Sheppard: Big-time band with small-town heart

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Say Geronimo! Say Geronimo!

If the tune of this song didn’t immediately play in your head while reading this, then Sheppard’s inescapable anthem of 2014 somehow slipped under your radar. The theme of the song seems to be synonymous with the band’s own personal motto — encouraging a mentality of brushing aside fears and taking the plunge. Sheppard has done just that, and its ever-present earnestness and attention to its audience positions it as a band to watch.

Sheppard has been riding an impressive wave after its quintuple-platinum single “Geronimo” secured its place at the top of charts in 2014. From touring with music juggernauts such as Little Mix and Justin Bieber and with its next album ready to drop, it would seem Sheppard is no stranger to success. Yet, despite its already-established prominence, Sheppard remains undeniably pure in its intentions to put on a good show, no matter the venue. The band’s show in San Francisco was a good example of this mindset at work.

Sheppard brought the same level of enthusiasm to the city’s humble crowd at Rickshaw Stop as it would have to a full concert arena. The crowd excitedly added their voices to the Sheppard siblings in a heartwarming collaboration between artist and audience.

George Sheppard, lead singer/keyboardist, shared in an email interview with The Daily Californian that this performance-driven mentality is partially inspired by his admiration for musicians such as Chris Martin of Coldplay. “I was (and still am) a huge fan of Chris Martin and his awesome stage presence. I went and watched a Coldplay show and saw Chris Martin engage an entire stadium of people with just his voice and a piano. That was the moment I was like, “I wanna do THAT!” So that’s where the band started and we’ve kind of kept experimenting/developing our sound from there.”

Sheppard’s emphasis on forging a connection with the audience, no matter what the size, is a crucial aspect of its zeitgeist and one of the many reasons the band has found so much success as of late.

The ease with which Sheppard makes connections with the crowd may result from the intimacy the band members feel for one each other, as the band reportedly starts each show with a group back rub. Amy and George Sheppard (hence the band name) co-front the band and negotiate the territory between bandmate and sibling.

On the topic of sharing the stage with his sister, George Sheppard says it’s been an extremely positive experience. “Although having siblings in the band can sometimes be a point of tension for obvious reasons, it’s ultimately the ideal situation because you’re surrounded by people you can trust,” he said. “In an industry where everyone is trying to make a quick buck off you, it’s fairly important to have people around you who honestly have your best interests at heart.”

George and Amy Sheppard definitely complement each other’s energies on stage, and this familial bond may even partially explain the tightness of Sheppard’s vocal harmonies: “I don’t think being siblings make much of a difference to the songwriting, but I think the harmonies benefit greatly. Maybe it’s the fact that we have similar vocal chords.” This undeniable connection between the band members and the way they attempt to build this relationship with the audience partially helps to explain Sheppard’s charm.

And then there are the songs themselves.

Sheppard is practically the definition of indie-pop. Its songs offer a bright and poppy optimism through well-executed harmonies and catchy riffs. “Geronimo” is a textbook example of the band’s musicality, but the band’s effortless, upbeat sound is also echoed in other tracks from its 2014 album, Bombs Away, such as “Let Me Down Easy” and “Smile.” Sheppard has repeated this pattern with one of its more recent singles, “Coming Home.”

The song begins with a crescendo of an enthusiastic beat before fading slightly to showcase George Sheppard’s vocals. The song builds intensity in the pre-chorus with lyrics such as “There’s nothing like a sunset, skyline / To let you know you’re almost home / So breathe in, and hold tonight.” The song is both infectious and effective in capturing a crowd’s attention and seems to hold a special place in the band members’ hearts.

George Sheppard comments that, “My favorite song to perform would have to be our new single ‘Coming Home.’ It’s a euphoric, anthemic song we use to open the show. I can’t wait for people to get to know it and hear it on this tour.” While the song’s title might serve as an ironic way to herald a new tour, it succeeds in being a welcoming introduction to Sheppard’s high-energy concerts.

The band’s latest single, “Edge of the Night,” offers a bit of departure from Sheppard’s typical sound. With disco-inspired funk and hypnotic monotony punctuating the song’s chorus, it would seem that Sheppard is poised to tiptoe into unfamiliar pastures with its newest album. On this subject, George Sheppard comments that, “We’ve definitely gone a little bit more toward the experimental/pop production side of things on this next album, but just like Bombs Away, don’t expect any two songs to sound alike.”

While Sheppard’s sound may indeed evolve past its indie-pop-inspired beginnings with a new album on the horizon, what seems to remain the same on this new tour is the band’s overall commitment to pleasing the crowd. And if the start of the U.S. tour at the Rickshaw Stop was any indication, Sheppard seems well poised to turn even the biggest cynics into believers.

Contact Sarah Alford at [email protected].