A Ripple Conversation With Shepherd

When I was a kid, growing up in a house with Cat Stevens, Neil Diamond, and Simon and Garfunkel, the first time I ever heard Kiss's "Detroit Rock City," it was a moment of musical epiphany. It was just so vicious, aggressive and mean. It changed the way I listened to music. I've had a few minor epiphany's since then, when you come across a band that just brings something new and revolutionary to your ears.


What have been your musical epiphany moments?


One of the very first musical epiphany moments I can remember having was the first time I heard "Cowboys From Hell" by Pantera. At that point in my life when I was in 6th grade or something I was listening to mostly contemporary and classic rock, whatever CD's my parents would let me buy from the Media Play or off Napster (thanks again Lars). Foo Fighters, AC/DC, Guns, Ozzy. But my older brother had this little pill shaped mp3 player and he wouldn't let me listen to a lot of what he had on there because he probably thought I wasn't cool enough yet. But one night I stole his mp3 player and ran off into the night with a pair of headphones and the first song that came on was Cowboys and I hadn't heard anything like that before in my life and it definitely had a profound effect on me. That wasn't the last time I ran off with his mp3 player.


Talk to us about the song-writing process for you. What comes first, the idea? A riff? The lyrics? How does it all fall into place?


For us it always revolves around a riff or a set of riffs. We'll come up with something we really like and something we like, then we'll construct the rest of the song around it and use what works best. After that we like to think about how the song makes us feel or what kind of setting/mood the song evokes to decide what it should be about. The lyrics are almost always last once all those other pieces fall into place.


Who has influenced you the most?


That's a tough one. I think for each of us the answer could differ wildly but I know we all really intersect on Joe Walsh from the James Gang days. Nathan and I also really have a shared appreciation for soul/funk, shoutout and rest in peace to the Screamin Eagle Charles Bradley. We really cherished his music and were saddened by his passing. Josh Homme is another candidate for each of us.


Where do you look for continuing inspiration? New ideas, new motivation?


In my experience I think inspiration can come from almost anywhere, you just have to leave yourself open to receiving it at all times. Which is the tough part, there are a lot of distractions that try to command your attention in today's world. It can be difficult to cut through the static and find some truth in all of the noise. Listening to music, new and old is one of the easiest ways to get the creative music juice bubbling. But it's not uncommon for us to draw inspiration from other art mediums as well. It can really come from anywhere.


We're all a product of our environment. Tell us about the band's hometown and how that reflects in the music?


We've all been fortunate to grow up in mostly stable home environments with people who loved and supported us. We spent a lot of our childhoods camping in the Rocky Mountains, skating the suburbs, and looking up at the Denver city skyline. Colorado has changed a lot since those days but if you ask anybody you'd be hard pressed to find a better place to grow up or call home. I think because of that, in our themes and lyrics there's always an underlying element of nature. Whether it be the cosmos, the seasons, the ocean, the myths we've passed on to make sense of the world, there's always some of that in there.


Where'd the band name come from?


We were practicing at Nathan's old place in Brighton and we were brainstorming band name ideas. We wanted something that was somewhat ambiguous and didn't immediately tell you what when you were in for when you heard the name for the first time. This went on for 10 minutes or so and then the name came to me while I was relieving myself on the side of Nathan's garage. It's like we said, inspiration can strike at any time.


You have one chance, what movie are you going to write the soundtrack for?


We gushed over the "Mandy" soundtrack by Johann Johannsson. Something along the lines of that film would be incredible. There's a lot of things to appreciate about film but there seems to be a rise in film's that provide more visual spectacle and rely less on dialogue or exposition to tell a story. While also making brave choices and treading new ground when it comes to score/original soundtrack. We want more of that and if we had a choice that's the kind of film we'd like to be involved with.


You now write for a music publication (The Ripple Effect?).  You're going to write a 1,000 word essay on one song. Which would it be and why?


Oh boy, another great question. I've always been fascinated with the lyrics from "Lonely Lyle" by Big Business and by that band in general. The song has such a gloomy oozing sadness that's punctuated by these mystifying lyrics. It almost sounds like you're hearing the saga of some reluctant hero. As far as songs go that match their tone to their lyrics that one is in a league of its own. I think I could find 1,000 words to say about how effective that song is.


Come on, share with us a couple of your great, Spinal Tap, rock and roll moments?


We once had a tiny Stonehenge moment at our very first show. We glossed over some minor details when we were ordering band shirts from a friend of ours and we ended up with some athletic fit, moisture wicking, polyester blend gym shirts with our logo on them. It worked out though, we sold out of them and people love them. Maybe we're onto something.


Tell us about playing live and the live experience for you and for your fans?


We're definitely the band who's always trying to blow people away at a live show. We put a lot of thought into our tones and write songs to deliver those tones with impact and emphasis. We want to be the loudest, thickest sounding band anyone's ever heard. We're off to a good start so far but we will always find ways to improve. We also love to meet new people and make new friends.


What makes a great song?


In my humble opinion I think a great song can at first make you feel a certain way or evoke a certain emotion and at the same time can allow the listener to enter the songwriter's mind and speculate on the meaning of the song or the perspective/experience of the songwriter.


Tell us about the first song you ever wrote?


The first song we wrote together was Sea Cave and that one actually made the cut on the EP out of all the material we had considered. We didn't try to write outside of our means at the time being a newly formed band, but the simplicity and straight forward delivery of the song had continued value to our ears and our audience so we decided to carry that torch forward.


What piece of your music are particularly proud of?


We're really pleased with how the entirety of the First Hand turned out. To have such a solid offering for our first offering is something that we're really proud of. As far as a particular song off the EP goes, we all tend to agree that Persephone is the most precise and engrossing track we have to offer so far.


Who today, writes great songs? Who just kicks your ass? Why?


Viagra Boys, Father John Misty, Tyler Childers, Kurt Vile, All Them Witches, Josh Homme's many projects, Stephen Brodsky (Cave In, Mutoid Man, Pet Genius), Aaron B. Turner (Sumac). The things we love about these artists varies pretty wildly as I'm sure most people could assume but I think the one thing they all have in common is their identity. They're all quite recognizable, some might say iconic.


Vinyl, CD, or digital? What's your format of choice?


Vinyl is the way. We stream music all day long like most people these days but vinyl is our preferred method to listen to our favorite records and we think you can benefit more from choosing to listen to music more actively than passively. Like most things in life that little extra effort can make a big difference.


Whiskey or beer?  And defend your choice


I don't know how we could live without either. However we are powered by Coors Banquet so I fear what our lives would devolve into without it. There's always tequila too.


We, at the Ripple Effect, are constantly looking for new music. What's your home town, and when we get there, what's the best record store to lose ourselves in?


There's a couple we really like. If you're in Denver check out Wax Trax, Twist & Shout on Colfax, and Mutiny Information Cafe and Bowman's on Broadway. If you're in the greater Denver Metro area, Angelo's is like an old school CD store and I spend a lot of time in Black and Read in Arvada.


What's next for the band?


We're expanding our sonic horizon and writing new material right now. Getting ready to reintroduce ourselves to the venues of the world and hit the road when we can do so responsibly.


Any final comments or thoughts you'd like to share with our readers, the waveriders?


We're thrilled to have the chance to introduce ourselves to you and we hope to see you soon wherever you may be reading from.