CORRECT BILLING for Ryan Adams and his band the Cardinals has been a point of dispute since Follow the Lights came out last year. Although Adams and crew announced they were working on a follow-up, no real information ever surfaced, and it became apparent that the group was moving toward just being called the Cardinals, as their website and MySpace page now called them. According to guitarist Neal Casal, who has been playing with the band since 2005, the album, Cardinology, will finally see the light of day at the end of October. As for the name, nothing is official yet.
"I think it's slowly morphing into just the Cardinals, but there's still a little of Ryan Adams and the Cardinals attached to it," Casal explains via phone. "We're easing people into this concept now. Ryan has a really strong following, and it's very hard for them to let go. They feel like they're losing something. As a band, we're trying to convince them that they're not losing anything; they're actually gaining a lot. They're still retaining all the great songs he writes and his personality; they're just gaining a broader experience of a great band as well. With this new record, we're keeping the great songs but establishing the Cardinals as one of the very best bands in the country."
Although the volatile Adams is still the primary songwriter for the Cardinals, Casal says the songs embody the sensibility of the entire band, particularly on the new album, which was recorded live in the studio over the course of a month this summer, achieving what Casal calls a "band-sounding record."
"With a writer as great as Ryan, it's really not hard to get behind those songs," says Casal.
"The feelings in his songs are something I think everybody can relate to. It certainly connects with me as a fan and as a friend of his." The band has already played some of the new songs live, most recently when it opened for Oasis around the U.S. and Canada. It might seem like going from playing gigs with Oasis to headlining a tour would need some preparation or revamping of the set list, but Casal says the only difference is the length of the Cardinals' set, noting that the band usually plays for two-and-a-half to three-and-a-half hours a night.
"We don't alter what we do too much for any particular setting," he says. "We just do what we do and bring that wherever we happen to go. We take that attitude rather than trying to tailor our show or overthink it. We have a very strong identity as a band now, so we don't really have to change for anyone else. We let them come to us. We have a lot of songs, and we like to play them every night. It can sometimes be a little bit of an endurance test for the audience members, but we believe if you hang in there long enough, you'll be greatly rewarded."
Playing such lengthy, energized shows might seem like the kind of thing you need to be in really good shape to pull off night after night, but apparently the Cardinals have their own ways of generating that kind of endurance.
"We don't go to the gym and work out to be able to do that," Casal says with a laugh. "It more consists of eating Cheez-Its and smoking as many cigarettes as possible. It feels like that gets us in better shape than anything else. We all had personal trainers for a few minutes, but it just didn't seem to work better than a six-pack from the Krispy Kreme and a pack of Marlboro Reds. That's what makes us feel good."