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Cardinal Sons take flight

Written by  Nick Garrison
(Photos by Cardinal Sons) (Photos by Cardinal Sons)
Three brothers from Jackson, MS are leading the way in one of New Orleans' often overlooked musical genres. The Cardinal Sons, John (28), Joe (25), and Dave Shirley (23), propel the alternative/ indie rock scene in a city heavily focused on jazz and funk. In taking an unconventional approach to kicking off the band's career, these versatile musicians decided to create a website, record an EP, and produce a few music videos before ever performing a show. Graduates of Loyola University in Marketing, Composition, and Music Business, respectively, the brothers are entrepreneurial in their efforts to succeed. 
 
"The whole idea is that we wanted to have something to share that says, 'We're a band and here's this,' rather than, 'We're a band. Come see us,'" said John, lead singer and guitarist. This band has been able to transform its musical ideas into a marketable product. They have promoted their music to be available online, which generates enough of a buzz to have immediate crowds at their shows (a sought-after luxury for start-up bands).
Cardinal Sons take flight | IntheNOLA.com
The band name originated from the mascot of St. Richard Elementary School in Jackson. Anybody might relate Cardinal Sons to the strikingly similar phrase cardinal sins. "Our songs sort of have religious undertones, but it's more like us reacting to being brought up in a religious house, good and bad," said John. Taking after Kurt Cobain's writing style, the brothers line up melodies, chord progressions and drum beats before letting the lyrics reveal themselves in the moment. "Lyrics always come last, especially when I write. I just want the music to be good."
 
"A lot of things John writes are not direct stories," chimed in Dave, the drummer. "The song 'Heavy' that we have is sort of mysterious and open to interpretation. If you asked any one of us what that song means, we would probably all have different opinions."
 
The trio achieves a sound that is approachable to a wide audience. They write using blues and folk-like melodies to support their rock anthem drum groove. If you've ever crossed the Avett Brothers, The Shins, The Black Keys, Raconteurs, or Mumford and Sons, you might find a satisfying blend that is the Cardinal Sons. "We are so new. As far as the sound of this band, we're going through the growing process and still slowly figuring that out," said keyboardist and composer, Joe.
Cardinal Sons take flight | IntheNOLA.com
Usually staying within the minor/major pentatonic scales, the chords and solo lines were in the box. Each instrument snuck in some traditional New Orleans rhythmic figures amidst their progressive direction. The band presents lyrical melodies, often developed over the course of multiple phrases. They build intensity, rising to a peak, then sustain the energy and jam out. Highly groove oriented and without abundant solos, their tunes are catchy and radio friendly. "I wouldn't call us virtuosos, but our aim is to be song-centric," said John.
 
John switched between a couple guitars throughout the night, utilizing an effects pedal board constructed out of an old skateboard deck. Joe's organ sound made nice pads during light background sections, but also filled out the room with full-voiced, righteous major chords at arrival points. Dave tastefully played to the room by changing the texture within each song. He would place the tambourine on the high-hat to emphasize upbeats, or throw a bandanna on the tom-tom for a smoother effect. They gave off that feeling of flying on a plane, cruising through the clouds just before sunset. Their melodies are sweetened with harmony, and leave you wanting more before each song is over.
 
The first of three to move to the Big Easy, John admits, "It's tough to not be influenced by New Orleans. Just being surrounded by so many great musicians all the time, it's impossible to not take from it. In songwriting, I'm more inspired by the attitude and the culture of NOLA more so than just the tunes."
Cardinal Sons take flight | IntheNOLA.com
John expanded on his connection to New Orleans "It's home base for now. I love living here, I love the city. I don't really know if, right now, anywhere else could benefit us." Short term goals of the band are to get some demos down and hone in on a full length album. It's pretty rare to find a group of like minded band mates (much less, brothers) all with a business savvy approach to producing and promoting their music. The Cardinal Sons have something to say, and they know how to get it to the people. Be on the lookout for plenty of shows in New Orleans, and stop by their website to really see why this band is rightfully earning its respect.
 
For more information about the Cardinal Sons, please visit the website, Facebook, and Twitter.
Last modified on Tuesday, 30 April 2013
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