TORONTO - The Sheepdogs knew they were about to create something magical when they got a text from Patrick Carney, the drummer of The Black Keys, saying he was into producing their next album.
Carney found two weeks in his busy schedule, and the Saskatoon-bred band flew to meet him in Nashville, where so many other career-making albums have been made. There, they created their fourth record, "The Sheepdogs."
Rock fans are quick to label The Sheepdogs as a retro-'70s trip back in time, but members of the band say that sound isn't necessarily intentional.
"You know, when you're making music that's honest and comes from where your tastes are, it might be like the '70s but I don't feel like it's a conscious thing to bring back the '70s, or a general movement toward that by any means," says lead singer Ewan Currie.
When asked what kind of music they set out to create, he says he wishes it could just be defined as straight-up rock 'n' roll.
"Feel-good rock 'n' roll," chimes in bassist Ryan Gullen, "good-time rock 'n' roll. You know, it's the kind of music we like to play when we're hanging out with our friends, or at a barbecue…"
"Cold beer!" Currie adds. "We're beer rock."
The new album, which drops Sept. 4, is the first to be released outside of Canada. The four — Currie, Gullen, drummer Sam Corbett and guitarist Leot Hanson — will embark on a six-week tour of the U.S. beginning Sept. 16, which follows a couple of Canadian dates in Toronto and Squamish, B.C.
And beer rock they will play.
The album features their now-signature sound, but there's nothing stagnant about it. Gullen and Currie say the band makes a conscious effort to ensure that each song is different and speaks in its own way.
"We try to spice every track in a different way so there's no fatigue. I think every track gives you something different each time," Currie says.
"When you start recording a song you have to think about how to approach it. What kind of drum beat are you doing, what kinda groove, and what sort of extra instruments do you put on there. Do you put an organ on there? That's of great interest to us. When you say colouring the song, that's how you dress it up."
The four knew that attention to colour would serve them well, especially when they got the text from Carney.
"We won a Pat Carney lottery that we were in," Currie jokes, poking fun at himself for the Rolling Stone cover contest they won last year. "Naw. We met him in New York and we were talking about making an album, and he was very interested in what we were gonna do next. And we just threw out, 'Well, why don't you produce?' and he was like, 'Naw, too busy…'"
"And then he said yes via text message from Madrid one day," Gullen says.
Despite a tight time crunch, they got the recording done without panicking or dropping the ball.
"It was one of the first times as a band that we were able to focus specifically on recording," Gullen says. "'Learn and Burn,' we recorded that and it was in a house, and some of us would be working, some of us would be recording … (this) was very concentrated, focused, head-down times mixed with taking time off and not burning ourselves out.
"So even though we were under the gun to get it done in a certain amount of time, we didn't ever feel like we weren't going to get it done."
Despite having won a much-discussed contest that landed them on the cover of Rolling Stone and becoming the first unsigned band to occupy that space, The Sheepdogs still feel like they have a long way to go before being well-known beyond the confines of Canada.
"I think there's a lot of people who have no idea who we are in the U.S.; it's definitely a different situation than in Canada. So that's what our U.S. tour is about, is getting it out there," Currie says.
And what about their home and native land? Currie says The Sheepdogs will do a Canadian tour sometime after the U.S. one.