Cool, hip, rad, ruling; Sheppard is, frankly, none of these. And they’re not losing any sleep over it. The six-piece indie band from Brisbane is flying way under the hipster radar and writing itself a whole new line of descriptors: breaking, tipping-point, international, next big thing.
The pop-rock outfit is returning for a second album campaign with a set-up primed for maximum exposure that covers pretty much all bases, from syncs to live, TV slots, radio, key supports (including 2017 stadium runs with Little Mix and Justin Bieber and upcoming shows with Robbie Williams) and international versions of their popular songs.
Like it or not, Sheppard’s new music has probably already entered your ears.
Watching The Sky, Sheppard’s second album and the followup to 2015’s Bombs Away, is scheduled for release in early May through their label, Empire of Song. It’ll arrive after a stack of ground work on the previous singles “Keep Me Crazy,” “Edge of the Night,” and the latest number “Coming Home,” which is certified gold and this week sits at its peak position of No. 22 on the ARIA Singles Chart. Its official video was released last week.
Watching The Sky is shaping as anything but your typical indie release
It’ll benefit from a coordinated plan that pushes the album through a major label pipeline around the globe and feeds their music into Latin America and Asia, where Sheppard’s music is finding fans.
“They’re a great live act and that’s really the bottom line,” explains Michael Chugg, the legendary concert promoter who guides their career. “They’re also super people, which helps because people love interviewing them and helping them.”
Behind the scenes, Sheppard’s success owes a lot to relationship building, belief, strategy and good old fashioned hard work. The whole show is like a big family. Sheppard is led by George Sheppard and his sisters Amy (vocals) and Emma (bass), alongside Jason Bovino (rhythm guitar), Michael Butler (lead) and Dean Gordon (drums). The group is managed by Chugg Music, with Michael Chugg and Andrew Stone calling the shots, though the team will be pulling longer shifts after a previous U.S. management deal with Scooter Braun came to an end (“He was a good help in the early days but he’s too busy,” explains Chugg). MGM handles distribution, SGC Media looks after TV, print and online promo and Kaos Management is charged with radio promo. Their works are published by Mushroom Music.
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Outside Australia and New Zealand, they’re signed to Decca Records and Universal internationally, thanks to a deal struck in 2014. They’re the first Aussie band to sign with Decca Records, the original home to the Rolling Stones and Tom Jones. In the U.S. they’re released through Republic.
Sheppard’s latest single is set to hit the big screen next month
Good fortune has shined on the Queenslanders on more than one occasion, as “Coming Home” was picked up for the trailer to Early Man, the new animated comedy from the celebrated British independent animation studio Aardman. It’s the only music in the clip.
“Coming Home” also scored major syncs with American Idol (“Geronimo” appears in promos for the current season) and My Kitchen Rules. The band scored a massive coup with a performance on the U.S. Today Show last year on the eve of Thanksgiving, which in turn gave confidence to Australian media. Australian radio was kind to the record here early on with all networks jumping on within the first 2-3 weeks and MKR and Sunrise gave an extra TV kick leading in to Christmas.
“The international syncs are now helping propel it to yet another new level and Australian radio’s support is continuing and in fact growing as the song beds in,” explains Stephen Green, founder of SGC Media. “Streaming is also now starting to kick in with strong results coming through now from Spotify and Apple.”
“Coming Home” is on a sales trajectory that suggests it’ll hit platinum in the next month, if not before.
“The international story is only just now starting to build,” says Green. “It’s building it up brick by brick.”
Sheppard isn’t coming in from the cold
They’ve been bombing away at the national sales charts since “Let Me Down Easy” entered the top 20 in 2013 and went double-platinum. The following year, “Geronimo” climbed to No. 1 on the ARIA Singles Chart and stayed there for three weeks. The band’s signature track blew up, going gold or platinum in 21 countries and setting up the outfit as one of the highest-selling independent homegrown singles artist of all time in Australia. APRA Awards and ARIAs came their way and Sheppard’s debut album Bombs Away detonated at No. 2 on the national chart and cracked the U.S. Top 40 (reaching No. 31 on the Billboard 200).
The Sheppard itinerary is booked solid for the year ahead. Amy and George will head back to the states for another promo tour in March and early April. They’re already booked for some big open-air dates in the weeks ahead with Robbie Williams. And then there’s the summer festival circuit in Europe, notes Chugg. A large scale Australia tour in support of the album is pencilled in for mid-year, but more on that later.
Chugg admits there’s a great sense of satisfaction working closely with an act which is crossing borders
“It’s really exciting when you get people like Michael Gudinski ring up and say, ‘you’ve done a magnificent job on this’. The reality is, I’ve got a great fucking band to work with. When you’ve got a group of kids who are so good and haven’t been spoilt by any of this, it makes it really easy. We needed a big story in Australia, and we’ve certainly fucking got that.”
Talk moves to the Grammys, which rolled out early Monday in New York City. Chugg has big dreams for the band, which, hopefully one day includes a trip to the U.S. record industry’s showpiece event. It’s a long way from Brisbane, for a band who admittedly aren’t industry darlings. “There’s a bit of a movement in Australia where we’re a bit uncool,” says Chugg. “I’m quite happy to be uncool.”