Photo courtesy of Cardigan Strike Attack.
Their collection of music may be small, but Cardigan Strike Attack is so good, it only takes one hit to get on a sonic high. The Ohio-based collective of indie rockers has known each other since grade school, but came together just six months ago to start a band because they thought, well, why not? Something clicked and their work explains the rest. So far, they’ve released MYP, a two-track EP – it’s loud, garage-tinged, free-falling rock n’ roll – and have quickly built a following in their hometown of Toledo, after playing stages around the city.
For Cardigan Strike Attack then, it’s merely a matter of time.
BTR talked to the trio to get a proper introduction, and learn more about their ‘90s influence, non-negotiables and fascination with button-up sweaters.
BTR: Give me a general idea of the band and your motto.
MATT: The band is me (Matt) on Guitar, John on Bass and Vocals, and Tom on the Drums. I write most of the songs, and John writes all the lyrics. We don’t have a true “motto” per se, but I think if we had to pick one, it could be a lyric from our song “Better Then You” (which is the B-Side on our new single), “You’ll Only Be Young For Awhile.” To me, that sums up the band pretty well, because we are just trying to bring back the fun days of our youth.
JOHN: One of our band mottos is “Let’s just do it, guys,” but my personal motto is “Turn it up!”
TOM: “If you shoot for the stars and hit the moon, it’s OK. But you’ve got to shoot for something. A lot of people don’t even shoot.” or Carpe Diem.
BTR: What is it about cardigans that you find creatively stimulating?
JOHN: They’re warm, and most of all they’re versatile, a lot like our music. It’s hard to fold up a cardigan, and it’s hard to fold us up into a genre like “rock” or “indie”.
TOM: Kurt Cobain used to wear them when he was alive. I really like Nirvana.
MATT: Well honestly, the name was originally developed by a guy who is no longer in the band… It would have been difficult to change it because we had already built up a decent following around town, and didn’t want to start from scratch.
BTR: How might someone defend themselves in the case of an attack?
JOHN: We think of ourselves as benevolent attackers, but in all seriousness, if someone’s at serious risk of injury, or our music is in any way damaging or harmful to someone, we always have a first aid kit nearby. Thomas took a few first aid courses back when he lifeguarded.
TOM: I lifeguarded a at a summer camp an hour outside of Toledo. It was cool because we didn’t have to do all the CIT shit. All we had to do was watch these kids during the day and then we could get high/fucked up at night. It was awesome.
MATT: I’m not sure they can! Haha, just kidding.
BTR: Why do you think ’90s music is a good starting point for your sound?
JOHN: Because the ‘90s were all about managing happiness, you know? Like, people were generally content – at least in Toledo – and they were sort of at a loss as to how to express that in a meaningful way. So we take that Clinton-era attitude, and inject it with some Bush/Obama-era flavors.
TOM: The ‘90s were an egalitarian cultural free-for-all – maybe the first truly post-modern decade. People understood the futility of trying to create new stuff and started grabbing from our rich pop history to make art and music. You have hip-hop coming out of it’ golden age and into general public consciousness – a musical form that is inherently about re-appropriation, and recycling aka sampling. Fashion was obsessed with the ‘70s and ‘60s. Sorry for getting too heady…
MATT: We all grew up in the 90’s, so we just wanted to play that style of music to evoke those fun, innocent times. So much music these days sounds so over-processed, and especially in the Toledo music scene, all the bands are trying to “make it” by playing very “fashionable” styles (such as jam band music and screamo), and they take it very seriously. We just decided to try and have more fun with our sound, playing the kind of music we love. We’re not actually trying to strike it big (but if we did, it would be awesome!!), but at least we all have a good time!
BTR: Do you have any non-negotiables when it comes to music?
JOHN: We like to keep a balance between art and craft. Don’t want to get too technically involved nor too artistic. Just trying to stay fly on the median.
TOM: Yeah, I think that makes sense. We like the universality of simple pop forms. Serious deviations are a self-indulgent ego-realizing waste of time.
MATT: Well we’re still a young band (only been around for about six months) so we’re constantly evolving into our sound. I wouldn’t want to rule anything out in terms of influences we might find later on. But I have to say that I feel like we’re starting to settle into a nice groove with the sound we’ve got going, and we’re building the Cardigan Strike Attack “brand.” I definitely wouldn’t want to lose that. The core of our sound is 90’s alternative and indie rock, that’s becoming our signature. I guess that’s non-negotiable.
BTR: What was the first song you made as a group?
JOHN: Can’t remember. I think it was “Strike Force 9?” Or something stupid like that. Just goofin’ off, really.
MATT: I can’t even remember. “Strike Force 9” sounds about right. We were all jamming a lot together before we officially became a “band,” so we had a lot of “song ideas” before we even had a name…. Actually, this is the third band we’ve all been in together…The first band we were in was this crazy eight-piece ska band. That was our freshman year. We just got together everyone we knew who played any instruments, plus a bunch of kids from marching band to round out the Horns section…In college (we all went to UT), we had a sort of Heavy Rock/Reggae hybrid band (think Rage Against the Machine meets 311) with a few other guys that actually did pretty well. We played at some of the big venues in town (Headliners, Frankie’s, Mickey Finns, Vamps, even Club Bijou). But we had some creative differences with those other guys, and the whole thing got very tense and stopped being fun. So we quit. Now we’ve got Cardigan Strike Attack, and it feels great to be back and in a band that is so chill and fun.
BTR: What’s a Cardigan Strike Attack fan like?
JOHN: Mostly chill.
TOM: Sometimes not chill.
MATT: Definitely chill! I would also say that, so far, we have been attracting a bit more of an “alternative” crowd from the other bands we’ve been in.
BTR: What can we expect from you guys this year?
JOHN: Another EP. MYP is a collective piece of our hearts and we want to keep that love flowin’.
MATT: Well, we have the first single out. After that we plan to do another EP, and maybe we’ll do a small tour after that. Right now, we’re kind of taking a break from shows so we can write new songs. We’re also considering doing a cover album of some of our favorite songs, but that would just be for fun.
BTR: Your EP is based around the theme of love, correct? What’s your personal outlook on love and romance?
JOHN: Love and romance are important to us. We always get together to talk about it before we play, just to get the energy out in the open and kind of translate the stuff that’s goin’ on inside into something everyone can hear. I like how love and romance are such personal and private matters, but I’m also interested in sharing those feelings with the world to sort of announce my version of love and romance as a kind of assertive act of self-expression. It’s important for my vitals.
TOM: I think that love and romance are important. Sometimes too important. You know what I’m saying?
MATT: Well, John is the one to answer this question, since he writes the lyrics…But I would say that love and romance are very important, especially as lyrical themes. Usually the lyrics are the first thing a person responds to when they hear a really great song.
BTR: Who are some artists that inspired you to be a musician?
JOHN: Definitely Rob Thomas, Janeane Garofalo, Bill Bellamy.
TOM: Little Wing, Medicine, anything on Fat Wreck
MATT: All the bands that inspired me to pick up the guitar at age 12 were those great ‘90s bands we’re trying to emulate now — No Doubt, Weezer, RATM, Save Ferris, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, etc. Lately, my inspirations for Cardigan Strike Attack have been more indie stuff like Superchunk, The Tragically Hip, The Pixies, and Black Tambourines. Who I just found out about from Tom the other day, they are AWESOME!
For more with Cardigan Strike Attack, check out their latest single, “MYP”, on their SoundCloud account.