Tag Archives: Hold My Tongue

CMJ WRAP UP: Gettin’ “Down” With Sheppard

Someone's herd the word on Sheppard.

Someone’s herd the word on Sheppard. (L to R: Myself, lead vocalist George Sheppard, drummer Dean Gordon.)

It was Saturday afternoon at half past four and I was strolling down Clinton Street on my way up to East Houston. My formal shoes were digging into the back of my feet; I should’ve worn sneakers. A stream of cars passed to the left. The sweet smells of street corner cafés were in the air. A few more paces and a couple of crossways until the stoplight to change street directions.

“Pop goes the charts!” a cheerful voice bellowed behind me. I froze, then turned around to George in the front seat of a black mini van, hair sticking up in clumps, cracking a smile as mother Linda and band mate Dean watched on. I laughed. “You kids!” “Sorry, didn’t mean to scare you,” he replied. “It’s alright, I like a good scare. Halloween’s coming up, you scare people.” The three nodded. I finished with a “You all better have good costumes this year,” which gave them a chuckle. Linda pulled out a phone to snap a photo of me and I grinned, giving a thumbs up as egged on by George. “Have a good one!” one of them called out. “You too!” I said and waved them a fond farewell. After one more round of waves, their car crossed onto the opposite of the street as I took off down to Washington Square, walking through the park and reminiscing.

Does this read like the start of a bad fan fiction piece to you? I’d think so too, but it happened, even that guidance by the Little River Band. (No dancing in the dark, it was still light out.) Point is, if you end up at a music conference and you see any band that you like three times, that’s dedication, and perhaps reasonable grounds to call yourself a fan girl or a stan or whatever their loyal base call themselves. What would that be here? A “Shep Brother” or “Shep Sister”? It has a ring to it. Humor aside, the Australian sextet Sheppard rocked it at CMJ Music Marathon over the last few days, and it really was an honor to see them live and get to know them a bit before they flew off to England. They were electric on stage and down to earth off stage. I certainly wasn’t going in with the intention of being won over; they already did that for me months ago, but there’s always something about putting the full package together that makes you feel satisfied. So, the dream became reality.

You may ask, how did you get interested in them in the first place? Well, I refer you back to this post I did in April. Being the chart surfer that I am, I came across that week’s edition of the Australian airplay chart and noticed that a song called “Let Me Down Easy” debuted on the entire 100-position survey at #39. That’s a big entrance for anyone, especially for an independent act. I was under the impression that the song was a cover, specifically because of this single which charted in 2002 from Chris Isaak of the same title. Well, surprise! This was no remake. It was an original, and I dug it from the first listen, and then wrote the profile in the hopes that something could come of it Stateside in 2013. The band shared it on their social media profiles and I thought maybe, just maybe, something was in the works.

Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened so far. However, in Australia, “Easy” ended up peaking at #12 on the airplay chart (currently #94 in its 27th week) and the Sheppard EP, certified Platinum for shipments of 70,000 copies, went as high as #18 on the Singles chart in a 15 week run. (ARIA rules state that a single only available on an EP rather than as a stand-alone release enables the whole EP to enter.) It was an admirable success, especially for a release that had been out since August of the prior year, and one that secured them a nomination at the ARIA Awards for Best Independent Release. Meanwhile, “Easy” spent three weeks at #10 on my chart and 20 weeks on, and is holding up pretty well in the data I’ve crunched so far for my year-end survey. Followup “Hold My Tongue” is faring even better, now at #5 on my most recent chart thanks to CMJ.

It’s weird to think that one comment a month ago on one of my chart posts from May by George Sheppard, father of three of the band’s siblings, led to my first solo trip to New York City and everything that happened this week with the band. First, it was an intimate acoustic performance at the Klimat Lounge on Wednesday, a big mixer for the management group behind Sheppard and a couple of other bands like The Griswolds, Chugg Music. Then, it was a Planetary Party at Pianos on Friday afternoon, and lastly, an Australian BBQ over at The Delancey on Saturday afternoon. There were a lot of Australian accents going around and very few American ones, and I wasn’t about to start faking something out of “Crocodile” Dundee. That being said, they were quite warm and friendly and liked to have a good time. (There were a few characters in the bunch.)

As a live act, I can’t say enough about how good they were at all three venues. Lead singer George Sheppard (the son) is a ball of energy, and the six of them together bring the fun. Several songs to be included on their forthcoming studio album were highlights in all three shows, including the anthemic “Geronimo”, with an emphatic sing-along chorus of a “Say! Geronimo!” chant and “Bombs away!” as singers George and Amy Sheppard traded off harmonies and leads. I don’t know what the studio cut sounds like, but that screamed single material to me based off how involved the crowd seemed. Also, the faces drummer Dean Gordon was giving us were (a) like he was in pure ecstasy and (b) adorable. Also topping my list was stomper “Halfway To Hell”, in which the band went full-out tribal in last 45 seconds of the song, banging away to a thrilled crowd. They have an image: lots of flourescent colors and printed shirts, and how could I neglect to mention that they have shakers shaped like pineapples? Plus, their fan base continues to grow. When I initially did my article, the band’s Facebook page had a little under 2,500 likes that were generally from Australia; that total is now at over 13,000 and on a more global scale. I’m really, really proud of them for what they’ve accomplished in such a short time.

It’s hard to return back to normalcy after a week like that, but I’m certainly hoping that this isn’t the end for myself and the band. A part of me is always going to remember that sudden “Pop goes the charts!” creep up from a few car lengths behind and think back to a great time and how cool it was to be recognized like that. It meant a lot to me in the moment and now and gave me a reignited reason for what I do. They’ve done particularly well for themselves in their homeland and I wouldn’t be writing about and praising the six so much if I didn’t think there was a place for these guys in the U.S. music market. There is very much a spot waiting for them. As for how they’ll get there, well, I do have something in mind for how it can be done, a plan that would at least give the group a fair shot here. That, however, is something only to be discussed between myself and their management. You have to keep some things a secret, right? Amy, Dean, Emma, George, Jay and Michael, it was a pleasure to meet you, mates, and thank you to Andrew Stone for coordinating the events, though I didn’t get a chance to say hello. Come back soon; you’re welcome here any time.

Purchase Sheppard‘s music on U.S. iTunes: Sheppard EP or a digital single of “Hold My Tongue”.

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PROFILE: Sheppard Go Nice And “Easy” On First Hit

Everybody's flocking to them.

Everybody’s flocking to them.

Time to start rolling out those hot summer songs as the temperatures get hotter and the clothing gets shorter. Now, you’re probably expecting me to start checking off a list of big pop stars with a hot and fresh song. Not so, at least this time around. Get ready for a breezy, blast-worthy song courtesy of an Australian indie pop band who call themselves Sheppard. They have my approval for a huge smash with their first single, “Let Me Down Easy”.

Sheppard themselves are a sextet, a combination of siblings Amy, Emma and George Sheppard, along with musicians Jason Bovino, Michael Butler and Dean Gordon. The three family members originally grew up in Papua New Guinea, but the six of them formed as a band back in 2011 in Australia, currently based out of Brisbane, and have been performing live around the globe for some time now. They have a self-titled EP out, which was actually released last August, consisting of five tracks including “Easy”. (A link is provided below.) A lyric video for this song was put up way back in December, and has several thousand views to date, so why the long wait for these crazy kids to finally get on the airwaves?

It’s only just recently that the band’s been doing the rounds at Australian radio to promote their song, going from coast to coast, and you can see all their lovely photos from their appearances on their social media sites. Luckily, the radio tour has paid off. “Easy” was one of the most added tracks there in the past several weeks and just last week, debuted all the way up at #39 on Australia’s top 100 airplay chart. (It has since fallen back to #42, but several songs made huge leaps ahead of it.) That’s quite an achievement for a relatively new act. With airplay in place, the song recently cracked the top 100 on Australia’s version of iTunes, and things are only looking for the band from here.

While becoming a hit in their native country, I would expect that “Easy” could also be huge in the United States if the band ever decides to push something here. It has a sound about it that just screams summer, from the guitar strumming with the island feel, the tambourines, the tight harmonies, etc. The song is just really well constructed that it puts you in a happy mood wherever you are. If it’s about to be winter in Australia, this track will warm you up just right. It’s sort of a cross between the Barenaked Ladies, the Plain White T’s and maybe even Walk Off The Earth, but with a tad more flavor in terms of that surf music vibe. Their whole EP isn’t exactly like this song, but it seems they do construct their songs with a 60’s pop sensibility, especially on tracks like “Hold My Tongue” or “Pebble Road”.

Even though the song itself is cheerful melodically, it’s actually about a relationship that has its ups and downs; lead singer George Sheppard states, “Night and day, I’ve been doing the math/To calculate where we wandered off track/But I know, this love was never easy.” Ultimately, he decides that she’s the one that wants to break things off, so he ushers her out of his life, nothing he “won’t stand in [her] way” if they do split. Well, even if this case of love didn’t end so well, people are sure loving “Easy”, and you’ll definitely be hearing more about it in the coming months.

Probably the only thing standing in their way of an international takeover at this point is that they’re on an independent label that doesn’t bring up any results when searched, Empire Of Song. I’m wondering if that means it’s a self-released effort. In either case, they can only do so much. They would need to be picked up by a North American based label with some deep pockets that could really help them out. It shouldn’t be too hard with five songs under their belt that show off their skills. Let’s see if someone can work a little magic and get these guys the recognition they deserve. It may not be “easy”, but they’ll get there with a single like this.

Download “Let Me Down Easy” on iTunes. / Download Sheppard‘s self-titled EP on itunes.

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Filed under Charts/Trade Papers, Music News