“This band’s been going four months,” says Cardinal Black’s Chris Buck, “or ten years, depending how you look at it.” Indeed, this hot Welsh quartet seemed to appear out of the blue and fully formed back in May with the single Tell Me How It Feels.
Featuring the rich, powerful voice of Tom Hollister and a kick-ass, all-the-feels solo from modern-day guitar hero Buck, this cool, soul-soaked slice of mid-tempo rock reached the top of the iTunes rock chart. But, as Buck says, this ‘overnight success’ was a decade in the making.
He, Hollister and drummer Adam Roberts were once the Tom Hollister Trio – a hotly tipped band looked after by Guns N’ Roses’ former manager Alan Niven – with label deals on the table back when that meant something. But singer and reluctant bassist Hollister felt stifled by the trio format, the bass hanging heavy on him, compromising his vocal performance.
Buck, then 19, was the breakout star, a guitarist in the SRV/Clapton mould whose individual acclaim overshadowed that of the band. They split in 2011, acrimoniously at first, but stayed mates, and have jammed together regularly ever since.
“We were young,” says Buck (he’s 30 now), “and we’ve all been around the sun a few more times since then. The trio didn’t ramp down or come to any natural conclusion, so it always felt like unfinished business.”
In the ensuing years, Hollister pursued a solo career, and Buck’s reputation evolved worldwide through his growing YouTube presence and his work with Buck And Evans, the group he co-founded with singer/ pianist Sally Ann Evans. That band were coming off a set of dates in early 2020 when the pandemic put the hand brake on the world.
With lockdown to fill, Buck, Hollister and Roberts reconnected over the material still in their locker and, with the crucial addition of talented bassist Sam Williams Cardinal Black was born.
“We got back together to rehash the old stuff,” Buck says, “but inevitably the creative juices flowed, and before we knew it we’d written six new songs.”
They kept the project low-key, so when that first single came out it was an out-of-nothing surprise. Buck knew that if Cardinal Black could interest even a fraction of his 137,000 YouTube subscribers, then they’d cut through.
On its first day of release their self-titled EP hit No.1 on the iTunes rock chart and No.8 in the albums chart. Their debut album proper is pencilled for early ’22.
“We had a meeting over a pint,” says Buck, “and decided to establish ourselves with an EP then release something more fully fledged later. As things stand it would be folly for a new band to release a new album.
"It’d be a massive shame if a record ten years in the making got lost. We’ve released a couple of tunes people have enjoyed, but the best is yet to come.”
The Cardinal Black EP is available from the band's website (opens in new tab).