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The Globe and Mail

The Sheepdogs still driving a van after winning contest

Members of Saskatoon based rock band Sheepdog are photographed in Toronto, Ont. June 20, 2011.

Kevin Van Paassen / The Globe and Mail/Kevin Van Paassen / The Globe and Mail

In the month since the Sheepdogs appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine, surprisingly little has changed in the lives of the four Saskatoon rockers who make up the band.

The Sheepdogs beat out 15 other unsigned bands to win Rolling Stone's Do You Wanna be a Rock and Roll Star contest, offering them the chance to appear on the magazine's cover, play live on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and sign a contract with Atlantic Records.

It was a big break for the band of rock revivalists from Central Canada. The magazine still has a defining say in musical trends and the exposure the contest generated catapulted the hard-working – but little-known – Sheepdogs into the spotlight.

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"You know, we have a greater demand now," front man Ewan Currie says, tying back shoulder-length brown hair. "We'd been doing a very slow build before, and now we just got a big shot in the arm in terms of publicity and just the awareness of the band."

But when it comes to daily life, Currie says the group still spends most of its time on the road, travelling from one gig to the next in a workhorse van – just as they have for the past six years. "We looked into the bus, but it's still not in our budget. Not just yet," he says with a laugh.

The Sheepdogs recently turned to a rental van after driving their third consecutive "Sheepmobile" into the ground.

Shaggy-haired and beard-sporting, the band members look and sound a lot like they just stepped off a stage at Woodstock. Their style has been variously described as groovy, neo-psychedelic and just plain rock and roll, but the band members don't take the labels too seriously.

Asked to describe their music, Currie and bassist Ryan Gullen get a little goofy.

"We play rock and roll music that makes you feel good," Currie says. "And alive," Gullen pipes in.

"And young," Currie adds.

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"And free," Gullen concludes.

The Sheepdogs will return to the studio in January to record their fourth full-length album, which Currie says will feature "a lot of the same old Sheepdogs elements, but we're going to play some fresh new tunes." Above all, he notes, "no Auto-Tune."

The Sheepdogs played the Festival Music House on Tuesday night to a crowd of film-industry members, in town for the Toronto International Film Festival. The three-night festival, held at the Mod Club, aims to introduce up-and-coming bands to the people who could have a say in choosing soundtracks for movies and television shows.

As for what's next, Currie says the band's plan is simply to stick with what it has always done: touring hard – and eating lots of sandwiches on the road. The Rolling Stone opportunity simply means bigger shows and better-informed audiences. "And more sandwiches," Currie jokes. "We used to just get like the six-inch, and now we get the foot-long."

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