Tuesday 3 March 2015

Interview with SHEPHERD

It's taken a while for today's guests to release their brilliant debut album - Stereolithic Riffalocalypse – but it's definitely been worth the wait. Shepherd's mix of Grunge, Sludge, Stoner and Noise is starting receive some pretty stellar reviews within the Doom/Sludge/Stoner Metal world.

I described the album as:

Their blend of Sludge, Stoner, and Doom Metal with a hint of Noise and Grunge is starting to win them a lot of fans within the scene. Shepherd hail all the way from India. There isn't too many Sludge/Stoner Metal bands coming from India. The only other one I know is Bevar Sea though Shepherd feel they have come from the legendary Seattle Music scene as their music has a distinctive grunge quality. That only tells the small part of the story on their debut album 'Stereolithic Riffalocalypse'. A complex sounding album that is big on ideas and riffs to match. Shepherd have fun on this record especially with the song titles that maybe a nod to The Melvins style of humour.”

They have kindly donated the track – Bog Slime – from the album to our new compilation – Paralysis Vol 2. I decided to find out more about this great band and Shepherd have kindly agreed to this interview. So lets gets started.

Q1 – Hi guys. How are things with you all today.

Deepak: Hello, Steve. Thanks for taking the time to do this with us.

Michael: Pretty great so far. Thanks!

Q2 – Can you give a brief history to our readers of how the band came about and where it is today.

Deepak: We’ve all known each other for almost 10 years now. Always had similar tastes in music, movies, general work ethic and outlook towards everyday life. There have been a few line-up changes along the way but this is the most organized as a unit as we’ve ever been.

Michael: I’m the new guy, but as Dee said, we’ve all known each other for years. When their previous bass player, Muneeb, left the country, they asked if I’d be interested to take on bass duties, and it’s been a blast ever since.

Namit: Our common love for the earlier works of Mastodon

Q3 – Why did you choose the name Shepherd. Any specific meaning to the band.

Deepak: Always liked single word band names and merging multiple words into one and wordplay in general. I don’t remember the specifics of how we came up with it but we all agreed on it after doing a mushy trip in a village in Tamil Nadu.

Q4 – How would you describe your own sound. As I feel it's best coming from the band themselves.

Deepak: We started out as an improv band then slowly moved towards writing structured material. Our sound has changed significantly since the three of us took over vocal duties. It’s opened up a lot of possibilities.

Michael: I think there’s a little bit of everything in the tunes. We’re all fans of the whole sludge/doom/stoner/psych scene and it’s just a mix of many styles. So if you’re a fan of everything heavy, you’d probably dig the album.

Q5 – We have to talk about your new album – Stereolithic Riffalocalypse - So are you excited, nervous or thrilled what people are going to make of it.

Deepak: We have a very small community of Sabbathians here in India and they have all been very supportive from the start. But the response and support we’ve received from outside of India is what really took us by surprise. Most of our international sales have been from the US, UK and Europe but it was cool to see orders from unlikely places like Paraguay and Ivory Coast.

Michael: Super excited and nervous as well! We were not sure if people would dig the music as much as we did. But the response so far has been overwhelming, to say the least.

Q6 – Was it a hard or easy album to write and record for. Are you happy with the final result.

Deepak: The songs on this album are atleast 3 years old at this point. They’ve been tested live quite a bit so it was fairly easy to record. There were a couple of instances when we had to go back and redo the guitars and tweak the drums because they weren’t sounding satisfactory. That took us a while. But very happy with the final result.

Michael: I think the hardest part was redoing the vocals. We had to go back and forth trying to make sure they worked with the song, and it’s turned out way better than we expected, especially for 3 dudes who have never sung live or in a band before. Hah!

Q7 – What influenced you when writing and recording the album. What is the song-writing dynamic in the band. Is it down to one individual or a group collective.

Deepak: If you look at the writing credits on the album you’ll see there’s no real formula to what we do. Sometimes people bring in complete songs, sometimes a few riffs. There are couple of songs that are basically excerpts from long improvised jams shrunken down to 5-6 min rock songs. Same goes for the things that inspire us. I listen to pretty much everything from Al Green to Morbid Angel and everything else in between.

Q8 – Has it surprised you the way critics are enjoying the album. It's starting to win some major praise within the Sludge/Stoner Metal Scene.

Deepak: Oh man, very surprised. It’s been really cool getting messages and emails from people all over the world telling how much they’ve enjoyed the music. All the people who wrote about us and to us, thank you!

Michael: It’s crazy! We didn’t expect it at all! Also, everyone in the sludge/stoner scene has just been really helpful and super nice, especially the blogs and zines. SL as well!! Thanks for the support!

Q9 – You're from India that I know has a rising Hard Rock/Metal scene though the Sludge/Stoner Metal scene is sadly lacking. You do have bands like Bevar Sea and yourselves trying to make a difference. How hard is it for you guys to be a band like yourselves in your country. Do you find gigs easy to come by. Is the audience growing anyway at all.

Deepak: Bangalore has always had a hard rock/metal following from the 60s flower power shit onwards, but there haven’t been too many bands who’ve stuck around, put out music and stayed musically active long enough to have any kind of impact within the scene. Our shows have gone from playing to the sound engineer to playing to 10 people to maybe between 50-100 now over the 4 years we’ve been around. The statistics aren’t very flattering but it shows how your credibility as a band to pull in crowds depends a lot on how committed you are to your work.

Michael: In a country where bollywood is where everything’s at, doing any other form of music is pretty hard. Gigs are few and far apart, especially if you’re playing some of the heavier forms of music, but we manage to find shows.

I’m not sure whether the scene is growing though, it’s just that now people are taking notice of bands from here more than before. I’ve been around a while and I don’t see a big difference, it seems like a phase for most, they grow out of going to shows or playing in a band, but then you’ve got new kids coming in too, so it seems like it stays the same.

Being in a band is not easy anyway, and I don’t think it’s geographic, it’s tough all over, especially with the styles we play. Most of us get into it because we love the music and we love playing live.

Q10 – You managed to get Brad Boatright to master your album. How did you get in touch with Brad and did he offer any helpful advice to a new band like yourselves.

Deepak: We were looking for someone who was well-versed in all things heavy. Brad is that guy AND super fucking chill to boot. All it takes really is one look at his work credit. Sleep, High on Fire, Yob, Sourvein, you name it.

Michael: And Brad’s done a great job! Also a shout out to the dude (Rahul Ranganath) who mixed it as well. Both of them were just perfect choices I think, and things just fell into place.
Funny story, Brad told me that someone used the Shepherd album as a reference, without knowing that he had mastered it.

Q11 - How important is a physical product to your band being either CD or Vinyl. As some bands are relying on Digital Downloads for their first release(s).

Deepak: The medium doesn’t really matter. It’s really just about getting your music across to people who want it enough to pay for it. Least you can do for them is to have a few choices. I personally prefer listening to CDs or vinyl. Someone else might want it on digital. Having said all that, nothing beats having your album on wax. Unfortunately the vinyl revival hasn’t really picked up over here in India.

PS: If there’s someone out there who wants to put out our album on vinyl, get in touch!

Michael: Yes! We’d be happy to work something out. We’ve actually had quite a few people asking us to release it on vinyl.

Q12 – Which bands and artists influenced you all as musicians. Any particular album that stands out that made you decide to become a musician.

Deepak: I obsess over different bands at different periods. Metallica was the band that made me want to be in a band.

Michael: Can’t think of any particular band/album that made me want to be a musician, but I guess all the music I’ve listened to has been an influence at some point.

Namit: Iron Maiden!

Q13 – What is your musical setup when playing live or recording new material. Do you have an advanced setup or basic setup.

Deepak: Whatever drums they have. I carry my own sticks.

Michael: Just a shitty bass and a darkglass overdrive. We keep it pretty simple.

Namit: A shitty guitar modded with some decentish pickups. Used the Sansamp oxford while recording guitars, so have that on the current rig. You can blame all the weird noises on the boss space echo delay pedal.

Q14 – The one thing I dig most about your album and your sound is your sense of humour. Especially with the song lyrics and song titles. How important is humour to your music. Or am I just looking too much into this.

Deepak: In the immortal words of this guy we know who goes by Lemmy Thrillmeister, “you know the main thing in your life? a sense of humor, lose that, you're done. you might as well blow your fucking brains out."

Michael: Jep, people are just too serious nowadays.

Namit: We love dicks in various shapes and size. The black cock has this special ability to detect assholes, and sometimes we let it to do it’s own thing when it’s in the mood- like rubbing peoples faces it doesn’t like, releasing hot molten acidic jizzz on folks it really hates

Q15 – Apart from the new album release, what other plans do you have over the next 12 months or so. Anything exciting you would like to share with us.

Deepak: We’re working on an EP for late 2015/early 2016 release. But besides that just try to book some gigs outside of Bangalore. Let people from other parts of India (and the world, insha allah) in on this weird riff thing everyone’s talking about.

Stereolithic Riffalocalypse cover art

Q16 – Who designed the killer artwork. What does it represent to you as a band and the overall meaning of the album.

Deepak: The artwork and layout was designed by Sonali Zohra. A friend of ours who runs a design studio called Dangercat studios in town. We basically wanted a huge guitar amp like the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey. It seemed to go well with the album title.

Michael: The artwork is fucking sweet and I think it represents the vibe of the album pretty well. It’s great that a lot of people see that connect too.

Q17 – Before you go do you have anything to say to your fans.

Deepak: Major beer hails to everyone who has bought our album, written about it, shared the links and spread the word of the riff. If you’re in Bangalore or feeling like taking a trip to Bangalore, come see us at our album launch gig at The Humming Tree on March 6th 2015. We’ll be playing the whole album and a bunch of other shit. Also playing are local instrumental post rockers Until We Last. It’s going to be an interesting audio/visual entertainment night.

Namit: Hi guyz...

Well guys thanks for this. All the best with your new album. It's a stunning album.

Deepak: Thank you!

Michael: Thanks Steve!

Namit: Thanks!

Thanks to Shepherd for taking the time out to talk to us here at Sludgelord. If you haven't heard Stereolithic Riffalocalypse yet, do yourself a favour and heavdover to BandCamp and buy a copy now. As it's an incredible album that's getting rave reviews all over the place.

Words by Steve Howe and Shepherd.

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