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'No strangers to the area'

The Juno-winning Sheepdogs play July 5 at Whistler Olympic Plaza
Sheepdogs band members, left to right: Sam Corbett, Shamus Currie, Ricky Paquette, Ewan Currie and Ryan Gullen.

The Sheepdogs haven’t played in Whistler since before COVID, but they look forward to renewing acquaintances with its people and mountains in their 20th year together.

On July 5, Ewan Currie, Ryan Gullen, Sam Corbett, Ricky Paquette and Shamus Currie will take their signature rock and roll show to Whistler Olympic Plaza. They represent one of the more decorated acts in this year’s Summer Concert Series, with four Juno awards, two platinum albums and two platinum singles (“I Don’t Know” and “Feeling Good”) on their resumé.

“We’re definitely no strangers to the area,” Gullen says. “Canada is so beautiful and so vast, and when your job involves travelling to different places, it's a nice perk when you get to go to somewhere as beautiful as Whistler.”

The band enjoys the diversity of Sea to Sky crowds, from longtime locals to free-spirited vacationers to a carousel of seasonal employees who hail from around the globe. During international tours, Gullen and his mates often run into people who’d previously seen them live in Whistler.

Chasing success the right way

In 2004, Gullen met up with Currie and Corbett as students attending the University of Saskatchewan. None of them had been in a band before, and they admittedly didn’t play their instruments too well. Yet they decided to give it a go, with early jam sessions taking place in the Corbett family basement. 

Seven years later, the trio plus former member Leot Hanson became the first unsigned band to grace the cover of Rolling Stone. It’s safe to say they’ve done well for themselves ever since.

The Sheepdogs are rooted in 1970s-style rock, with a pinch of barroom blues and a dash of groovy psychedelia. Main sources of inspiration include Credence Clearwater Revival, Kings of Leon, the Allman Brothers and the Black Keys. Gullen and his mates don’t plan to reinvent the wheel anytime soon (sorry to anyone hoping for an electropop offering).

Even so, they aim to innovate within their niche. 

“Every record you make is sort of a snapshot in time: what's going on in your life, the subject matter of the music, who you are as a musician and what you're into,” Gullen remarks. “But as time goes on, you evolve as a musician with your skills and how you play. Some people may beg to differ, but we try not to do the same thing over and over. We're trying to always challenge ourselves.” 

Moreover, the band appreciates the importance of remaining true to their own identity. It can be tempting to chase trends or blindly go in a direction that some agent, manager or critic believes will sell more tickets, but these Saskatchewan boys know who they are and own it—even if not every venture proves successful. 

“It's good to chase success, but also it's good to do that in an honest and real way,” comments Gullen. “There’s a lot of people telling you a lot of things…but we've always just made the music that we wanted to make. When in doubt, follow what feels good to you rather than what somebody's telling you is the right idea. 

“No matter how much money you give somebody because they're your manager or a label, those people are never going to care as much about what you're doing as you.” 

'A weird, sexless, polyamorous relationship'

Many musical acts don’t get to celebrate a two-decade anniversary, so the core Sheepdogs aren’t taking their longevity for granted.

Quips Gullen: “Unless you're in a band, especially a band for that long, you can’t fully comprehend what it’s like. You’re basically owning a business and having a weird, sexless, polyamorous relationship. You get to know these people more than probably even their partners will ever know them.

“There’s a reason why, even when bands break up, [its members] can have an affinity for each other—the same reason why bands can break up and literally hate each other. It’s like a family: there’s an unconditional element, but you’re also inserting creativity which is very private and personal.”

The Sheepdogs have witnessed the advent of Spotify, Apple Music and social media during their career. They’d like to make greater future use of the digital realm, which means consistently recording and releasing fresh music rather than waiting every few years to drop an album. Worry not, however: they’ll also keep touring for the sake of live audiences.

DJ Whitness is the opening act on July 5 at 6:30 p.m. before the Sheepdogs keep the party going at 7:30 p.m. Learn more about the Whistler Summer Concert Series at