Courtesy of Crawford Megan Photography

Cardinal Sons

00:00 November 04, 2013
By: David Vicari
[Courtesy of Crawford Megan Photography]
Cardinal Sons

To so many people, a song can mean so many different things. It can portray an emotion, an attitude, a serious statement, or simply tell a good story. A song can envelop many forms as different styles of music, language, and cultures develop throughout time. However, to one group of young brothers with a distinct musical knack, a song has come to be a means for discovery as their bonds of brotherhood strive to reach their ultimate potential through the expression of music. The talented Shirley brothers are part of the newly thriving local group Cardinal Sons which aims to bring fans the beauty of the song in all its meanings. Today, as they return from an East Coast tour where they visited New York City to compete in the Mountain Stage New Song Competition, the three-piece group plans to continue to bring their authentic brand of rock music to the city they call home.
Officially, the group started with the release of their first recordings, Make An Ep. In November of 2012, the Shirley brothers (John on guitar, Joe on keys, and David on drums) quickly started to put on shows after the success of the initial release. However, before this time, the only true performance experience these three had together came during a yearly jam session between family members every Thanksgiving. The younger two, Joe and David, have forged their own music careers here in New Orleans playing together with different groups. "It's always been a very loose, fun thing until last year when we actually decided to start a project together and kind of take it more seriously," says guitarist and vocalist John Shirley. Sharing a similar perspective, keyboardist and vocalist Joe Shirley describes how their initial intention for the group was to just have fun, until they played the first song they ever rehearsed, "Underdressed," that would later be released on Make An Ep. Along with the excitement for fresh material came a change in frame of mind as song by song each member came to realize not only the quality of the music, but how much they truly loved the project themselves. "Everyone's having fun doing it; it's a good song, and we thought it sounded good how we were doing it," Joe recalls. "It's very much something that has been brewing for a very long time."
From then on, the boys have been running, consistently writing new songs, pushing for shows around town, and embracing the song-centric attitude that has created this fresh sound. They utilize their strengths by blending three part harmonies over strong lead melody lines, tastefully pounding drums, and sweet keyboard progressions that take on not only rhythm chords plus melodies, but the bass lines as well. Combining honed musicianship with quality song writing, mainly brought in by John and Joe, has thus made for a delicate recipe resulting in the cleverly catchy tunes of Cardinal Sons. "I think we're each uniquely talented," says John. "And I think we all have our own little thing that we bring in," he says in describing the internal dynamics of the group. "It is very much our own thing," Joe explains, "so everyone really cares about it."
Though focusing on the songs themselves, the guys still like to craft a dynamic live set that is packed with energy. "The live show is more rocking and loud," says John, "but we kind of try to craft a setlist that has dynamics." They like to keep people dancing and having a fun time, even though the majority of their show is rock music. They can still get people grooving along with getting them to rock hard. "On the whole, our sets are loud, fun, and danceable," the keyboardist describes. Another medium the group utilizes is film and they have released several music videos that truly compliment the music. They develop the artistic basis of the videos with their collaborators Flatland Productions, working hard to embrace the concept of the song with that of the video. "I'm very into the visual aspect of music," John explains. "I think it's a full circle thing for me."
Embracing the many angles in which a song can be shared through the studio, live, and video mediums has given Cardinal Sons a distinct artistic flavor that the three brothers have discovered they've all desired for a long time. "It's like this had to happen. We needed to play with each other," adds Joe. As his brothe, John, puts it, "It's really all about discovering ourselves through music, and discovering really who we are as brothers."
Cardinal Sons are ready to continue on with their journey as they hope to relate their songs to people everywhere.

Cardinal Sons

Make an EP

Cardinal Sons' debut release, Make An EP, is a short but sweet introduction to a band that seems to have a strong identity despite being relatively new on the New Orleans music scene. Their laid back folk-rock is fresh, and straight to the point, without being overly focused. The trio is clearly drawing from a variety of influences, but they have managed to come out with a new sound that has already left listeners wanting more. The tracks are upbeat, filled with crisp guitars and impressive vocal parts that the group pulls off with ease in a live setting. The best part about Make An EP is how the songs convey the members' brotherly love. At its core, Cardinal Sons first release is the sound of a group of guys having a great time making music together. Only a trio of brothers could bring this much confidence to their first recordings. The final result is a brief, yet promising foundation for a band that seems to have nothing but good things on their horizon.

Download Make an EP here.

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