While Canada was celebrating its 150th Anniversary on Canada Day last month, Toronto band Cardinal Street was celebrating the release of its first full-length album, Ride On.
Bassist PJ Gowan is excited to talk about the new album, Cardinal Street and more – evident during a recent phone interview with Music Life Magazine. Forming in 2012 Cardinal Street also features singer Frank Catney, lead guitarist Andrew Hartl, and PJ’s cousin and drummer Dylan Gowan.
Music has always been a part of PJ’s life. His father, Pat Gowan, is a guitarist who currently plays with Carl Dixon (Coney Hatch, The Guess Who, April Wine). Pat is also the brother of Larry Gowan, best known as a Canadian solo artist with such hits as Strange Animal and Criminal Mind and has been a member of the classic rock band Styx since 1999. Dylan is the son of Larry Gowan.
“I’ve always had an interest in (music) and it was about maybe 13 years ago when I started playing it for myself, but I was always interested in it before that,” explains PJ. “I think to a certain degree, as a little kid, you might try not be interested in it just because everyone else is but then eventually the genetics win out and you give in to the power of music. There has been no bigger influence on what we are doing than what my uncle does.”
Ride On contains 14 tracks and covers a widespread of genres – acoustic ballads, country, rock and everything in between. PJ says he wants to keep a sound that people will recognize as a Cardinal Street sound.
“When a band like the Beatles had maybe 20 different styles of music they were doing people would just say, ‘Whoa, sounds like a Beatles song!’ Hopefully that translates to us as well. People will say, ”Oh, it’s that Cardinal Street sound!”
The band wasn’t happy with the initial mix of Ride On so they enlisted Carl Dixon to mix the album and co-produce it with PJ, a task PJ originally took on himself.
“It was quite the big task I took on as my first release and it was really great to have some outside input.”
Dixon had originally mixed one song for Ride On, Dreamin’ ’bout You – a really great Beach Boys kind of style ballad – which really stood out to the band.
“We asked him, ‘Would you mind mixing the whole thing?’ and he said, ‘Sure, it’s going to take a while’ and we went back to square one. A lot of the vocals and guitar parts and even bass parts were redone on his suggestion.”
Cardinal Street is much happier with the final mix of Ride On which took about two years from start to finish. Ride On contains songs PJ and Frank wrote dating back to 2012 when the band first started plus songs they wrote a month or so before recording them.
“It was just under two years it took us to do the whole thing of recording and once Carl mixed it, it took about 6 months from then to when it was finally released,”
When asked if he has any favourite songs off the album PJ responds that he likes Calls My Name.
“That is the one a lot of people are saying gets them which is great because it’s not your typical rock song. It is more of a country ballad and it’s based on a feeling. It was based on a story I read about. Not to get too history nerd on it but there is a story I read about Lady Jane Gray who was some sort of royalty in England in Medieval times. Her and her husband were both on trial, it was written from the point of view of her husband when they were in jail.”
When yours truly told PJ that Rain Drop City is a song which stands out for me, he was excited to know how much I liked it.
“Rain Drop City is the one song that I did the lead vocals on for the album and that also goes over really well in shows. It’s not your typical full-out, distorted guitar rock song. It’s almost like a folk rock but it’s pretty rockin’. That’s great, you pointed it out. That is one of the songs that was written at the very beginning of the band. It went through some tremendous changes before recording it. A few verses were cut out, it was originally a five-minute song. The tempo was increased and the key was changed before recording it and I really think it was a good thing that we had five years of playing it before we recorded it because it’s much better than it started out as.
While writing songs for Ride On, Frank and PJ, along with Andrew and Dylan, have already written songs for the next album.
“We have probably 25 songs we have to cut down for the next album so I guess there’s 14 again. They are better songs than Ride On. There are two in particular that I wrote, one is called Now Dance and one is called Star Dust. And I think those are probably the two best songs I have ever written and Frank would agree. The really cool thing about the new writing is that there is now co-writing going on with our guitar player and drummer – they are now involved in writing some of the songs and it makes me feel good that they are part of the creative process and not just trying to work out parts for songs someone else wrote.”
When asked about touring for Ride On, PJ responds, ” We have hit several of the major mid- level music festivals this summer. We did Sturgeon Falls Rock and Ribs, Belleville Waterfront & Ethnic Festival and Haliburton’s Music in the Park. Those all went over great. Our social media interaction from new fans and fans that have never seen us before because they lived in those areas which was really good. We did the Barrie Downtown Countdown on New Years. We hope to continue in that way. We do not do the all night bar thing anymore because that was not working well for original music. What we are doing, these festival type gigs, are really working well. We were supposed to have a show opening for Heart this summer but then Heart dismantled and did not go out this summer so maybe that same venue or festival or whatever it is will be able to put something together for us next year, another act like that.”
As far as going overseas, PJ isn’t sure yet, even though there is interest in the UK. Unsure exactly how it happened, Cardinal Street had two singles chart in the UK from an EP they released in 2015.
“They wanted us to come play as part of their festival but it was just before we even had Ride On out. It just was not realistic at the time for us to go there, but I definitely understand people there liking us, we have a sound that probably lends to the traditional English rock sound that we’ve been influenced by. We would love to go there. There is nothing planned as of now but with Ride On just recently released, depends on who picks it up. Yes, how did that chart pick it up? I don’t know how that chart started playing our songs. It was the independent radio stations there that picked it up. I guess they pulled it off of iTunes or something like that. Two songs, I Don’t Have Time was number one on it and Hey Ya went to number two on that chart.”
Ride On is currently available at Sunrise Records locations in Ontario or can be picked up at any Cardinal Street show or on the band’s website.
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