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The Welsh band with the best new guitarist in the world who knocked Noel Gallagher off the top of the charts

16 May 2021 8 minute read
Cardinal Black

David Owens

The Welsh band with the best new guitarist in the world who knocked Noel Gallagher off the top of the charts

Reform after more than 10 years away – check.
Release your comeback single – check.
Enter a chart battle with Noel Gallagher – check.
Beat said Oasis star to number one – check.

On any level and by any stretch of the imagination Welsh band Cardinal Black have had a good week making a sizeable imprint with the track ‘Tell Me How It Feels’

Launching the band on Friday evening, by Sunday afternoon, their first single had topped the iTunes rock chart, after a brief tussle with Noel Gallagher and Texas.

“Funnily enough, we were all together to watch it unfold. We were recording a live session at a studio in East London the day after the track’s release, so the majority of the journey up was spent refreshing our phones to see if it’d moved position! By the time we were ready to start recording, it’d reached number 5 (it was 87 when we’d set off from home!) which then meant the bulk of the session was also spent surreptitiously refreshing our phones! It was all a little surreal, especially in the context of the last year.


It was an especial thrill for the outfit – Tom Hollister (vocals), Chris Buck (guitar), Sam Williams – (bass and Adam Roberts (drums), who are all big Oasis fans.

“I don’t think it’s possible to have grown up in the ‘90s and not have been influenced by Oasis in some shape or form,” says Tom. “His track record as a songwriter and consummate rockstar is impeccable.

“It’s nice to think he spent his Saturday watching the rock charts as well but something tells me that may be a forlorn hope.”

This unexpected feat bodes well for the group, however what it means in the long run for them, is of course open to debate.

“It’s too soon to tell,” says Tom. “It’s undoubtedly made people sit up and take notice but it’ll be interesting to see the extent of the fallout in the coming weeks.

“Topping the rock charts is uncharted territory for all of us but we’re not likely to get too excited by it. Bands that get swept up in the excitement of one track making a big splash rarely survive to tell the tale and the pandemic gave us a chance to make sure all our ducks were in a row before we unveiled the band to the world.

This week’s chart placings

“Tell Me How It Feels’ success proves that it’s entirely possible to make your mark on your own terms which puts us in a strong position going forward.”

This is a second chance for the personnel of Cardinal Black, who in a previous incarnation 10 years ago, were courted by some of the biggest names in the industry.

“The band actually started life as Tom’s final year undergraduate project, the aim of which was to record and manufacture a short EP, culminating in a release show,” explains Chris. “We all had a few mutual friends in common and in one way or another, fell into each other’s orbit but initially, there were no plans to continue the band beyond that one-off release show.

“Such was the enthusiasm of youth that we had what seemed like millions of copies of the E.P. made, which coupled with rock legend Steve Winwood showing up at the show and inviting us to record at his studio, was all the encouragement that we needed to keep going.

“One thing led to another and before long, we were playing pretty sizeable festivals and recording in the U.S. with ex-Guns N’ Roses manager Alan Niven at the helm. It was a fairly short but extremely wild ride.”

Tell Me How it Feels artwork

However, it didn’t last. A new country, a new industry, homesickness, expectation and the classic creative differences led to the deterioration and erosion of the band’s momentum, eventually leading to singer Tom Hollister calling time on the band and coming back to the UK.

“In hindsight, the first iteration of the band was a classic case of ‘too much too soon’,” says Chris. “So much attention and relative success in a short space of time gives you a false sense of progression – anyone that achieves longevity in this industry rarely does so overnight – and we won’t be the last to have got caught up in the moment.

“10 years on, we’re all a little older, wiser – hopefully – and have a better perception of what it means to be in a band, while still retaining that enthusiasm to just get in a room and make music for the hell of it. It just felt like the timing was right.”

The band’s rapid fire success has no doubt been aided by guitarist Chris, who in 2019 was voted Best New Guitarist in the World by Total Guitar magazine.

Since then his glowing reputation has seen him make waves on the world stage, although he remains modest not only about the title afforded him but the progress it has brought for his career as a guitarist of preternatural talent.

“As clichéd as it sounds, I really try not to pay too much attention to stuff like that,” he says. “For every magazine or music publication that’s kind enough to put you on a pedestal, there’s a 1000 people waiting to throw stones at you to knock you off. It’s the nature of the beast. At the same time, it’d be naive to think that it hasn’t had a positive impact on my career. Anything in this industry that helps you get through doors that may have otherwise remained locked isn’t to be sniffed at. At the same time, I don’t have a tattoo of it. At least nowhere prominent.”

“I’ve been very fortunate to do so much work all over the world with the likes of Fender and Yamaha,” he adds. “Being entrusted to be a responsible representative of some of the biggest guitar companies in the world is as exciting as it is daunting.”

The initial success of Cardinal Black will be music to the ears of bass player Sam Williams, who has his own very personal story to tell. Making his name with the excellent Merthyr outfit The Moon Birds, he’s the newest member of the group, someone who has been through a lot in recent times, having battled cancer.

Now with the all clear, he’s relishing the future.“Health-wise, I’m all good,” he says. “I’m still under the amazing care of Velindre Cancer Centre, but only for routine checkups. I have regular blood tests and scans and thankfully everything is fine. There’s no sign of the cancer coming back so we’ll take that as a victory. The people in Velindre are miracle workers.

“In terms of my approach to life, it’s quite difficult to avoid the usual clichés. The cancer was a little whisper in the ear that we aren’t here forever. It’s easy to spend all your time and effort on things you think you should care about. However, after nursing a chemo-hangover for a few weeks, I soon got a sense of what is important in life and what isn’t. After all, we don’t really know how long we’ve got to enjoy it all, so you may as well take all the chances you can.”

Now he’s determined to make the most of the opportunity handed him with Cardinal Black.

“After some time out, I made a vow to take any opportunity that sounded cool that came my way,” he says. “That’s exactly what happened with Cardinal Black. I had a phone call out of the blue, a date pencilled in the diary and a year later we found ourselves in the singles charts sandwiched between Rag’n’Bone Man, Texas and Ava Max – what a place to be.

“Knocking Noel G off the top spot in the rock charts was almost silly. I was honestly waiting for someone to say they had edited the screenshot, but no-one owned up. Even after seeing it with my own eyes, it took a long time to sink in. It’s been an incredible journey so far, and long may it continue – and it all started by saying “Aye, go on then!”

Cardinal Black will be releasing their second single very soon, followed by an E.P, with a view to a full length record toward the end of the year/start of 2022. As they point out: “The good thing about having a decade of history is that we’ve also got a decade’s worth of songs to call upon. We’re not going anywhere. Not until lockdown’s lifted, anyway.”

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Paul Hoskins
Paul Hoskins
3 years ago

Great track! I seem to recollect a shoe polish called ‘Cardinal Black’. Or maybe not.

3 years ago
Reply to  Paul Hoskins

It’s a bit of a silly name isn’t it? Hey what can we call ourselves, it’s gotta have two words in the title etc?

Phil Doyle
3 years ago

Brilliant music played live. The greatest band to never really achieve what they should was the Alarm. Best group I’ve ever seen live and on many occasions. Keep it up boys: destiny’s calling !

Dan Smith
Dan Smith
3 years ago

Superb track. That guitar solo is something else.

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