Cora Pearl: “Shangri-La”

Jack Hardwick, John Alcock, Luke Hawtin, and Will McMahon

Jack Hardwick, John Alcock, Luke Hawtin, and Will McMahon


We all love a good indie band, but trust us when we say that Cora Pearl won’t get lost in the shuffle on your “english-indie-rock” playlist… The Sheffield, UK four-piece has just released their single “Shangri-La” and we are in love- Read below and get to know the band a bit, then get that new tune on repeat and keep your eye on these guys!

Tell us about Cora Pearl! How did you come together? What are the band dynamics?

So the first version of the band was formed when Jack and Will met when they were both playing a show at The Doctor’s Orders in Sheffield in. John then joined, originally playing bass, and we played a few shows under that line-up. Earlier this year, we parted ways with our drummer and through a mutual friend found Luke. After a few drinks we decided that he was our boy and John subsequently moved to drums and we haven’t looked back since.

We’re called Cora Pearl because she was a courtesan in Paris in the 19th Century that Jack just happens to be related to! Feminism, particularly sex-positive feminism, is a cause very close to all of our hearts, and Cora Pearl absolutely embodied that- her sexuality was her power. It’s hard being a group of fairly privileged white boys to get across that ethos, but as allies to the feminist cause, we really do everything we can to promote and represent the cause.

In terms of dynamics, we’re all best friends and live together! Aside from the occasional dispute about loading the dishwasher, we’re all proper brothers. Songwriting duties fall across all members of the band, and we enjoy collaborating with each other, especially because we all come from very different musical backgrounds.  Whilst being quite laid back people naturally, we have a real drive to be as good as possible, and we spend a lot of time conceptually improving our songs and our live shows. We also spend a lot of time drinking.  

What sparked the idea for your newest single “Shangri-La?” What was the writing/recording process like?

“Shangri-La” was probably the first song that we wrote all together with our new line-up. The song came out very easily, with motifs written by Will and Jack modified to fit the song structurally. Something that’s great about writing with Cora Pearl is that every-one is so adaptive and there are no egos in the writing process, every part serves the song. Conceptually, we wrote the song at a time when we were all considering the idea of freedom. The lyrics depict the feeling of excitement that two lovers feel when setting out on a journey from their mundane lives to Shangri-La – Heaven on Earth. The song uses Raga inspired scales and switches in out of root major and minor keys in an attempt to outline the difference between the mundanity and Heaven. It’s all about a journey, really. These aspects are subtle but it’s nice to know they’re there- at least from our perspective!

We always have a really great time in the studio. This session was different to what we’ve done previously because we opted to do night-time sessions and we were also recording our next single- “What I Wouldn’t Give For Wings” at the same time. We always keep a very fast workflow in the studio, and to capture the exciting feeling we were going for with “Shangri-La” we made quick decisions and stuck by them. One of the most fun things about recording this song was doing the group vocal parts at the end. We got a few of our friends down, plied them with elderflower wine and tried to be as sporadic as possible with how we were singing. That was an experience we’ll never forget, despite being quite drunk. 

Does the Sheffield culture and music scene influence your sound? How?

It absolutely does! Sheffield is at the moment one of the greatest cities in the UK for underground music, we have everything. It’s such a lovely culture because there are bands and musicians that sound nothing alike, but they’ll still go to each other’s shows and support. Sheffield’s widespread musical legacy is really well documented, with Pulp, Human League, Arctic Monkeys etc, but I think what inspires us more than that is the sound of the city currently and the music that are friends are making. Oh Papa’s recent EP was a game-changer for us, it’s magnificent. Life Aquatic Band, Graces and Femur are all examples of hugely different Sheffield bands that we hold close to our hearts and inspire us in different ways. There are plenty more as well, it really is an amazingly vibrant community, and one that we’re so happy to be a part of. I think the world needs to start looking at Sheffield as a place where really important musical things are happening at the moment!  

Has there been any significant advice you’ve gotten in regards to a career in music?

Trim that fat. We have a three album rule in Cora Pearl, where we streamline our ideas to make the shortest song possible, whilst still getting the message and emotionality of the song properly realised. Then, when we’re three albums in, we’ll get the brass bands and gospel choirs out and write 12 minute, djent infused jazz funk tracks about Timmy, the fifteen year-old baker’s son, who is struggling to tell his dad that he has a gluten intolerance. Until then, keep it radio-friendly.

Also, social media. Have good social media. 

What are you guys most excited about for the new year? 

Our Leadmill headline show on the 23rd of February is something we’re incredible excited to do. The Leadmill is a hugely culturally significant place in Sheffield history, and it will be a real honour to count ourselves among the many worthy headline acts that have played there in its history. We’ve got some really great stuff planned for that show, and we can’t wait to show our hometown the new and improved live show. Also getting back into the studio and writing and recording music. We’re excited to release “What I Wouldn’t Give For Wings” soon after “Shangri-La” also, I think we’re taking a bold move by releasing that song as a single, but we all have such faith behind it. That’s an extremely personal song so it’s both incredibly nerve wracking and exciting to think about it being out in the world. I think the thing we’re all the most excited for, however, is to just be able to go and visit more incredible places and meet more incredible people when we tour. We’re all extremely passionate about exploring the places we play, and experiencing the local cultures and meeting as many people as possible. We’re all pretty nerdy and love talking about the architecture in different cities, so I guess that’s the main thing we’re looking forward to in 2019- Buildings.