We talked with Andy Sheppard from Find The Others, contestants in this year's Peak Performance Project. The winners of the competition get just over 100K to fuel the growth of their music careers. We asked Andy about his creative influences, the most important lesson he learned at the PPP bootcamp, what he loves to see in the audience, and more!
G: How would you describe your music to someone who hasn’t heard it?
AS: Imagine Sufjan Stevens and David Byrne in a hot tub listening to Sigur Ros.
G: What are your biggest creative influences (non-musical)?
AS: I read a ton of books on psychology (I must need help). But I'm interested in science and how it can intersect with art. I love the chaos and weirdness of the natural word, the immensity of the universe, and the crazy complexity of the three pounds of grey matter between our ears.
G: Do you find yourself striving for simplicity, or complexity with your music?
AS: Both. I spend a huge amount of time building all sorts of detail and nuance into the production and arrangement and sound - tons of ear candy - but it's all built on that Ford F150 chassis of song form. I want people to hear a song, and be able to sing along, but also to keep discovering new things the more they listen.
G: What was the most important lesson you learned at the PPP Bootcamp?
AS: This is a tough one. I think it's to try to be the biggest, best version of yourself. That in the business and the art of music, you have to find your own authentic voice to be successful. I mean, sure, there are a lot of bands out there trying to be something they're not, and I'm sure many of them are successful. But to have a sustainable career, you have to be true to yourself. And that is really, really hard.
G: Do you have a story of a favourite show you’ve played?
AS: I once played a solo show in a 13th century stone monastery in East Germany, not far from the Polish border. My hotel was straight out of the early part of the cold war: wood panelling, orange shag carpet, a large black rotary-dial phone. I'm pretty sure the place was bugged. My agent had booked this show in the middle of nowhere and I was convinced that there would be two secret police and a nun at the show and that's about it. But, by 20 minutes before showtime the place was crammed with a couple hundred people, all curious to see me - this random Canadian artist they'd surely never heard of. It was an awesome show.
G: What’s your favourite thing to look out into the audience and see?
AS: There's nothing better than looking and seeing someone really blissed out. I want to mesmerize the audience at our shows. It doesn't always work, but when it does, it's the best feeling.
G: What can we expect to see from Find the Others in the next 2-3 years?
AS: I'm sure we'll continue to tour Canada, but I'd really like to break into the European and US markets. I think Europe, in particular, makes sense. I'm shooting for festivals in northern Europe for 2016. And I'd like be finished another album by early 2017, but it's hard to think about that, having just released one this year. And films - I want to do more film soundtracks, because I think the music really suits movies. But yeah, if all goes well, in 2-3 years I'm planning on total world domination and millions of dollars. But realistically? I just want to still be playing (and staying ahead on rent).
G: Do you have a favourite collaboration that you’ve done?
AS: This whole project has been about collaboration. Find The Others, right?
I have so many favourites. I worked a lot with Josh Van Tassel from Great Lake Swimmers, who played drums and did a fair bit of production for the last record. I also recorded part of the record in Iceland, where we collaborated with Bjork producer Valgeir Sigurdsson, as well as Jonsi's drummer Doddi Thorvaldsson, and Nadia Sirota from yMusic. But maybe the most rewarding collaborations were with the remixers, Ensemble (Olivier Alary) and Andy McNeill, who did the most amazing versions of my songs.