Occasionally, you experience that magical moment of meeting perfect strangers that instantly feel like old friends. Like you’re connected on another level and the conversation just flows. Meeting Liz Fisher & Corey Dickerson of The Cordial Sins was exactly like that. Within moments of greeting one another, We jumped right into conversation that seemed to flow naturally. No need to stay on the surface… the conversation jumped from humanity, to injustice, to personal lives and relationships to love and on to connection with the world around us. They are artists with incredible technical talent paired with a curiosity about humanity and voracious quest for life that coalesces and is made evident in their music.
The Cordial Sins sound, if you had to classify it, is best described as dream pop or shoegaze. Though they are versatile and take on influences from 80’s synth pop, to 90’s bands like Radiohead and Smashing Pumpkins, a dash of rock and a touch of some bluegrass moments. And they take inspiration from talented artists like Nels Cline (of Wilco fame). Their love of artistry and shared passion for music is clear in our conversation from the very beginning.
Recently, they’ve put out their new single, Not Enough, which as Liz shares “explores the human connection we strive to achieve through familial and romantic relationships as well as fortified friendships”. At the time of our interview Only Human was the latest album released and we began our conversation there.
I listened to the lyrics to many of the songs in Only Human and it seems like you're trying to talk about a particular sense of humanity. At times it seemed as if you were commenting on a relationship yet at other times it seems like a bigger question is being posed. I wanted to throw that back to you and hear what your thoughts were on the album, the lyrics, and what you guys are trying to say with Only Human?
Liz: What you said was a very eloquent way of putting into words what the album is about because I do think that all of the songs lyrically kind of dance around different ideas that have to do with a sense of humanity. Maybe some are more specific to relationships and others have to do with a broader idea of how people relate to one another. Like Only Human, itself, I would say is about the idea of people being complicit in other people's injustices. Whether or not you know it. We have the ability to be aware of how we are complicit in those actions and whether or not we do anything about it. It may be more my own reflection on how I'm complicit in certain things or how I benefit from certain privileges.
And yet, other songs are more about trying to figure out what it is that you want to be. Like overcoming mental or emotional boundaries or obstacles to get there. And not being afraid to figure it out or express yourself in certain ways even if you're uncomfortable.
Lyrically we also try to make it general enough so that people can apply it to different situations.
That’s what I recognized. So in the title track it feels like you're exploring humanity and it seems bigger than what you're commenting on. The first two lines kind of talk about relationship — like it’s a break up and you're navigating this relationship. But then when you pull back you are asking “are you complicit in certain injustices” — tough things are happening to people and are you just standing by?
Liz: Yeah. I was trying to think of how you relate to one another when you're a child. You know? And children just don't have this sense of “I'm different from you because of this, this and that”. None of that matters.
So something I think about in that way is that I have three adopted sisters. My mom told me that when she was about to adopt our first sister she was like would it make you feel weird that she will look different from you?” And my sister and I were like “why would that even matter?"
Because you just have no concept of anything like that. So I think about that when I was writing about the idea that you just have no concept of differences at first and then you kind of grow up within this societal framework and then all those differences are presented to you and then you have to figure out how to present yourself within that societal framework.
You know I’m thinking about that right now because I have a four year old. And I’m seeing the world through her eyes. Right now she is noticing differences and asking me about them and really trying to categorize the world around her. She’s asking about race and gender in the most innocent ways. And I’m left thinking about how to respond in a way that is honest, helps her make sense of things but also allows her to stay a child.
OK, Jumping back to the idea of relating to people. A lot of what we do is about connections. And I’ve found that musicians are also looking to connect with people, things or ideas. We talked a bit about how people may find themselves in your music. The question I have is how do you hope people connect to you or your music?
Liz: I think on a surface level I want people to have fun at our shows. But I would hope that people also can find a level of emotional connection to our music. And. I hope that it is also thought provoking. For me playing music and expressing myself that way — the goal is to be a better version of myself. Hopefully be a better person. And to empower other people. And I would hope that people could relate to that sense of empowerment and also take it upon themselves to think about humanity and how we relate to one another…maybe even through music.
I don't want it to be just a surface level experience. I would like for our music and our interaction with people to have some kind of meaning whatever that means. You know we're all here for a certain finite amount of time. What do you think?
Corey: Yeah, I want to be inspirational. I want to inspire people to be themselves. And be open and understand that they're not alone. Because I think that a lot of people are really into music or who are musicians suffer from anxiety and depression. And that may come from like a crappy home life. Or they might not have anybody to connect with. And I think that music helps them feel better. The least we can do is that. Is connect with them and make them feel good about themselves or make them feel like there's somebody that they can talk to.
Liz: Yeah, you and I got really into alternative music in junior high high school and that's at a time when everything is so intense. Like, you know, every single thing — there's just so much emotion in everything. So when you find certain music you connect with it speaks to an emotion.
You’re so right. When I'm depressed, I don't want to watch a sad movie but I DO want to listen to sad music.
Liz: Yeah. Right. Music makes you feel like your feelings are valid.
Totally! So I’ve been wondering about your name The Cordial Sins. How did you decide on that?
Liz: It was kind of an accident. We were searching for a band name.
Corey: And we were looking at idioms.
Liz: Yes we're looking at idioms
Corey: Trying to like throw things together and see what sounded cool. It didn’t need to necessarily make any sense you know. And The Cardinal Sins came up. Someone read it wrong and said the Cordial Sins. And we were like that’s cool.
Liz: Yea, I feel like over time we have grown into the name, we’ve grown into our sound. Even how we operate. We use to make group decisions, everything was communal. And now that’s changed. It has all been a growth experience.
So how did you guys meet? It sounds like you have known each other a very long time.
Corey: <clears throat> We went to high school together.
Liz: We didn't know each other though.
So you didn’t know each other at all?
Liz: And we were in the same grade. And it was a pretty small high school
Corey: We even had mutual friends we used to hang out with separately but never crossed paths in that group.
So were you both musically inclined at the time?
Liz: I was like playing classical violin and Corey was like smoking weed and playing guitar. Ha! So, Corey approached me on facebook when I was in my third year at Ohio State. He was in a band and they wanted the violinist.
Corey: Yeah. A couple people recommended you.
Liz: And at the time I'd been listening to alternative rock and I was just getting in to jamming with some bands when Cory and I connected. Oh yea, and then we started dating.
Liz: I mean it all kind of happened at the same time. I guess it was because we had a certain attraction to one another but we also had a musical connection. So I think that strengthened it. And at least for me I thought OK this could really be something for me. I see potential with a person and I can see that this can be a way for me to actually do what I want to do because they would understand completely. There was just this connection. And I think it just like made a lot of sense. I mean it still makes a lot of sense.
I want to hear a little bit about your classically trained background. What was that like? I ask because I think I’m picking up on that maybe there was a particular trajectory you were headed toward. And somehow that shifted?
Liz: Oh, yea. So the trajectory was to be a classical violinist. I was majoring in performance and everything was geared toward the idea that I was going to learn as much music as I could and craft my technique.
So when did this start?
Liz: I started at three.
Liz: Haha! Yes, three years old.
<At this point in the interview my mind explodes>
Liz: So we all played violin when we were young. My parents were professors and very big into education and my mom wanted us all to do the Suzuki method.
So was there then a plan to go to a certain music school or something?
Liz: So. I almost quit violin in ninth grade. And then I found this really cool teacher and Karen Fujiwara and she changed my mindset about music. And when it came to picking the schools — she went to Juilliard so she was obviously really proficient — but her perspective was Juilliard is just a piece of paper. So I decided to go to Ohio State for a multitude of reasons. And it was the best decision I ever made because I knew I wanted to continue exploring music but I didn’t want to be a professional classical violinist. I don't want to go work in an orchestra for the rest of my life. I wanted to play alternative rock music. It’s been a long journey.
To me it sounds like you guys found each other through a crazy fate. But it also sounds like you guys have a very particular vision for the future. And it sounds like your songs speak to that. Have you thought through what your thoughts are about where you are going?
Corey: Man, I mean six years ago before I met you (Liz) I never would have thought I would be sitting here right now with you. It’s so hard to project what the future looks like. Ideally, we would be touring a lot and have funding.
Liz: My ideal vision for our group is that there's always a sense of growth. You know I don't want to ever feel like everything's stagnant. And I think Corey has a certain affinity for working on guitars. So I would say that guitar and instrument craftsmanship would be a part of your lifestyle, maybe?
Corey: Yea, definitely.
Liz: And for me like education is obviously important so I would like to keep that incorporated. And I think an ideal day would be like hopping in the studio and making some stuff. Definitely going on tour. But it really comes back to a a goal of being able to sustain my creative process because I'm making money doing it in one way or another.
Money is always a problem. You know especially for artists it's just really hard. The traveling is expensive, the instruments are really expensive, and at the same time the management of the thing is time intensive and it is not the creative work we love. But we need to invest the time and money to get there. And it doesn’t happen in a day. So we kind of have the mind set that we are going to be as patient as possible and at the same time you know work our asses off to keep getting to those next steps.
So, we talked a lot about relationships and connection. The driving force of The Campfire Experience is connection. Whether you're connecting to nature, you're connecting to one another, or you're connecting to yourself. At the very least a “campfire experience” is a place of introspection and a time to just be. And so my question is do you have a campfire experience that you can share? A memory of a place that allows you to slow down and reconnect or just kind of just be in the moment?
Liz & Corey: Colorado.
Liz: We didn’t camp. BUT I will say we went to Colorado. We drove there. And Cory, he’s all cracked out on coffee. He's like we're going to do it one day!
Corey: The first time half of the trip for me was the worst because I had to drive through all night and there's no lights and I'm driving like 90 miles per hour. Afraid a raccoon is going to jump out of nowhere. She's sleeping. And my hands are shaking from coffee. I never want to drive to Colorado in one day again.
But we had twelve days to go there and we had to drive and I said I'm not spending more time driving than I have to.
Liz: Yea we were just like, hey we're just going to make it happen. And we stayed at this cool AirBnB in Boulder. We went to breweries. We went hiking pretty much every day. It was awesome. And everything was relaxing.
Corey: Yea! We made we made a rule that we could only check our phones at the beginning of the day and at the end of the day and that's it. Unless you were taking a picture you were not allowed to get on social media. It made the trip just so much more enjoyable
So what did that do. When you when you weren’t checking your phones. Tell me about that.
Liz: I mean for me, I was hyper aware of my surroundings. So just like everything was beautiful, you know?
I mean because it actually was. But also you cherish all these moments even more because you're not looking in on other people's lives and being like oh that's cool. You're not disconnected from it. You know you’re so much more connected to nature because right next to it.
You’re fully immersed
Liz: Exactly. Exactly. You're like this coffee is the best coffee I ever had. Because I'm sitting on a chair looking at a mountain.
Corey: You have to find other ways to entertain yourself. You actually have to talk to people. You can always be that person at the bar that's just going to drink a beer and stare at their phone. But instead I was like I’m not going to stare at my phone. I’m going to talk to people.
Liz: And you're not burdened by a schedule or your distractions. I decided I was going to be immersed in this. I decided I'm going to get to know people. We automated our social media and set an email out of office. It was wonderful.
So, we're excited to have you at our last campfire session of the season! What are you guys most looking forward to sharing with us that day?
Liz: We were just talking about the instrumentation the other day.
Corey: I was talking to Liz the other day about what we’d like to do. And usually when we do a stripped down performance it’s Liz and I but we were thinking about bringing some folks in to have a small string section. So we are working on the arrangements to work better in that setting but it will be a really special thing we are excited to share with people.
Liz: Yeah, we’re really excited about that. We want to take this opportunity to make it as unique as possible. Most of our shows are like really loud bar venues. So taking the time to really take advantage of the opportunity. It’s exciting. And what I love about our band is that we have that sort of versatility. So it’s fun to play with arrangements. So we might as well try it.
We are so looking forward to it! Ok, so where can people find you? How can they support you?
Liz: This is what we want to do with our lives and we want you and everyone to support us and become part of our community and help us get there. We have just started a Patreon account so our fans can support us there. But the best place to hear our music, stay on top of our shows, and get the latest news is on our website www.thecordialsins.com. Anyone can sign up for our newsletter on our website to get the latest from releases to shows. In addition, we are in all the usual places like instagram, facebook, and spotify.
Be sure to catch The Cordial Sins on Sunday October 14th at Rockmill Brewery for our last Campfire Session of the season. You can get tickets here! Don’t miss out!