Sheppard, Up Close and Personal: “It’s a lot of fun to play these shows. It’s sweaty, raw, intimate…” (6/12 at MilkBoy)

Australian indie pop sibling trio Sheppard are celebrating a number of milestones.  The Brisbane band moved to Nashville last October, became the first band to ever play Australia’s Great...

Australian indie pop sibling trio Sheppard are celebrating a number of milestones.  The Brisbane band moved to Nashville last October, became the first band to ever play Australia’s Great Barrier Reef (This April they returned to Australia to play a gig on a pontoon for local heroes partaking in recovery efforts to repair the damages of a severe hurricane.), are commemorating the 10th anniversary of their debut album (Bombs Away) and breakthrough smash single (“Geronimo,” the first number-one single ever recorded in Brisbane), and are preparing to release their fourth full-length, Zora, which drops June 21st.  George, Amy, and Emma Sheppard are currently in the middle of a tour of exceptionally intimate US venues of the Mid-Atlantic that will have them headlining our very own MilkBoy this Wednesday, June 12th.

“I think it’s been six or seven years [since we’ve toured America], so we’re doing this tour as a way of kind of dipping our toes back into the market to remind fans of who we are,” George Sheppard tells me during a phone chat last month.  He also says that the band have been quite excited for these shows, which are a bit of a change of pace from what they’ve become used to: “It’s a lot of fun to play these shows.  It’s sweaty, raw, intimate, not too much production…  Like, we’ve played a lot of the biggest festival stages in the world, so these are tons of fun, no-holds-barred, 150%.”  And while Sheppard are excited to share their newest music, George promises that fans can expect music from all of their releases.

George explains that there were a few reasons behind Sheppard’s move to Nashville: “The main reason was we’ve got this album coming out, and our previous album didn’t really get to be heard outside of Australia, so we wanted to make sure that everybody who’s been listening to the band for the last 10 years or so got a chance to hear it.  Plus, Amy’s working in country music, so we thought we’d relocate to America, and Nashville is between New York and LA, so it makes it easy to get to either of them.”  He also says that the band has really been enjoying their time in Music City.  “It’s been incredible.  We got here in October, and we had a rule where we couldn’t say no to any invite,” he tells me, saying that they’ve even befriended Garth Brooks’ manager, Bob Doyle.

“I like to think of it as a nice evolution from Bombs Away,” George says of the band’s upcoming album, which he explains as being a mix of experimentation and what fans have come to expect of the trio, going on to say that the biggest difference that these ten years have made is the confidence the Sheppard siblings have gained in who they are as musicians.  The album’s most recent single, “Running Straight To You,” dropped in May and is a sort of sequel to a track on 2021’s Kaleidoscope Eyes, the band’s third full-length: “We wrote it during an LA writing trip…  We have a song on our last record, ‘Learning to Fly,’ which we wrote with Forest Blakk (We’ve been friends with him for about 10 years.) and Whakaio Taahi, a producer who we’ve also been friends with for a long time.  And we liked that song so much, we decided to get the team back together!”

I’m curious how George and his sisters currently feel about their very first LP, which turns 10 next month, and he tells me that they’re definitely still fans of the record, even if there are things that he wishes he could do differently: “Listening back to Bombs Away, there’s so many things I’d like to change about that, things I’d like to redo [laughs].  But it’s not just that, there’s things that I’d already like to redo about Zora [laughs].”  However, he tells me that that’s just part of being an artist, and that he appreciates being able to look back over previous work as a time capsule of sorts: “It’s a perfect representation of who you were at the time as an artist and as a songwriter.”  He also has quite vivid memories of how “Geronimo” first came about: “It feels like yesterday.  We were sitting around the table at the family home, my sister (Amy), me, and our guitarist, Jason Bovino…  The finished version came out in about two hours, and we couldn’t stop playing it on acoustic guitar around the house [laughs].”

Sheppard’s current run of dates, which they’ve dubbed Say Geronimo! Tour 2024, only includes seven stops and wraps up June 15th in New York with The Aussie BBQ at Summerstage, but George tells me that the band certainly has a lot more North American dates in the works for the very near future: “This is the first little leg of what we hope is a much longer tour.  It’s been six or seven years, so we want to see how it sells, who comes along.  We’re excited to be able to do a lot more of this, doing these little chapters in different parts of the country throughout the summer.”

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During the day Izzy Cihak teaches transgression, subversion, and revolution at Temple University. At night he haunts Philthy's best venues to cover worthwhile acts for Philthy Mag. Morrissey is everything to him and, in their own heads, all of his friends see themselves as Zooey Deschanel.