Featuring: Bright Red Cardinal, The Keating Steps, Tall & Flightless
By Kate Delaney
As a student musician who constantly attends concerts on campus, I’m often astounded by the sheer amount of talent my fellow musicians possess. My area of expertise lies in the University Choir, however, so I’ve never gotten to get too into what some call the Fordham music scene. The Battle of the Bands last weekend inspired me, though, and I decided to take advantage of my friends in Bright Red Cardinal, The Keating Steps, and Tall & Flightless, to ask them about their experiences as newly formed bands at Fordham.
Bright Red Cardinal was formed out of the Fordham Experimental Theater musical, Take Your Base, and consists of cast members Elle Crane (vocals), Connor McCausland (vocals, guitar), Michael McCarville (guitar), and pit band members AJ Golio (banjo), Devon Sheridan (bass), and James Murtagh (mandolin, guitar, vocals).
The vibe that really stuck out to me after talking to Bright Red Cardinal was an appreciation for performance and genuinely connection with the audience, as well as each other. “We all have comedic or stage performing experience,” Golio told me. “We have backgrounds in stand-up and improv comedy, and that just adds a whole other level to the live show,” added Murtagh, referring to the band’s heavy involvement in FET, as well as Take Your Base.
This familiarity with an audience is made clear through the banter that the guys have developed during their live shows. And the back and forth doesn’t stop after the show: “Collaborative, I guess, would be the right word,” said bassist Sheridan, when comparing his experience with Bright Red Cardinal to his high school band. Crane, the group’s female vocalist, had a similar experience: “I was the leader singer and only girl in band before in high school, but I had no say, at all. Where as with our band, everyone’s on the same level, collaborative. We love each other.”
Does the band have any future plans? “We don’t think too huge,” replied Murtagh, “other than the amount of members. We’re pretty small scale.” When pressed, he admitted that being signed to Cold Creek Records or a similar label could be a far-off goal. In the near future, however, we can look forward to the band’s first EP, Kuckaine Hands, in a couple weeks.
When asked about collaborating with other bands, Bright Red Cardinal immediately affirmed my question, stating their plans to work with The Keating Steps, another folk band on campus. The Keating Steps evolved not from the Blackbox, but right next door at the University Church. The band’s original members, Dan Stracquadanio (mandolin), Mike Sansevere (banjo), Mike Prate (drums, vocals), and TJ Acala (guitar) are all active in Campus Ministry’s weekly Praise & Worship sessions, and invited some friends to form a band with them after playing in the Praise & Worship band. The current lineup includes Greg Stelzer (guitar), Ian Grotton (upright bass), Delia Grizzard (cello), and Ava Gagliardi (vocals), but, according to the band, is susceptible to change at any time.
The Keating Steps, known for practicing on their namesake steps in nice weather, have already responded positively to Bright Red Cardinal’s offer. “We see them as a friendly face in the crowd of the bands at Fordham, they’re very similar to us, and a very good group of guys (and girl),” said Stracquadanio.
At the forefront of the band’s collective consciousness is the impending graduation of two members, so future plans are somewhat in limbo. The Steps don’t seem too concerned, though. “We’re obviously going to stay together. We do covers, anyways, so we’re probably going to keep jamming, and then whatever happens, happens,” said Sansevere. Along with covers, the band is working on a couple original songs, mostly written by guitarist Stelzer.
But in the end, the Steps are just enjoying playing great music with their closest friends, with incredible results. As Stracquadanio put it: “At the core of it, we’re just friends that play songs we like, and then we started playing them in front of other people, so that’s never going to change. We’re always going to be on the steps.”
Or as Sansevere succinctly put it, “I live the step life.”
The Keating Steps’ cellist, Delia Grizzard, is also a member of Tall & Flightless, along with Ben Kopon (guitar, keyboard, vocals), Matt Hurley (bass, vocals), Oliver Beardsley (drums), and Quinn McGovern (vocals, guitar, keyboard, synth). The band emerged from Rodrigue’s as a total accident: “Ben kept asking me to jam, and I kept saying no, and one day I buckled and said ‘Alright,’ and it was really, really fun,” said McGovern. So much fun, in fact, that the band has played multiple shows both on and off campus, and will be releasing some new tracks on their bandcamp in upcoming weeks.
Having Rodrigue’s to practice in has been relatively convenient for Tall & Flightless, but its primary function as a public place has posed problems. “The biggest priority for us is always going to practicing, and because we have so much equipment, there’s always an issue of where we can practice,” McGovern told me, a problem which all the bands I interviewed expressed to me. There have been talks of turning the Blackbox into an on-campus venue when it’s not occupied by FET or affiliated umbrella groups, but nothing is concrete yet, nor does the Blackbox provide a practice space – merely a venue for performance.
The common thread between the three bands is a desire to increase the music community at Fordham. “Just to get more people involved with the Fordham music scene is definitely a goal of our band, and a couple other bands on campus. It makes a good community feel,” said Sheridan of Bright Red Cardinal. McGovern, of Tall & Flightless, was of a similar mind: “I love playing every kind of music. Whenever I collaborate with other people, it’s a one or two time thing, which is disappointing, because I always want to do more of that.” With such willingness to collaborate, we should be hearing many more great things from these Fordham bands in the future.