The old trope of ‘green shoots’ is more than worn out in the post-Covid picture, especially as all corners of the music business are tasked with putting themselves back together after the last three years of Covid, Brexit and current global events. But it’s hard not to look at the Cork scene of the moment and not be encouraged by the resilience of its youth, those who have emerged in the past year, with music to share and songs to sing, in particular.
One such outfit that has emerged in the post-pandemic mayhem is the Cardinals, whose single “Amsterdam” – backed by the traditional B-side-style “The Brow” in its digital incarnation – is hard not to get into – especially if you’re a fan of music. re a soulful old sod who hears parts of Bad Seeds and Whipping Boy amidst the fugue.
Aaron Hurley, bassist, was somewhat caught off guard by the response to the single – and a great last-minute gig at Friary to get things started.
The response was pretty overwhelming, lots of positive feedback, and it was interesting to see the B-side get more attention than the A-side. But we find it more of an accessible song between the two, so it’s not too surprising. We made some handmade posters and flyers, and delivered them a little earlier.
“It was a good turnout at the end, and we (Cork band) Inchworm played a couple of songs too. I just called [Friary proprietor Mike D’Arcy] Until the night before. I was like, “Uh, do you have anything tomorrow?”. And it was like, “No.” “Any interest in this?” So that was nice of them, to be hasty like us, in hosting.”
The whole rambunctious business of smothering out melodies from an instrument, and the associated herding of cats to do so, varies from group to group, of course—the band has managed so far, as a matter of jamming initial ideas—and employing some bizarre songwriting techniques, if She wasn’t unwelcome, according to guitarist and vocalist Ewan Manning.
“I’ll come up with an idea, maybe chords and lyrics or something, but everyone is very involved in the whole process of shaping the song, in terms of the structure and things like that. It’s interesting, I think the songwriting style could be considered unconventional maybe in terms of the name We take a lot of inspiration from carols – almost like, looking at carols, seeing what they’re about and even chopping them up and using different bits and pieces.”
Adds Hurley, “One of our songs, which we plan to record soon, is basically a hymn called ‘God Is Our Savior.'” Then each of us picked another chord, and that was the chorus. Then we whipped up a thesaurus for the words—it’s a remix in a way.”
The band has been well received thus far, including touring with fellow Leeside upstarts Skies Behind and Little Known, amongst that aforementioned young generation of musicians and facilitators who are putting their face to getting the local scene back up and running.
It should be another challenge entirely, then, to get things going on your own after the world has stopped, as the status quo in the city continues to stabilize after conditions, given the face of economic uncertainty.
“I think Cork, in terms of the music scenes looking around Ireland, is doing pretty well for itself,” says Manning. “It has places for different levels of artists, people who are just starting out, people who are, you know, on a certain level, if you will.
“I think there is a culture of gangs supporting each other, which is great because it allows you to get started, and if you can get in the door, you can start doing whatever you want. I definitely found it supportive, and a nice scene to be a part of.”
Adds Hurley: “The only problem I have is that there’s a huge gap between starting and higher in the scale, like those 80-something places like Fred’s or Winthrop Avenue, and then there’s no starting point for Cyprus Avenue, with a capacity of 400, 500 people. Cork is the 150-200 square foot that teams sometimes need to go through in their hometown, before moving on to the bigger stage.”
The band is off as they mean to go, including a number of concerts in December supporting peers The Love Buzz and Galway indie outfit So Cow, including a gig on Monday 12 December opening for the former.
It’s a fun time to hit the road – December is always full of Irish and international acts hitting the stage before the Christmas holidays, but the band have settled on taking trips around the country to practice their craft.
“Well, I think we’re all really excited because we have such a close relationship with Love Buzz,” says Hurley. “I live with Aidan, who’s the guitarist, and Kieran is my brother – he’s playing with us right now at the moment as a third guitarist.
“There’s a nice friendship between the two bands there, so it should be fun, and [Galway venue] Áras na nGael. Great support in Galway, and excited to play with some great Dublin acts, such as Sprints and Post-Punk Podge”.
The band will debut their main gig on January 7th on Cyprus Street – providing local heads with the chance to come out to party in the immediate aftermath of Christmas, before the quiet time of year arrives for party-goers. It’s a modest start to what looks like a busy year for the Cardinals.
“Actually, after this interview, we’ll go and record some demos,” says Hurley. “So hopefully we’ll get it ‘right’ late this year, early next year.”
And we’re planning to do another A-side and B-side single for January and February and then I think there are hopes of touring after the next release, so try to headline tour like Cork, Galway, Dublin, Limerick, maybe May put pressure on Derry.
“But yeah, we’re working on it at the moment, and we’ll take December first, like I say, and enjoy the shows, and then we’ll wind up in the new year.”
The Cardinals’ first single “Amsterdam” is available to stream and download https://cardinalsie.bandcamp.com.
The band supports The Love Buzz on their Irish dates in December, including Cyprus Avenue on Monday 12 December.
Follow the Cardinals on Instagram: @cardinals_cork.
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