Joseph Spencer catches a quick backstage audience with Australian band Sick Puppies
The house lights faded and the recording of a slightly ominous string quartet ensemble could be heard lingering daintily over the din of conversation from the crowd. It was as if there was suddenly the presence of ghostly apparitions in the small Watertown theatre. The echo of a delicately plucked guitar string broke the transient vibrato of screams from several girls in the first few seats to the left of the stage. As the purple and blue glow of stage lights baked the smiles of nearly everyone in eyesight, the show that this small upstate New York town was in the midst of experiencing had been a long time in the making.
From the suburb of Mosman along the north shore of Sydney, Australia where singer/lead guitarist Shimon Moore and bassist Emma Anzai formed the band with drummer Mark Goodwin over practice sessions held in the music room of Mosman High School, Sick Puppies have become one the most popular hard rock musical acts to come out of the “land down under” since the emergence of their idols and inspiration Silverchair. Unlike their forbearers though, Sick Puppies have used the power of internet marketing to propel themselves into the mainstream music scene with an undeniable force.
Thanks in no small part to the hugely successful ‘Free Hugs’ campaign started by Juan Mann when he needed a hug after a rough trip home to Sydney (see www.freehugscampaign.org), to which the Puppies lent their song ‘All The Same’ (from 2007’s Dressed Up As Life album), the band found YouTube to be a public relations dream come true. With a follow-up disc entitled Tri-Polar (2008), the Sick Puppies found themselves involved in everything from video game and movie soundtracks to their songs used as entrance music for World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) and in the Stanley Cup Finals for the Washington Capitals hockey team.
When asked about possible over-saturation of their music in the public perception bassist Emma Anzai responded: “We hope that the music is good enough that it stands on its own and that is really all you can strive for”. In the music there is a clear tone of social awareness throughout many songs and in a contest featuring fan content, a piece of video was used where the author had in fact lost a close friend to suicide after being bullied. It has been stated in other interviews that this was an issue members of the band could relate to. Shimon spoke up and said: “I think a lot of young people have to deal with bullies at one time or another in their lives, but it is really something that needs to be addressed by both parents and young people in a more open forum so that it never has to lead to someone feeling so devastated they feel that taking their own life is their only option”.
As the crew for Sick Puppies began to pack up the gear and prepare for yet another show in yet another town, the guys (and girl) in the band were asked whether touring for years at a time had begun to take its toll on them, as it eventually does on even the heartiest of rock and roll bands. Mark Goodwin seemed to smile at this and said “No, this is what we love to do, I can’t think of anything else I’d rather be doing right now and I don’t see that changing”.
With the release of an acoustic EP titled Live & Unplugged (featuring three tracks from their Tri-Polar album) in 2010 and the newest release, March’s full-length acoustic EP Polar Opposite, the Sick Puppies are booked for shows far into July of next year. With all their success it doesn’t look like they will be coming off the road for a long time. By then the Sick Puppies will be great big dogs on the world music scene with a bite to match that ferocious growl of theirs.