Photos © 2016 by: Roman Sobus
Biography: Picture this: A livewire siren with a theater background, Lonnie Angle, and a multi-instrumentalist with a decade in a major label band under his belt, Thomas Dutton, team up to create something larger than themselves. That is Cardiknox in a nutshell.
The two Seattle natives first met in 2010. Thomas was in the midst of transforming Razia’s Shadow: A Musical—an album by his previous band Forgive Durden—into an off-Broadway stage production. Lonnie came onboard to help, and they picked up and moved to the Big Apple together. Following a year of development, the show sold out two nights at Joe’s Pub at The Public Theater in New York City. Despite the success, Lonnie and Thomas agreed it was time to collectively pursue a new muse.
“That chapter had run its course,” admits Thomas. “We asked ourselves, ‘Do we want to go into the next phase of this musical or totally switch it up and begin working on music for a little while?’ So, we recorded a bunch of songs and began playing shows across New York. All of the pieces felt right in terms of the sounds, melodies, and message. It clicked. It was exactly what we were going for.”
“We really found a sound,” agrees Lonnie. “It’s pop, but there are so many different elements. It’s indie, electronic, epic, cinematic, nostalgic, and even a little eighties-inspired.”
As soon as the duo began releasing songs online in 2013 under the moniker Cardiknox, a play on Dutton’s mother’s maiden name Cardinaux, a palpable buzz materialized. It’s safe to say everybody fell in love with that endearing, entrancing, and enigmatic audio amalgam. By 2014, MTV dubbed “Black Wayfarers” a “Song of the Summer,” VH1 praised Cardiknox’s “almost unhealthy amount of star quality,” while Fuse proclaimed them “head turners that are about to take over.” They also received acclaim from Spin, Stereogum, Neon Gold, Billboard, AV Club, and many other outlets.
On the strength of their music, Grammy Award-winning producer John Shanks decided to work on a full-length with the pair at Henson Recording Studios in Los Angeles, espousing the belief that “the label situation would figure itself out.” It did when Warner Bros. Records signed Cardiknox in 2015, and they relocated to the West Coast. (If you’ve lost count of how many times they’ve moved, it’s all good because Thomas will tell you they have too!) Now, their 2016 full-length debut threads together rich soundscapes, thick, booming beats, and dynamic vocal delivery.
“Doors” tiptoes between sparse percussion and ethereal synths culminating on an unshakable chant—“My life begins every time a door closes, another one opens.”
“It’s a first taste,” says Lonnie. “There’s a theme of perseverance on the album. And in many ways, this song is about becoming a band, writing music, and finding ourselves as artists. Like many creative ventures, you start out unsure and often question your path, but there’s always tomorrow. If you keep going, keep pushing…it works out.”
“We approached ‘Doors’ almost like a hip-hop song,” Thomas elaborates. “I’m always amazed by how powerful a Drake or Kanye West track can be with so little going on musically. It’s minimalist, but it still connects and feels big. We wanted to write a simple, powerful, and anthemic song.”
Elsewhere, “Shadowboxing” segues from shimmering keys into an impassioned declaration contrasted with soft spoken word. “A lot of the album addresses my parents’ divorce during my early adulthood,” she sighs. “I didn’t talk to my dad for about a year, and this song touches on that. It speaks to the dissolution of that marriage and having to look at my life without my parents being together.”
Then, there’s “On My Way,” which tempers an electronic harmony with a galloping, uplifting refrain. “When you’re pursuing something less traditional career-wise, there’s an interesting juxtaposition between yourself and your friends who have ‘normal jobs,’ are getting married, having kids, and buying houses,” explains Thomas. “‘On My Way’ reaffirms that what we’re doing is the right thing for us. We can see where we want to be, and we’re on our way.”
Along the way, they’ve become an impressive live presence. In addition to tours with the likes of Betty Who, Cardiknox captivated audiences everywhere from Lollapalooza and Sasquatch to Reading and Leeds, Rock en Seine, Pukkelpop, and Firefly. Their signature musical pastiche also becomes reflected in the album cover by renowned muralist Tristan Eaton who captured the life of the sonic landscape in a stunning portrait of Lonnie.
Cardiknox welcome everybody to share in their dream. “I want people to walk away from the music feeling hopeful,” Lonnie leaves off. “The music is emotional and comes from a real place. It’s not just a catchy hook—there’s meaning behind it.”
“It’s very important for us to feel like what we’re doing matters in this world,” continues Thomas. “I’d love for everybody to feel empowered and know what they’re doing matters too.”