Winners of “Best Rock Band” at this year’s Carolina Music Awards, Young Cardinals, were one of two bands that opened for Nick and the Babes, and the Jason Adamo Band at the Lincoln Theater on Friday August 24th. Their rock-heavy sounds have made quite the mark on the Raleigh music scene in just a few short years. Following the untimely passing of original drummer David Marzetti in October 2010, frontman James Forgey regrouped with Idaho natives, Sam Branstetter (bass), and Marcus Matile (drums) to form Young Cardinals.
We sat down with the trio to dig deeper into their music, influences, and what makes them a band to keep watching.
Carolina STYLE Magazine: Congratulations on your recent award for “Best Rock Band” at the 2012 Carolina Music Awards! What went through your head when your band was announced?
Young Cardinals: Disbelief! We were not prepared to win at all. I was totally prepared to lose and accepted that being nominated was cool enough. To win was just really, really exciting but still to this day, we’re kinda in disbelief about it. We were definitely really happy to be nominated and then we got the news that we had won. It was pretty incredible. Good feeling.
CSM: Do you think that is has affected the dynamics of the band?
YC: Not internally, it hasn’t. But I guess our phones have been ringing a lot more lately! I don’t think it affected us as a band in any way because we still don’t know what to make of it. It’s just awesome. It didn’t change us because it’s confirmation that we should just keep doing what we’ve been doing.
CSM: What do you remember about writing ‘The Death of Donna Lee’?
YC: I don’t remember actually having too much of a story in mind when writing the song, it started off wanting to write more of a comedic ‘O Brother, Where Art Thou?’ song. I just really like that movie and wanted to write a backwoods, dark story. A story of airing dirty laundry but not really that kind of thing, but just show that crazy things can happen anywhere, even in small rural areas, as well as giant cities. But the end product was never envisioned at the start, I can say that.
CSM: It has a very different feel from say ‘I Might Get Home,’ can you talk about some of your influences when writing your songs?
YC: I think we just like to entertain ourselves so when we’re in the writing process, we want to write stuff that’s different from the last thing we did. Different enough so that we are satisfied that people can get a different feel than the last thing we did. We wanna keep people on their toes. It definitely varies from song to song in terms of our mood when we’re in the room jamming away. It can be a bluesy vibe or trying to rock it out.
CSM: Your sound is often described as being gritty or dirty grunge, would you agree?
YC: Yup! Absolutely.
CSM: What is your most requested song?
YC: (laugh) Usually some type of (Lynyrd) Skynyrd song. But besides that, our song ‘Hooker’ which we have yet to record gets a lot of requests. Probably that or ‘Death of Donna Lee.’ Everyone knows it so well, everyone wants to hear it.
CSM: What does the title ESJ (These Stories) mean to you? Or is that too personal?
YC: I don’t even know if we should tell you! But I will… It used to be a secret… Basically it started out a long time ago, when Dave (Marzetti) and I played in a two piece called ‘James and the Giant Ego’ and that was a song we played. It didn’t have any words at that time, but it went on for about 15 minutes just playing music. So the original title of the song before we shortened it to ESJ was Epic Space Jam Starring Michael Jordan. But then we shortened it to Epic Space Jam, and then ESJ.
CSM: What struck you most about the Raleigh music scene, coming from Idaho?
YC: That’s a good question. I mean honestly out there, there really wasn’t a music scene. The only city that really had a music scene was Spokane, Washington and even there you’re lucky to find a good show on a Friday or Saturday night. So coming out here, besides shows that we had played around town or things we had done in high school, this is really a whole new world. I love it. You can walk down the street on a Saturday night and stumble into some place and discover a great band that you’ve never even heard of before. I think that’s what makes it a really good scene out here. And it’s something that’s continually blossoming too.
CSM: With an award, recent video, and album under your belt, what can we expect next from Young Cardinals?
YC: More of the same! There will be another album and more videos to come. Tours! We’re gonna add some tours in there too. We’re going to amp everything up. Spread the word a little more. Right now we’re writing a bunch of new material; a lot of new songs, a lot of different stuff than what we’ve probably normally done. So writing and getting ready to record. Probably there will be another video from the first album before we get the second album released.
If their current success is any indication of what’s to come, we recommend that you stay tuned to Young Cardinals. Their stage performance is further evidence of their passion, talent, and drive. So make sure you catch them LIVE:
Saturday, September 8th at the Official HOPSCOTCH Day Party, hosted by SPY Bar in Raleigh.
Saturday, September 8th at Duck & Dive Pub in Wilmington.
Thursday, September 20th at Southland Ballroom in Raleigh.
David L. Marzetti Memorial Music Trust: http://www.davidmarzettimusictrust.com
Photography by JJ McDaniel