It was just over two years ago, when a relatively unknown rock band from Saskatoon called The Sheepdogs became the first unsigned band to appear on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine.
© Photo courtesy of David McDonald
Musician Leot Hanson of the band The Sheepdogs performs at last year's Edgefest in Toronto.
IC: Since being featured on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine, you guys have been on a tear. Did you ever think you would reach this level of success, or has it been a pleasant surprise?
LH: I would say it was a pretty big shocker coming from having zero to very little success beforehand. We had some buzz around us in and around Toronto, but we were still eating Subway and crashing on people's floors, or sharing beds and really trying to budget ourselves on the road. I guess the success came at the right time because we were sorta at the end of our rope.
IC: On your 2012 self-titled album, you teamed up with The Black Keys. What was it like having Patrick Carney and Austin Scaggs produce your album?
LH: Pat and Austin are really great dudes and helped mould the album along the way. There were times when we all didn’t agree on certain things, but I think it was important for us to step out of the box and try different approaches. They really put the effort in; they were in the studio almost as much as we were probably because there was NBA jam and great tacos -- haha just kidding -- those guys have great musical influences and ideas which came out in the studio.
IC: What do you think makes a great rock and roll band?
LH: Blood, sweat and tears. Don't forget the hair.
IC: The Sheepdogs recently played at the Alberta Flood Aid concert in Calgary. Was this difficult to fit into your schedule, and what did it mean to play for a community that has been devastated by flooding?
LH: The Calgary flood aid show was just before a run we were about to do on the weekend, so it didn't screw things up too bad logistically. I have family in and around Calgary so of course I was affected by the incident, and when we got the offer, I don't think any of us thought twice about doing it. I remember it sounded like s… (onstage anyway) but nobody cared at all, everyone was so happy, and it was great to see all these great bands come together for a good cause, and the people of Calgary pull through and fill that stadium (of) 30,000 people and almost $2 million raised. Everyone was glowing man.
IC: In July, a pub in Saskatoon where you and your band mates had played for years closed its doors. What was your first thought when you heard the news that Lydia's Pub would be shutting down?
LH: I had known that Lydia's was on the way out for a while, so the initial closing didn’t come as a huge shock to me, but I’m sure everyone was bummed. I have been going to that bar for so many years and had so many great times there. It's also where we cut our teeth as a band. We must have played there over a dozen times, some real bangers! There was always just such a good vibe in there, hard to beat really. A combination of the right amount of beer, buddies and rowdiness made that place what it was. So long Lydia's!
IC: What was your favourite memory playing at Lydia’s?
LH: One memory that stands out would be this one time we were doing a show and really burning the place down. I think we were on the second encore or something, and everyone was just packed in there like sardines going pretty wild. It was so damn hot and sweaty in there. So right as we are finishing, this older hippy dude jumps up onstage and fires up this huge joint and sticks it in my mouth while I'm still playing while everyone had a little toke, and it was the perfect end to a rippin’ rock show. I'm sure the staff was freaking out, but everyone just turned a blind eye. That's just how it was in there. It was a cool enough place that that kinda thing could happen from time to time.
IC: Have you kept in touch with any of your old mates from Prince Albert, and if so, has the relationship changed at all since you’ve become a rock star?
LH: I still have many friends and family in Prince Albert, and even though I don't see them as much as I use to, nothing has really changed as far as I'm concerned. I just have better stories now -- that's all. When I see my old buds we just have a few beers, listen to some good tunes and it's like I never left. Having said that, I have missed a bunch of weddings, birthdays, et cetera, due to being on the road. I'll try to make up for it one day.
IC: Do hometown crowds differ from those under the bright lights of the big cities?
LH: I think I'll always hold the hometown crowds close. Those are the shows I seem to be most nervous for. Maybe because they have been there mostly since the beginning and watched you grow and improve as a band, so there is almost a great level of respect between you and them. I feel like it's almost as much theirs as it is ours. We are proud to come from Saskatchewan and we represent it on the road. It's unity.
IC: Is there anyone you’d really love to work or play with who you haven’t yet?
LH: I would really like to work with Gaz Coombes from Supergrass, or any of the Tame Impala guys. Those guys are so amazing and have so many great ideas that keep you interested from song to song. Even just to jam with any of them would be incredible.
IC: What can fans expect to see at your Aug. 31 show in Edmonton?
LH: People can expect to see a down n' dirty raw rockin’ show. We have a few new songs that have been crushing, as well as the old stuff and crowd favourites. (There are) so many great bands on the bill as well. The whole day should be well worth coming out.
IC: Any plans to play a Saskatchewan show in the near future?
LH: A year will never go by where we will not play in Saskatchewan, as long as we are The Sheepdogs.
On Saturday, Aug. 31 The Sheepdogs will be playing alongside Blink 182, City and Colour, and Weezer at the Sonic Boom Festival in Edmonton.