While the band has only played together since the summer of 2004, its growing fan base is becoming more impressed with the Waterloo quartet. Amidst comparisons to older blues and rock bands, guitarist and vocalist Michael Finch says, “We get references to the Killers and the crooning voice of [Brandon Flowers]; we’ve been called U2 when they were cool.”
After forming the band in high school with original members Finch and guitarist/vocalist Matt Jacobs, bassist Jamie Hanneman was recruited and the band was finally completed with the addition of drummer Mike Somes. Finch met Somes through his father’s band Chevy and the Hubcaps, where he played bass.
Cartel has made phenomenal progress. “We hit the studio within a month of forming with each other,” Finch says. The guys recorded their self-titled EP with Steve Wagner from CyberAudio studios and have “pretty much been riding on that for the past while.”
And what a ride it’s been. Cartel took time off for the school year, performing in Kitchener-Waterloo and branching out to the London scene, all the while becoming more comfortable with defining its sound and working out the nuances of the band.
Then commenced what Finch called “a really good summer.” The most memorable time was when the band performed six shows in eight days. “We had our one year birthday party with Pump Shuttle from Kitchener and the Stars Here and 5 o’clock Charlie from Edmonton, and then the night after that we played with Gotto and the Kings . . . who asked us to play with them at Fiddler’s Green in Cambridge.”
Cartel may have been lauded with allusions to other big name bands, but lately its had trouble holding onto its own. The band is currently involved in legal action with another band also named Cartel from Atlanta, Georgia. “Basically, we’re trying to figure out who formed first.” These aren’t the only two bands named Cartel either; British pop/punk has a Cartel, as does old school funk, and there’s even a Turkish rap group sporting the trendy title.
Despite the Cartel name phenomenon, style and proximity make the Waterloo and Atlanta Cartels automatic rivals. “We’re the two who compete against each other because we’re similar in terms of the age groups who listen to us,” Finch says.
Despite “naming a band [being] the hardest thing,” Finch says that, if the band does end up having to change its name, it won’t “do the Bush X thing” and put some original spin on “Cartel.” It will just create an entirely new name.
In the meantime, Cartel isn’t going to worry about the name controversy. Finch refers back to the band’s previous EP, noting, “the songs that are on there right now don’t truly represent who we are as a band now . . . we’ve developed so much.”
Cartel is back in the studio, working with Mark Amola from the Stars Here, to record its first full-length album. The album will be a combination of new material and revamped old stuff.
“When we re-record [the EP songs] for the full-length album, they’re going to be a little different with tweaks here and there,” Finch explains.
Cartel plays Call the Office tonight with the Stars Here and Saigon Hookers. Tickets are $3 at the door. The show starts at 10 p.m.