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Meet Cardinals, the next great guitar band to emerge from Ireland

With a scrappy DIY mantra at their heart, Cardinals are the next great band to emerge from Cork's burgeoning music scene.

By Nick Reilly

Cardinals (Picture: Ali Quinlan)

Take one look at the above press shot – complete with dark sunglasses and brooding band members – and you’d not unreasonably assume that Cardinals are the latest in a long line of excellent post-punk revivalists to have emerged from the Emerald Isle in recent years (see Fontaines D.C, The Murder Capital).

But on their debut self-titled EP, released via SoYoung, the Cork group smash through that notion entirely. There’s brooding intensity to be found, but songs like ‘Unreal’ show a softer, more melodic touch that shows they’re a far more kaleidoscopic proposition than that.

One thing that does unite them with those bands, however, is that they are a product of Cork’s burgeoning DIY scene. “We put on shows in places where you wouldn’t ordinarily do that and we could capitalise on that,” explains frontman Euan Manning.

This scrappy mantra makes it into the EP’s sound, however, and perfectly captures the sound of Cardinals in the here and now. No wonder that Grian Chatten is a fan…

You can read our Q&A with Euan and his brother Finn below.

We’re speaking weeks before you, as Cardinals, release your debut EP. What does it say about your band in the here and now?

Darragh: Well, there’s six songs on it, and I feel that every song is quite different. I used to think of it as a press package of the band and what we could do, but it was written so long ago that I feel like the stuff we’re doing now is different to it. I think at that time it has a good representation of what we were saying and I suppose at the start, it had a small bit of post-punk influence. I don’t think there is any more at all. I think what we’re trying to do is just write pop tunes with noise over it.

Euan: Yeah I’d say the same. This first EP is ready and we’re just eager for people to hear what it says about our band.

You’ve been hailed as one of Grian Chatten’s favourite bands. Can you tell us a bit more about your relationship with the Fontaines D.C. leader?

Euan: We played a show in Workman’s in Dublin, the venue that his manager operates and I think he sent him our songs. He’s a big voice in indie music, especially Irish music so it’s nice to have people like him talking about us. We’ve still never met him, but I’m sure he’s a gentleman.

Another time then! If you say that you’ve moved on sonically since recording that first EP, where is the sound of Cardinals now?

Darragh: I feel like we’re still trying to make ourselves uncomfortable whenever we’re writing, not make ourselves comfortable. That sounds a bit strange, but I suppose we’re trying to cut influences out in the hope of making something that’s entirely your own.

Does the character of Cork loom large in your music? There’s sporadic mentions and nods to your home throughout the record…

Euan: I guess bands are always always writing about where they’re from, but I think we just felt that because we had formed in Cork and met through here, that’s how our relationship as a group of f blossomed.

It felt right to tell those stories , and I guess that’s what just happened naturally. We’re still exploring it and finding a new love for it. We go back and forth to London for gigs, but it’s nice to come back after tour and get that grounding, to go back and walk around again.

It gives you a newfound appreciation for the place where you’ve laid roots.

What’s the music scene like for upcoming bands in Cork. Is there a DIY culture that allows you to thrive?

Darragh: There’s so many artists in Cork, not just bands, and they’re all doing something that feels different.

Euan: It’s super DIY and everyone feels inspired to do their own thing because they just feel like they can. It’s how we got our feet on the ground, creatively as well. We could put on shows in places where you wouldn’t ordinarily do that and we could capitalise on it. Even though we’re actually being booked for bigger things now, we’re trying not to throw that to the wind and still put on stuff in Cork that’s a bit more DIY. Because that’s just such a great thing to do and allows other bands to come through too.

This is our PlayNext series, where we get artists to give us the simple elevator pitch of what they’re about. Over to you…

Euan: Jesus, I hate this kind of stuff , but look – it’s noise music and if you can see past that sort of like chaos and stuff, it’s just very warm.

There’s pop there, there’s real vulnerability and it’s honest. I guess that’s where we’re coming from right now, we’re a band that is still exploring and creating.