On Stage: Shepherds seeks to raise their profile with tour

By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times


Shepherds is an alternative rock band that has been around for almost a decade – and is still flying under the radar.

The band just released its sophomore album, “Insignificant Whip,” on Arrowhawk Records and is on the road on a two-week, 10-city support tour.

The band might have had a higher profile had it released more than one LP and one EP between April 2011 and summer 2019 – or if it had a better name.

Anyone doing an internet search for Shepherds music or Shepherds band is met with Band of Shepherds (a pop band from Texas), Sheppard (an Australian indie pop band), Shepherd’s View (a Christian Rock band), German Shepherds (an alternative rock band from San Francisco), The Midnight Shepherds (a Southern Rock band from Alabama), The Shepherds (a gospel band from Georgia) or the Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band.

Somewhere in the mix is Shepherds, the Atlanta-based band fronted by Jonathan Merenivitch. On October 16, Shepherds will visit the area for a mid-tour show.

Again, it would help the band’s recognition factor if it played at a venue with which area fans are familiar.

Instead, Shepherds will be performing at Anthorna Gallery (5213 Grays Avenue, Philadelphia, www.anthorna.com), which bills itself as, “LGBTIQx inclusive Healing Arts Collective, Rotating Gallery, Music Venue, & Safe(r) Space.”

“We’ve been together since 2011,” said Merenivitch, during a phone interview last week as the band was travelling to Charleston, South Carolina for the first show on the tour.

“Recently, we’ve been trying to hit it pretty hard. It’s been hard to get time to tour because we all have a lot of irons in the fire. We all have a lot of different influences.”

Trying to fit Shepherds into a genre is a challenging if not impossible task.

“There is a Goth aspect along with elements of pop,” said Merenivitch. “There are also elements of Scott Walker, post-punk and R&B.

“With ‘Insignificant Whip,’ we’re describing it as an anxiety record. There is a tension to how we approach post-punk with a pop element.

“We recorded it at Chase Park Transduction, a recording studio in Athens, Georgia. We were in the studio on-and-off from 2016-2018. It was produced by Drew Vandenberg and he added a lot to the record. He allowed us to experiment a little more.”

The minimalism which guided Shepherds’ earlier work has evolved into lush, expansive compositions thanks to founding bassist Peter Cauthorn, who helped flesh out the LP’s identity as a core contributor to the album’s instrumental textures. Vocalist and drummer Adrian Benedykt Świtoń also took on a central role in the recording process, contributing his voice and songwriting talents. Other members are Ryan York (drums), May Tabol (guitar, keyboards), and Vinny Restivo (bass).

“We’ve had some core members — me, Adrian and Peter,” said Merenivitch. “When Peter left, we got Ryan York to play bass and Vinny Restivo on a full kit drums. May was with us but just left recently because she had a baby.

“Since then, we added Arthur Cabral. Arthur brings some bossa nova influence. We’re still post-punk and aggressive but we’re moving into stuff slightly softer with some influences of Sade and D’Angelo.”

Fans will get a full dose of Shepherds’ development and current changed when the band takes the stage in Philly.

“Half the set will be songs from ‘Insignificant Whip,’ and half will be newer ones,” said Merenivitch. “We’ve been playing songs from this record for three years so we’re ready to move on.”

Video link for Shepherds — https://youtu.be/z6dXtH7-8JA.

The show at Anthorna Gallery, which also features Butterfly and Mesh & the Beeps, will start at 6 p.m. Tickets are $8.

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