge gear nerds, we love the wide world of effects pedals and tone-crafting and combining different elements to create your own sonic signature. What you’re hearing on the album is a meticulous collection of our own personal taste and what you can expect to hear at a live show. For now, at least, until the sound gets bigger.
Q. Speaking of live shows, what is the best thing about playing your music live and how would you describe your fans?
A: The best part about playing live is the feeling you get right below your heart and right above your gut. The feeling of being nervous and excited all at once. You become so unhinged that you forget about any troubles or worries going on in your life. The only thing on your mind is playing as best you can while putting feeling into what you’re playing. It’s almost like going on a roller coaster on acid. You don’t know where the hell you are or where you’re going but you know it’s fun and best of all it’s loud. Our music works for anyone and everyone, young and old. We’re often surprised at how diverse our fan base seems. We’re truly grateful for everyone who gave us a shot and we’ve got more to come. This is only the beginning.
Q. Music industry-wise, what are you hoping to see change in 2021 and how can fans help support change in the industry, that has been beaten down in 2020?
A: If there is anything we could all obviously agree on is making sure that we can all hopefully enjoy playing and seeing live shows again. It’s what we live for and like a religion to us. there is no honest substitute for the real deal. That being said, it’s very hard for a lot of touring musicians who not only love shows, but also need it to pay the bills. One thing that musicians are staring down right now is the issue with streaming royalties. Bands and musicians are getting the shaft when it comes to fair compensation on almost every platform, and without the income from touring it’s nearly impossible for artists to get what they deserve.
Q. Empower another artist by telling us why they inspire you?
A: It would a tough ask for us to settle on one band that inspires us all. but if we had to shed a light on anyone it would be all the bands struggling to survive in this very trying time. Live music and the entertainment industry have taken one of the hardest blows we will probably experience in our lifetime. So, whomever you enjoy whether it be us, or any other band trying to make it in the midst of all this. Buy merch, Buy an album, give them a couple more likes and follows. Do what you can to keep your favourite acts and artists in a place where they can continue to create.
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