1.) Who is behind Shiprock and Anchordog?
+++ I’m Evan Curran, and Shiprock and Anchordog is my multi-media modern mythology. I’m trying to tell stories about these dogs in as many ways as possible. I’ve collaborated with many people to create content about Shiprock and Anchordog: musicians, artists, dancers, videographers, actors, and others. I’ve been the only constant member of the organization.
2.) Why are you doing this? What are you trying to achieve?
+++ I’m trying to provide lessons to others about life, using these accessible characters to explain my own views. The stories center around themes of sustainability, compassion, unconditional love, optimism, and other important aspects of existence. I’m creating the world that I would like to see. I’m making my stories appropriate for all ages so that kids can benefit from the lessons as well. However, I think adults are usually the ones who could use reminders about this stuff.
3.) How long has this been going on for and what got it all started?
+++ I started working on Shiprock and Anchordog as a music project in 2009. I was excited about the idea of telling long-form stories through song. I wanted to play live and do a rock-and-roll story set, singing songs and narrating in between. (The rock opera is something that “jam bands” have kept alive in recent years. Phish’s “Gamehenge”, The Disco Biscuits and their “Hot Air Balloon” and “Chemical Warfare Brigade” rock operas, these have had a big impact on me.) I felt inspired by musicals, rock operas, and concept albums, but I wanted to take it further, create more content than just one set or one album. I wanted to start a series of concept albums that would continue for years. They would all be connected by one continuous storyline. It would be glorious. I chose two dog characters to be my focus, and began writing songs about their adventures. My friend Loren Halman volunteered to record some of the material, and was soon acting as a manager of sorts for the new operation. He booked me my first gig in 2010, and then ended up playing drums for that gig, and regularly after that.
In attendance at the first gig was a local farmer named Jackie Vitale who had a background in experimental theatre. She responded very positively to the story and told us that she thought it should be a musical, and she could help to create it. I was very excited. We worked for 6 months to create an experiential musical theatre production where the audience would move through multiple outdoor spaces to see the show. In the summer of 2011 we put on the show, with 12 school kids acting and dancing, and my folk-rock duo with Loren providing the music, just guitar and drums. About 300 people came out over the course of 3 days. We managed to engage a lot of new fans. They really felt connected to the story after moving with the characters through different settings.
In the fall of 2011, I worked with some musician friends on recording a CD of the story that we told in the theatre production. The album ended up as a series of songs sprinkled with skits. It’s a full-on rock album with bass, drums, guitar, keys, and other sounds. We recruited area kids to voice the characters in the skits. The CD was released in May of 2012. We promoted it by playing lots of gigs in Western Massachusetts as a full rock band with bass, drums, guitar, mandolin, and violin.
In summer of 2012, we staged another theatre production with school kids. This one was directed by me, because Jackie Vitale moved to England to study theatre. I wrote a new story about Shiprock and Anchordog with some new songs and some old ones. The 2012 show drew about 250 people over the course of 2 days. We had the full rock band play for that one.
In the fall of 2012 our big project was creating a music video for our most popular song. It’s called “Blueberries”, and you can find it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I6dn0Y_B_Hk
Also in late 2012, I wrote an article about kid’s music: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/evan-curran/make-music-for-everyone_b_2287673.html
In spring of 2013 I played gigs with my band. I also worked on recording for the next Shiprock and Anchordog album. I began to learn my own music production using a digital audio workstation. The next Shiprock album will be largely produced by me.
In the summer of 2013 we staged another original musical theatre piece starring school kids. This one featured some new songs and some old, establishing a trend where older material rotates out each year. The show drew another crowd similar to the years before.
In the fall of 2013 I began working with an artist named Gregery Miller (not spelled Gregory!) whom I admired. We developed a comic book version of the story of Shiprock and Anchordog. I paid Greg out of pocket to work on the comic, using up all of my savings over the course of the next six months. Now here we are, in April 2014, and I’m doing a Kickstarter to raise money for the printing of this issue, the sales of which can hopefully fund the production of issue #2!
4.) What impact have you had in the past? What are your greatest success stories? What difficulties did you have in the past?
+++ Our impact has been on kids, mostly. We have collaborated with kids to record the CD, put on musical theatre productions, sing, dance, make music videos, and more. I believe that children have a solid grasp on what is important in life. You can see it when they skip, run, or hop instead of walk. You can see it when they laugh with one another. They’re very present, living in the moment. So when I create art and music for kids, I know that they will fully and honestly engage with it. If they don’t like it, it will be clear. If they do like it, that will be clear as well.
I also believe that impacting kids is one of the most effective ways to change the universe in a positive way. Running through my stories is an ethics that I hope can provide guidance for young people. They can each affect many others in their lives, and the ripples of positivity will spread.
Our successes have been our musical theatre productions. They each have included about 15 kids in the show, and many other kids and adults attending the performances. Every show has been a large potluck, and after the performance we eat together as an enormous group of 100 or so people. It’s a community event that feels wonderful to be a part of.
As for difficulties, I would say that the greatest has been adjusting to collaborators coming and going. I’ve been the only consistent member of the group, working on all aspects of the Shiprock and Anchordog franchise with an evolving cast of characters. I love to bring new people into the project and see what they have to offer to it, but it’s also difficult to see people move on to other ventures. The changing set of collaborators also can make it difficult to maintain consistency of Shiprock and Anchordog as a brand, but I like its patchwork quality, so I don’t see this as a negative.