Sheffield’s multi-instrumental alt rockers, Early Cartographers are not shy of the headlines.
But unlike other bands, this isn’t a group hell-bent on making the headlines. Rather, the Early Cartographers mine the headlines – from across the globe – for inspiration for their songs.
And, just like the headlines, the band’s subject matter spans the weird and wonderful, as singer songwriter Ed Cartledge explains. “Our songs are generally inspired by strange but real events we come across in the news from around the world. Telegraph from Utopia is about a man who murdered eight people in a gym in Florida. He posted videos of himself showing people his house. He did things like boast about the quality of his kitchen cabinets and how much they cost. It was very, very strange. It was sad that this was his mechanism for impressing people,” says Cartledge.
But however tragic, these stories make for strong songs.
“I’ve never been the kind of person to write about my own personal life,” he says. “I like to write stories around these events. With that one I wrote a story around it that we could sing along to.”
The Early Cartographers’ latest work is an EP called Swings and Roundabouts. “There’s no deep meaning to that, it’s just that the person we commissioned to do the artwork created this image of a woman standing in front of some swing and it’s quite a catchy title as well.”
But it’s the stories themselves through which Cartledge plummets to emotional depth. “Sometimes these images take your thoughts to the deepest places within yourself,” he says.
Cartledge is, by trade, a filmmaker, and there is a sense of that in his songs.
“I suppose there is an element of telling a real story in these songs. In a way you are creating a sort of film in a song,” he says.
But the Early Cartographers, in spite of their gritty inspiration, are not always a serious band.
“We have a lot of fun. And we all act as a team, bringing different parts to the band. Musically it’s the most fun I’ve had in ages.
“We play lots of instruments too and the range of events we play at is reflective of the scope of our music. And even while a song may be serious in content, you can still tap your feet to it.”
Instruments include violin, cello, banjo, ukelele, mandolin and glockenspiel. “It’s great and we have a brilliant band. The others in the band like Nik Milne and Luke Wilson have had a lot more musical training than me and Hannah can play flute and do the backing vocals. The other members of the band are always the ones to figure things out, especially when it comes to the vocals, and that’s what defines us really.”
Indeed, it’s the three- and four-part harmonies that really set the Early Cartographers apart.
“We are a nightmare to sound check but as soon as we start on stage it is pretty special,” says Cartledge.
The Early Cartographers play a special show to promote their EP, Swings and Roundabouts, on July 11 at the Riverside, Mowbray Street.