Interview: The Cordial Sins
Columbus band, The Cordial Sins, are getting ready to release their EP, Only Human, on Saturday, October 21st. They’ll be celebrating the release with a show that night at Ace of Cups, where they will be performing along with fellow Columbus bands Cherry Chrome and Playing To Vapors. Ahead of the release, I was able to preview the entire seven song EP, and then chat with frontwoman Liz Fisher (vocals/keys/violin/guitar) and Corey Dickerson (lead guitar/vocals).
Sean O’Connor (Listen LIVE Columbus): OK, so, let's start with the new EP, Only Human, which is coming out on October 21st. How would you guys talk about your sound now on this new EP vs. your first album, Daze? Because I feel like it's definitely progressed and changed somewhat.
(Artwork by Ori Segev)
Corey Dickerson (The Cordial Sins): I think that with Daze it was very much still a time where we were trying to figure out what we really wanted to do. I think it’s a pretty cohesive record for the most part. But we we're really still trying to experiment with a lot of different sounds and things like that. I think with this new EP, it has a lot more direction. It definitely has a lot of implements from that first record still, but it's a bit heavier. There's a lot more guitar. I think we we're really trying to think outside the box as far as doing different things production-wise and even just song structure and things like that, you know. Some of it's pretty basic and that's what we we're really trying to do is just keep it basic pop format for some of it. But I think some of it we really tried some new things. I think it will show that we've really grown over the past two years in between records, as players and songwriters.
Sean: Liz, there's less noticeable violin from you on the new songs.
"We thought more about the bigger picture and
more about how the songs relate to each other"
Liz Fisher (The Cordial Sins): Oh yeah, way less. Not even as much synth really. It's mostly guitars. I would say that we thought more about the bigger picture and more about how the songs relate to each other. But, to be fair, since it's an EP, I think you can be more varied, maybe, than on an album. I think progressing in our songwriting is definitely true. I felt like I helped assist more from the beginning of things with some of the riffs, since we didn't focus so much on strings and piano/synth. So, that went hand-in-hand with me learning guitar parts which was helpful. It really changed the way we wrote vocal melodies. So I think it makes a little bit more sense to me than some of the stuff we did on Daze. I definitely have a harder time trying to learn those songs on guitar and sing them than this new batch of songs. From a songwriting standpoint I think it's a little more straightforward and cohesive.
Sean: So, for an EP, Only Human is on the longer side at seven songs, almost an album. Only one of the songs has been previously released, and that's "Go On" which you put out as a single last year. I have to assume that you got a lot of positive feedback from "Go On;" it's played on the radio here locally a lot. Did that song help shape this record? Did you write "Go On" first before you had written most of the other stuff on this EP?
Liz: We actually recorded "Go On," "Martyrs," and "People, Places, Things" all at the same time. That was done last March and then we went back and I re-recorded some vocals on "People, Places, Things," but for the most part all of that stuff is original from last year.
Corey: After those first three, we wrote the other four together in like a month or two. It was pretty fast, except for "Control." "Control" took the longest.
Liz: "Under Fire" was probably the next one we wrote, and then "Control," which did take forever.
Sean: I think "Control" seems to hearken back to Daze for me more than a lot of the other stuff on the EP. Is that how you guys felt about it?
Corey: Yeah, definitely.
Liz: I like "Control" the most. I think that the one that reminds me most of Daze is "Martyrs". Just because of the strings, and because I would say it's one of the more pop-esque songs.
Sean: With "Go On," you guys put out a pretty interesting music video in conjunction with Loose Films last year. How did that video come about?
"They gave us the basic idea of it,
and then we just sort of pieced it together"
Corey: We had been talking to Loose Films, at that point, for like a year about making a music video together. They'd been really busy, and we'd been really busy. It was just a matter of figuring out what song we wanted to do and stuff like because we were originally talking about doing a video for a song off of Daze and then we started writing new material and were like "let's just roll with this." So I wanted them to come up with basic concept ideas. One of the ideas was for the music video that we made, about this guy going through this relationship issue. So they gave us the basic idea of it, and then we just sort of pieced it together. They got all the props and did all the location work and script work and all that crap.
Liz: We were onsite for the whole thing, but the idea was basically theirs, and then they have various people within the group that do the directing and the staging and they run a tight ship. They brought a videographer from New York that they're friends with, and they also hired the actors. Which we're cool with. I feel like a lot of times when we work with people, even in that kind of context, when you're doing a video or your music is going to be represented in a certain way through somebody else's idea, we are pretty much OK with allowing somebody to interpret our music the way they would like to.
Corey: It makes it a lot more fun that way.
Sean: It was just so neat because so many bands just do the standard video - themselves playing in some artistically interpreted way.
Liz: Yeah we talked about that. I feel like we just decided that we didn't want to be in it. We might do another video where we're part of it, but we kind of felt that as a first main music video this was cool.
Sean: On "Only Human," the title track from the new EP, you kind of talk a little bit philosophically about us as human beings, and what human beings are worth. Where did that come from? What were you thinking about when you wrote that? What are human beings worth as far as your expression?
"How many times do you ignore or
just not empathize with other people?"
Liz: That song, I feel, is the most politically driven thing I've written. I was thinking about a lot of stuff, like racial tensions and the idea, not just for myself as a white person who is pretty privileged, but for most white people in a similar position to myself, thinking about what your responsibility is as a human to be self-aware to the point that you feel like things for you are OK and you're grateful for the things you have. You know, you're not starving, you're not super marginalized or whatever, and then in the same way, OK, so when you get to that point, how much responsibility is on your shoulders in order to make that possible for other people. How many times do you ignore or just not empathize with other people who go through really difficult things that you'll probably never understand? And the idea that I feel like I've definitely had conversations with people, or I know of people who are much more marginalized than myself who've had many conversations, debates, and arguments about their own self-worth and how they should fit into the overall scheme of society and just like the feeling of having to fight for that just so you can live and feel like you're worth something.
So I just kind of think about that a lot, and not in the sense that I don't feel like I'm worth something, but more in the sense that I feel like I'm very privileged and I try to be aware of it. To me it's more than just saying "OK, well we should all be treated fairly" because it's just not realistic. I feel like a lot people take the back seat and just don't really like to engage in things like that because it makes them feel uncomfortable and they have to compromise on what they have. I hope that people can learn or unlearn certain behaviors to just be more sympathetic and to understand more perspectives than just their own.
Sean: You've played a few of the new songs at your shows over this last year. What are you most enjoying playing right now, and what are you most looking forward to start sharing with people once they can pull them up on Spotify and SoundCloud and everything and then come and see you?
Liz: I like playing "Control" a lot, and "Under Fire.
"It's got a good hook and lots of really loud distorted guitars
and I love loud distorted guitars"
Corey: Yeah, "Control" and "Under Fire" are really fun to play. I still really enjoy playing "Go On" even though we've been playing it for a year and a half now. "Only Human" is probably one of my favorite songs on the record and it's one of my favorite to play because I feel like it's a basic pop song, but it does have some unexpected turns. It's got a good hook and lots of really loud distorted guitars and I love loud distorted guitars. Yeah, I'm excited for people to be able to listen to it and then come out because people are hearing it now and I don't think they really understand what they're hearing.
Sean: Because even though people have heard some of these songs as you've played them live, they haven't been able to spend time with them?
Liz: The repetition. Yeah, I agree. It does make a difference.
Corey: When you're playing new material in front of people like that, there's no time for them to really analyze it. It's all just like, "Bam! Done. Next song". I think it's been well received live so far, but I think it'll be a lot better once the record is actually out.
Liz: Yeah, I would like for people to have similar reactions to the rest of the EP that they do to "Go On".
Sean: So you guys got to be the opener for the first ever CD102.5 "Trust Us" Series show back in July, where the headliner ended up being Wolf Alice, but wasn't revealed until the show sold-out. What was that like? Obviously you guys knew Wolf Alice was headlining before anybody else did. How did you feel about it?
Liz: Super excited, and super nervous.
Corey: Yeah, I was super excited. I wasn't as nervous as you were.
Liz: I was so nervous about playing the guitar.
Corey: It was Liz's first show playing guitar.
Sean: Wow, it was your first show playing guitar!?
Liz: Well, technically ComFest was like the week before. I was really nervous.
"We both are really, really big fans of Wolf Alice so, for us, it was like 'Holy shit!' . . . something that we totally did not know was going to happen"
Corey: So still a little nerve-wracking for you. We both are really, really big fans of Wolf Alice so, for us, it was like "Holy shit!" It was super, super fucking cool, something that we totally did not know was going to happen. It was really cool, they're all super cool people. I was really happy that they actually watched our whole set. I thought that was really cool because we've opened for a lot of national acts that just don't give a shit. And so I thought that was really nice of them to go out of their way to check it out.
Liz: It sounds like they followed that same model of having local openers on that club tour, once CD102.5 lined it up here as an idea. As a huge fan, I think it's cool that they would give other people that really like their music the opportunity to open for them.
Sean: Besides Wolf Alice, you guys have played with a bunch of other great national and local bands. Who have been some of your favorite bands to play shows with over the years?
Corey: The coolest national act, or international I guess, was Wolf Alice. Night Moves is pretty sweet, those are some of the nicest guys we've played with. Locally, we love playing with Playing to Vapors, we're really good friends with all of those guys. We have been playing with them for five years now and they're just a phenomenal band. The High
Definitions because they just blow people away, they're just unstoppable. You know, I feel like we really haven't been playing with a lot of local acts. We played with Mungbean in the summer and I'd never checked them out live before, and they were really awesome. Damn the Witch Siren is always fun because they're always doing crazy shit, you never really know what they're going to do.
Liz: We're going to play Thirty One Fest this coming weekend and I feel like that'll be fun because it's pretty much all our friends. (Thirty One Fest was held on 10/7 and featured more than 20 bands). I personally like playing bigger bills where it's like a two day or like the Halloween cover shows, like when we used to do Worst Kept Secret Fest when it was around, and like Playing to Vapors or High Definitions would play or whatever. Those are always the most fun because like last year we did Wolf Alice. You know it's stressful because you have to learn someone else's music, but it's just fun because it's on a holiday, it's a party, and you're basically with all your friends.
Corey: It's nice when you get to see all those people that you haven't seen in a long time because maybe some of the bands aren't playing out right now and a show like that is like "fuck it, let's get together and play some cover songs."
Sean: Also, when you go to any local band’s show in Columbus, or when there's a local band opening for a national act, it seems like you see at least five other people from other local bands. So many local musicians are so supportive of the other acts in town.
Liz: Yeah, I really appreciate that. I mean it definitely reflects in your own audience too. I've definitely heard a few bands, or people who maybe wonder about their own following, expecting something from the scene. The only way that we were able to really gain a following was by somebody taking notice of us and putting us on a bill, and putting us on in front of a bunch of people who are also in local bands, and then becoming friends with people in local bands and going to their shows and supporting them. I think that the more you do that and the more you keep up with those relationships then the more likely those people are to return the favor and support you. And also not overcrowding the market because if you play too many shows then no one has the time or money to do that.
Sean: You've got the EP release show coming up the end of this month (Saturday, October 21st at Ace of Cups). Do you have many other touring dates set up for this year and are you guys going to be doing any other Columbus shows before the end of the year?
"We definitely want to push it here,
but really work harder on pushing it elsewhere"
Liz: We have a few tour dates booked before the release show, and a few after it. The first tour is going to Toledo, then two shows in Michigan, and then a record store in Chicago. The second tour is two shows in Virginia, one in Philly, and one in Asbury Park, NJ. We don't have anything else booked right now in Columbus because we're trying to figure out we're doing for the winter. Then we would like to set something up for touring in the spring. But the EP release show is definitely the biggest thing, and then we definitely want to push it here, but really work harder on pushing it elsewhere. Like a regional push in a more reasonable time-frame because we just didn't do that as much with Daze because we we're just still kind of figuring out how to be a productive band. And I think it was at that point that we were like we really need to take hold of the scene here, and really try to grow here as much as we can. And now we've finally gotten to the point where I think it's reasonable for us to try to put together more extensive tours where we're really venturing out and developing a broader audience.
Corey: Yeah, I agree. That's exactly what I think we should be doing. We can't play here as often anymore. We just need to start playing other places and start building up that audience elsewhere.
Liz: Well, I guess we are playing a more stripped down thing at Brothers Drake in November, and I'm sure we will book stuff where it's just Corey and I doing stuff like that. That's less demanding to me than booking like a three band full show. Just because I feel like for our audience it's important that we try to vary it up a lot so that it's not just one kind of show. At the release show we'll have a few strings players with us which will be a cool new thing that we're trying out for this show.
Sean: Like when you open for The Greeting Committee and it was the more stripped down thing?
Liz: Yes. So we'll do that from time to time, I guess. I guess we should probably think about that more in the context of what it appears like for our band, but we haven't taken the time to do that yet. We definitely just do that, also, to make a living.
Sean: So, I guess the last thing I have is what music are you listening to right now?
Corey: Well, the first record that I'm going to name is Wolf Alice's new record (Visions Of A Life). It's something that the first half is all of the singles they released and the second half is just this very strange turn that I did not see coming.
Liz: You think it's strange - it's good!
Corey: She really likes it a lot, I'm still getting into it. Some of it I really like, and some of it I'm still unsure about. I think it's a super solid record overall regardless, but I'm still trying to pick it apart, listen to it in different settings and take it in right now.
Liz: Queens Of The Stone Age.
Corey: Yeah, the new Queens Of The Stone Age record (Villains). My other favorite band. I'm highly obsessed with that record right now.
Liz: We were just listening to Belle Mare which is a New York based kind of duo. I think the main people are a duo and then they work as a four piece. And they're more like electronic dream pop.
Corey: Yeah, they're super cool. The record is called Heaven Forgot. She has another heavier band that's called Grim Streaker that's like trashy punk. It's pretty interesting, they're doing stuff that no one else is doing right now.
Liz: And it's like polar opposite from Belle Mare. It's crazy.
Corey: I've been listening to the new Fleet Foxes record quite a bit. NPR Fresh Air. The new Maybird EP (Unraveling). Those are guys that we really loved opening for.
Sean: Yes, "To the Stars" from that EP is definitely up there on my songs of the year.
Corey: They are super awesome dudes. I really look forward to playing with them again. I think they were trying some new stuff on that record too. I've been listening to The Drums' new record, Abysmal Thoughts. That's more like alternative electronic stuff too. I think the dude's just like a genius for what he's doing. This band Big Thief, she just played at Ace of Cups. I've just gotten into her, but it's a super super good record, killer songwriter, lyrics are mind blowing. It's just amazing. Nine Inch Nails. Fucking awesome.
Sean: The new EPs?
Liz: Yeah, we just saw them.
Sean: That's right, tell me about Riot Fest because I'm super jealous that you guys were there.
"We got great spots for both nights because, you know, we had to"
Liz: Well, we got great spots for both nights because, you know, we had to. Built to Spill was there, but they were just there as a three piece which was weird but cool.
Corey: They're usually a five piece, but it still worked really well. Saw a little bit of Dinosaur Jr. and they were really good. We saw some of Peaches.
Liz: That was crazy.
Corey: You know I'm not a fan of her music. I'm going to say the most interesting thing was her dancers were completely naked, spraying champagne on people, and I was just like "didn't expect that, but cool.”
Liz: I mean yeah, do that. They were crazy.
Corey: Nine Inch Nails and Queens Of The Stone Age. That was our second time that week seeing Queens Of The Stone Age and they played two different sets. That was phenomenal. Nine Inch Nails is one of the best bands I've ever seen live. It was a killer weekend.
Only Human is currently available, in both
digital and vinyl formats, here, with 20% of vinyl sales benefiting
the Hispanic Federation and their work in Puerto Rico.
Find more about The Cordial Sins on their website,
and follow their music on Souncloud and Spotify.