“Bluebird Day,” the latest single from King Cardinal, carries a quarantine vibe, particularly the opening lines: “I know it’s the weekend, but I don’t feel like going out. Maybe it’s my age, but probably it’s something else.”
Frontman Brennan Mackey says the song is about when things aren’t going right and hoping for them to start looking up. So it definitely feels like it could have been written last week. (Coincidentally, King Cardinal dropped a single earlier this year, "Long Goodbye," that was about being stuck in a rut.)
“It just happens to be a bit apropos of what’s going on,” Mackey says. “I think I wrote it like last January, so it was pretty significantly before the quarantine.”
"Bluebird Day" is actually a skiing slang term that Mackey, who is from Rochester, New York, had never heard before moving to Colorado several years ago. (The bluebird is also a symbol of happiness.)
“I always hear people talk about a bluebird day in Colorado,” Mackey says. “I came to town and all the skiers and snowboarders would talk about the cloudless day when they go skiing. It’s just like a perfect day.”
The new song has an accompanying lyric video made by Brandon Hoogenboom, who previously collaborated with King Cardinal on the “Long Goodbye” video. The video for “Bluebird Day” includes animations of landscapes, sunrises, rain, birds, blue skies and other outdoorsy footage. Together, the music and the video have a very soothing quality.
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“He did the artwork for this record, for this song,” Mackey says. “He does a good job of catching the vibe of the song. There’s a lot of brightness to it.”
The members of King Cardinal have suffered setbacks under the oppressive yoke of COVID-19, like so many other musicians. They have a bunch of half-finished songs, but the out-of-control respiratory virus has made cramming five people into a studio less than ideal and possibly dangerous. Even so, they have managed to finish two of those songs, among them “Bluebird Day,” and tentative plans exist to record more songs in the fall or winter, possibly for an EP release in the near future.
“You can’t have ten people in the studio, so it will probably be like a skeleton crew in there,” Mackey says. “I might end up having a little more computer production. Rather than just acoustic stuff, there might be some drum samples and stuff like that.”
The band has also lost a couple of members during the pandemic. Drummer Scott Roush and co-vocalist Texanna Dennie have left Colorado. Dennie’s departure comes with a touch of irony, as she had asked Mackey if he was leaving town when he showed her the lyrics to “Long Goodbye” before a recording session.
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Because the future of live gigs is uncertain, Mackey has so far foregone the arduous task of recruiting new members. Not everyone currently in the band is comfortable playing live right now, either. For the time being, everything is kind of stuck in limbo. Mackey’s been doing a live stream on the band's Facebook page once a week, which he says is a good way to practice and engage with fans.
That said, live shows haven’t totally vanished. Bandmate Ben Waligoske joined him for a live show at a senior home in Louisville a few days ago. Mackey has played a solo house gig in Larkspur and a socially distanced set at the Roxy in Denver, behind a plexiglass partition. Attendees were also not allowed to go from table to table. It's not ideal, but he's happy for the opportunity to play and has at least one more gig forthcoming.
“I think a lot of venues are having trouble staying open because nobody is playing,” he says. “They can only do things at super-low capacity, even if they are open. … Hopefully, we don’t lose too many independent venues.”
Check out weekly King Cardinal live performances every Tuesday at 7 p.m. on Facebook.