A Conversation with The Cardboard Swords
The Cardboard Swords are a self-described emo/pop band from Grand Rapids, Michigan. They’re the type of band that catches your attention on the first listen. Rather than incorporating melodramatic and lengthy verses or punchy, shouty choruses, the band writes songs that have folky, singer/songwriter storylines and guitar riffs with indie rock elements piled into the drums. Yet, they still maintain that heart on your sleeve attitude within the lyrics and vocals that most are fond of in any emo band. I’ve had the chance to get to know most of the guys through playing shows together, so I figured I’d sit down and get an interview out of them.
Q. I’ll get straight to the point here. Your self-titled debut LP made it onto my AOTY list. There was a great mix of some older songs being revisited as well as some new ones that were instant favorites for me. What was the recording process for the LP like? What was the reasoning behind mixing the old with the new instead of coming out with an album of entirely new songs?
Ty: We went to record an EP at Creep Recording Studio in Philadelphia. Aric Victor told us we weren’t paying for recording and encouraged us to record everything we had. The Remnants EP was recorded in a living room and our practice space. Aric and Tyler Pursel knew they could make it sound better. They wanted the chance to record our older stuff in a more polished and professional way. Keith heard it and we ended up buying it from Creep Records to release with Count Your Lucky Stars. The Creep Crew has done a lot for us. We love that we still see them and play at their shop every time we go to Philly.
Q. Your song, “Flannel,” seems to be one of those songs that hits hardest for a lot of people. The lyrics are really personal and there’s a lengthy spoken word break halfway through that brings up specific names of people, streets, and businesses in Grand Rapids. What was it like performing that for the first time? Has it changed since?
Ty: To be honest, I can’t remember the first time I performed it. I don’t think it has changed much, but I may have a skewed perception. It is nerve-racking to go out on a limb like that without the band in a live setting, but we usually get a nice response from it so it’s worth getting a little anxious over the vulnerable nature of the song .
Q. You write about Grand Rapids a lot. What’s the music scene like there right now? It’s been a minute since La Dispute had their breakout from the area. What bands should music fans be checking out?
Jeremy: The scene in GR is great. We’re in a weird transitional period with DIY venues, but we’ll pull through like we always do. The Pyramid Scheme is always bringing in great talent and bigger shows. Some killer GR bands are Oliver Houston, Bong Mountain, Running Shoes, and Ghost Orchard.
Q. What’s the best city to play in outside of Michigan and why?
Jeremy: I really like Chicago. When I play there it makes me feel like I’m doing something right. I could pass on the parking, though.
Q. Count Your Lucky Stars Records picked you up back in 2015. What’s it been like going from doing everything on your own to having the support of a label that’s got a pretty dedicated fan base of its own?
Ty: Being on CYLS has been cool. They have put out some bands we really respect and admire so it was definitely surreal seeing our name on the roster. It has made booking ourselves a lot easier. We don’t have an agent, but having them as a label helps with DIY booking a lot.
Q. You don’t exactly fit the sound I’ve heard from other artists on CYLS. There’s definitely more of a pop influence in your songs, but you still capture the “heart on your sleeve” attitude that is found in emo music; I feel like that’s what makes you stand out from other bands on the label. I know you had wanted to be on CYLS for a while before actually signing, but did you ever feel like it might not have been the right fit?
Ty: I definitely see what you mean, but it never dawned on me like that. Keith and I have known each other for a while, so it always felt like it would be a great fit.
Q. What do you guys have coming up in the next year or so?
Jeremy: We’re going to be doing more touring and continue writing our next album. We actually just announced our European tour. I’m unbelievably stoked, it’s something I’ve wanted to do for as long as I’ve been in a band. We’ll also be announcing another US tour sometime soon.
The band recently announced a two-week tour that runs through the Midwest, Northeast, and Canada. They will also be performing with Empire! Empire! (I was a lonely estate) for their last show at the Flint Local 432 in Flint, Michigan on May 7th.
Connect with The Cardboard Swords: Facebook | Twitter | Website