Sick Puppies’ newest album Connect has been described by band member Shimon (Shim) Moore as a perfect blend of the best music from their three records, Dressed up as Life, Tripolar and Polar Opposites. Combining their past musical experience and having listened to what their fans want to hear, Connect delivers radio ready tunes filled with emotion, often times political lyrics, powerful sounds, catchy guitar riffs and great vocals.
The band members are Shimon (Shim) Moore (lead vocals, guitar), Emma Anzai (bass, backing vocals) and Mark Goodwin (drums, percussion, backing vocals).
Currently on tour with their new album Connect, we had a chance to meet up close and personal with Emma and Shim at The Masquerade in Atlanta before their show, and discussed how the band was formed, their new album, their gear and more! Emma’s interview can be viewed here. Of course, I started off with Shim’s least favorite question but people not familiar with them want to know!
GGM: What’s behind the name of the band?
Shim: The name of the band came from a book my Dad was reading [Sick Puppy]. We were thinking of band names and writing them all down and bringing them to rehearsal every week, and then I had thought of it when I was on a train to visit my Dad. When I got there, he had already thought of the name from the book he was reading, and I had already thought of the name on the train, so we just thought it very serendipitous…and the band went with it. And at the time, it really fit because we were like a punk rock band and now we’ve sort of moved in to more of a melodic type of sound, but it’s still kind of catchy and it works.
GGM: The band was formed in Australia?
GGM: Why did the band decide to make the move to LA?
Shim: We had done a record in Australia and really worked our asses off. It had gone about as far as a rock band could go in Australia at the time, which was to say that it didn’t go as far as we wanted it to. But we weren’t really playing to lots of people. We were still paying off all the costs, so we were like if we want to be a really big band, then we would need to move to LA, because there are so many markets to play, there are so many clubs, so many other bands, so many festivals. So it was just the natural progression.
GGM: Did you start playing a lot of the local clubs in LA when you got there?
Shim: We didn’t, not really as much as we wanted. It was hard to get gigs at the start. We played once a month and we’d play at Zen Sushi and really small dive clubs – just to cut your teeth on. There’s lots of cool clubs and stuff, but there are so many bands that it’s hard to get regular gigs. We were lucky to play once a month.
GGM: What is your most memorable moment from this tour so far?
Shim: Usually, the most memorable moments are band moments, so in Omaha it was sold out. It’s the biggest market that we go to for some reason. It’s right in the middle of three major areas and there’s one radio station called The River that goes through all those areas. It sort of brings together a larger population together in terms of fans.
GGM: What is the writing process for the band…does any one particular band member take charge or is it a collaborative process?
Shim: Usually when we write, what usually ends up happening is, we’ll have a riff or a melody, and then with the melody comes a phrase like “I want to connect with you” for “Connect,” or something like that. And then once you sort of get that nugget, then that will be it and you start playing. You have a verse and a chorus and then we talk about what the song is going to be about, figure out the direction like what are we going say, and what it’s going to be about specifically. That conversation can be 20 minutes to two or three hours while you sort of figure out how to sing it and that sort of stuff. Once you know the direction, you can’t really argue with each other as much – like this sounds good – no, this song was supposed to be like this. And unless something really amazing happens in the process, where it shifts, usually you can stay on that direction. And then once you’ve decided that and everyone puts in their bits on a daily basis…someone puts in more here or more there and then you come up with this great thing that becomes the nugget of the song. Usually by the time the whole album is finished, it sort of rounds out and becomes the sound of the band.
GGM: You’ve worked with Rock Mafia on previous albums Dressed Up as Life and Tripolar. How was it working with the team at Rock Mafia on the production of Connect?
Shim: It’s a double-edged sword. It’s really good in regards to the fact that we have a chemistry now and we’ve done three full records now basically. We did a few songs on Connect that we didn’t produce with them – we didn’t corrupt them! But they know us so well they can cut straight to what sounds good. And at the same time, if you want to do something that’s a little bit this, or a little bit that, it’s kind of like – they have an overview and they can say well ‘that’s not gonna really work for the band’ because they know the band pretty well. And so there becomes this butting of heads sometimes when you go…as a band we want to go a little bit this way or a little bit that way…if you don’t agree on those directional things. If you have a brand new producer, you can sort of throw down and say ‘we’re the band,’ but with them you can’t really do it because they have the experience on this kind of stuff. So, the final product ends up being this amazing thing, but to get through it can sometimes be a butting of heads. But if you have to choose, you usually choose that because the product comes out the best.
GGM: I read where the song “Connect” contains an old riff that you wrote while in high school learning how to play guitar. What made you finally decide that “Connect” was the right song for that riff?
Shim: Yes, from the song “Connect.” I had been trying for ages to write it for each record, and I would say, ‘hey, how about this thing?’ and it would be just a little too much, not quite right. We’ve grown up a lot, we’ve done a lot of different types of music and we’ve used sort of a broad palette and what we learned from the last record, which was very acoustic and musical. The bridge was sort of being built towards that type of musicality. And then also the fact that Mumford & Sons and other people were doing that on the radio, and with that, we said ‘ah, we can deal with it now, we can have a song like that.’ And so I would come in and play this riff, and sometimes it would blend and sometimes it wouldn’t. But then we came up with the verse and the chorus and the ‘I want to connect with you’ theme, everyone in the room sort of went, ‘oh, that sounds like some sort of song.’ So we wrote the song and it became the centerpiece for the record in terms of the theme and that kind of thing.
GGM: Who were your early musical influences?
Shim: Silverchair, Rage Against the Machine and Incubus in terms of guitar playing and rhythm.
GGM: Can you tell us a little about your gear?
Shim: I keep it pretty simple. I still use a cable…most people that are in a band go wireless, so I haven’t done that. I tried it once, but you know it just gets really thin. And I have a wah pedal, a noise suppressor, a Line 6 modulator, a little overdrive pedal, and a tuner. Oh, and a delay…real basic, just the Boss ones, except for the Line 6 and it goes straight into a Bogner cab and that’s it.
GGM: When did you pick up the guitar and did you take formal lessons?
Shim: I was 13. I took lessons for a second and then I taught myself the rest. Once I figured out the power chords, I started learning. Once I found the tablature for all the Silverchair songs online, I just did that.
GGM: What advice do you have for women trying to make it in the guitar world – in terms of touring and working as a professional musician?
Shim: The advice that I gave to anyone starting out is gender irrelevant. It’s pretty much whenever it comes to doing anything with music, play well and write the best songs you can; because if you have a great song, it doesn’t matter whether you’re a girl or a guy, what color your skin is, what language you speak…it doesn’t matter, because everyone likes a good song. It really doesn’t matter.
GGM: I know you’ve been touring a lot this summer. Are there any projects on the horizon for Sick Puppies?
Sick Puppies is the project!
GGM: What’s something about yourself that people have no idea about?
Shim: I’m not as big a prick as people make me out to be! [laughs] Just that I guess for everyone in the band, that we’re not like rock stars. I know that sounds really weird because you hear rock stars say, ‘I’m not a rock star.’ But I mean…I speak to people that want to start a band and then you tell them there’s no secret – you’ve just got to work really hard and once you get past a certain point, it doesn’t make you a different kind of person. Now you’re a person that did that thing. Like a lot of other people have done it, and a lot of people before and after you will do it. The idea of you being any better or worse as a person because you’re in a band is the main thing. You f**k up just as much – you have the good days and the bad days. It’s the same thing.
To “Connect” with Sick Puppies, where to buy their new CD and for tour dates, check out their websites:
Facebook (OVER 1 MILLION LIKES) : http://www.facebook.com/sickpuppies/app_123966167614127
Cover Photo Credit: Myriam Santos
Connect Track Listing:
1. Die to Save You
2. There’s No Going Back
3. Walking Away
6. Where Did the Time Go
7. Telling Lies
10. The Trick the Devil Did
11. Healing Now (Emma’s favorite)
12. Under a Very Black Sky