Yes, I’m sure by now, most of you have heard the mega international hit song by these newcomers, it’s hard to miss, it may be one of the catchiest tracks on the planet. But, it requires something much more than just a hit song to create a successful group of musicians and I these guys have it; certainly more than one-hit wonders.
This group has a combination of traits that I admire and can only be found in a handful of acts, the vocal harmony of siblings, multi-instrumentalists and shared duty in the lead vocalists position.
Captivating for sure, fronted by George, Amy and Emma Sheppard. And not only do their voices match in a heavenly fashion but instrumentally they were also in sync.
Presented as a six-piece band it can be a challenge to reproduce certain songs in a consistent manner, especially with their 3 part vocal harmonies. Which obviously, is incrementally more challenging to perform than with two voices.
Sheppard hail from Australia, the Brisbane based band formed in 2009 and markets themselves as being a quirky collection of siblings and friends; with a left-of-centre take on pop. And they were playfully interacting on stage to back up the statement, with Amy and George constantly changing positions depending on what instruments the song required. Which can be a stage/lighting managers worst nightmare and requires more thought by the performers to know where they should be next. But they pulled it off, maybe not seamless transitions but pretty slick.
I could hear the ear splitting screams from the other end of the mall as I arrived late. I missed the first half of the show, the notorious Manila traffic strikes again. The producers were accommodating, forgave my lateness and granted me access to the pit area, thank you Michael Chugg.
I was impressed with the overall performance, yeah they may not have been perfect the whole time but certainly kept it rocking. It was obvious they were having fun and that energy transferred to the totally fired up crowd. The sound system was adequate and the vocals were smooth, which fit in perfectly with the songs, which have an abundance of “ohhs and ahhs” in them.
If given a choice of photo-pit access for the first three songs or the last three songs, I would almost always choose the latter. So my tardiness, although uncharacteristic of myself, may have been an advantage here. Usually, when you photograph a band for the first three, the musicians aren’t really warmed yet, still getting in the grove, so to speak. Here no time was wasted, when I arrived they were already in high gear; my first image was of George, ringing out his drenched-with-sweat t-shirt which he tossed it into the crowd at the end the show.
I’ve also conducted an informal survey, approximatley 93% of all people surveyed between the ages of 18 and 32, recognised their song, “Geronimo”. And that’s even with me singing it, a worse than awful, although spunky, rendition; I assure you. What grabbed my attention though, was the high percentage of folks able to recognise this track, even in the upper demographics, basically even the relatively “old” people knew the song.
Interestingly though, only about 12% of people surveyed could actually name the band. Not surprising results I suppose, for up-and-comers in any field of profession. You’ve probably heard the song, so now maybe a smidgen of background information is in order.
They grew up in Papua New Guinea, an island off the coast of Australia and you can hear the cultural influence the group’s sound, kind of beachy-tropical musical vibe, “Pacific” indie pop some call it. It was after relocating to Australia that the three siblings began discovering their unique musical talent and ability to play a variety of musical instruments.
Sheppard have amassed a strong international following and are constantly developing in their local market, infiltrating the music scene with their alternative indie pop sound. The band have a growing fan base of over 110,000 Facebook fans across the world. To date they have written and produced over 30 songs, and continue to impress audiences with a youthful exuberance.
Geronimo was, at one point, was the year’s top-selling singles in Australia, the first independent Australian artist to hit number one on the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) charts. And on Spotify, the track has been listened to a staggering number of times, over one hundred million! With another of their hit songs, “Let Me Down Easy” so far, clocking in at over three million hits.
Not much in the way of hoopla, no complex lighting schemes or dazzling outfits like many of the pop artists of today. Much more down to earth. Sure, Amy sports a happy shade of green hair but other than that, not much craziness, it was more about the music.
By the final song Geronimo, of course, would it have been anything else? The group was able to nail the punchy, staccato intro and the crowd erupted as soon as they heard the first few notes. It was a night of radio-friendly music that kept the audience rocking, catchy stuff; you couldn’t stop yourself from bopping to the beat of the sound. Maybe not a perfect score as far as stage presence goes, they seemed a bit uncertain at times but what would you expect from a fledgling group.
Like the lyrics to their hit song imply, this young band is on the edge of something great, ready to make a leap. You’re only as good as your last performance some may say, but what your next gig is, also speaks volumes. The band is off to open for Kodaline, a talented group of blokes from Ireland, another of my favourite newcomers. Then off to Osaka Japan to perform in the Summer Sonic Music Festival, so stepping it up. And if this mall show in Manila is any indication, they’ll do better than good, certainly ready for the big time.
I wish them all the best on their journey, hopefully I’ll get the chance to photograph them again someday, and this time not be late! Keep an eye on this band, I’d say they have no place to go but up. Thanks going out to MMI LIVE and Chugg Entertainment, distributed by MGM.