This here is an interview I conducted with Crystal Fighters back in November 2010; during their tour with Foals and just a little while after the release of their debut album Star of Love. It was originally published on Mewbox, a blog for an android music app that just...disappeared.
Up until recently I shyed away from strict Q&A interviews, preffering prose, but this was an early departure. Anyway enjoy the read and I hope you've enjoyed their music, both past and present.
Caught just a while before their appearance on stage at Southampton Guildhall as the supporting act to Foals on the 7th of November, Keyboardist Gilbert, singer Sebastian and guitarist Graham from the five piece folk electronic group Crystal Fighters were surprisingly laid back and cadenced considering what a wild charge of energy their stage act was. The group are currently gaining a huge amount of momentum with their fan base and critical reception; their Basque influenced dance music a truly unique result of a wide range of influences and personal inputs. In their own words, the guys really give the full rundown of the type of music they play and just what it sounds like:
Gilbert: It’s fast, energetic, passionate, Basque-influenced, modern, old, dance fun music.
Sebastian: Yes, that sounds good.
How did you get interested in the type of music you play and who were the big influences?
Gilbert: Well basically I met Sebastian, had known him for a while, and then we met Graham in 2007. We’d all had different musical upbringings and music we were interested in and listening to at the time so we decided to get together and make music.
We started out just tried to make stuff that’s fun, trying different ideas here and there. Sebastian’s always been interested in 80’s European music and Graham’s interested in traditional rock and roll, he’s got a background in that as well, and so we’re making all this fun stuff and it was only when Graham introduced us to his friend Laure whose grandfather was from the Basque country and he died shortly after we just met her and she got some of his belongings so she was really enthralled by these things, these books, as she didn’t know him that well. When she showed it to us it seemed really interesting, really characteristic pieces of writing and we started looking into it.
We had all these different influences that we had and we were actually struggling trying to find something that we could connect on, you know we were doing things with one genre and another genre but nothing solid. So when this came around the time was almost there, it seemed such an interesting prospect for us to look further into the culture and musical tradition of the Basque country and to try and combine that with the stuff we were experiencing in London when we were making dance music, and also this stuff that we’d grown up with separately as individuals. So that’s how we sort of got started and now it’s great to be able to make music where we can put in all our different tastes and still have some sort of consistency but not in the more traditional sense of every song sounding the same, if you know what I mean.
What’s your music making process? Where do you get your inspiration for a piece and how do you go about putting it together?
Gilbert: Well we live together so it’s quite difficult if someone’s playing something and it’s good you know it’s quite difficult to avoid and you want to go in there and join in and work on it.
But we’ve taken inspiration from lyrics, passages and sentiments from Laure’s grandfather’s book and then we have also looked towards traditional Basque folk music so a specific piece, specific song or specific melodies, maybe taking bits out of there and trying them…rhythmic ideas as well. But usually it starts with either a big vocal, lyrical idea or a big music idea, like a riff, and then we’ll work from there and sort of get it together.
What’s been interesting for us in writing our album and getting it out is that we play live a lot and it was great developing the songs on the album through playing live. We didn’t set out at first to write an album as it were, we set out to play and make music. How we came to the album was seeing what worked and what we really enjoyed playing.
Critics have noted that the way audiences tend to react really intensely to your music. What kind of atmosphere do you try to create when you play live and what do you hope the audience is left feeling afterwards?
Gilbert: Definitely we try to bring a lot more energy and rawness than you might hear on our records, we feel that’s something we like to do. The whole point is you got to a nightclub and you see a lots of people that aren’t even looking at the performer and all having a great time, everyone’s dancing. Then you go to a gig night maybe and everyone’s looking at the performer and no one’s dancing and no one’s having that good a time. We try to, I don’t know, bring a bit of both situations so the crowd can actually fee involved with the music, hearing it, seeing it, but also take some of our vibe that we bring on stage which is quite deep.
Graham: Well it’s just nice that we hope people leave like they experienced something…unique.
Gilbert: And the thing is that we feed off the crowd completely and our performances to be honest completely depend on how lively the crowd is. That’s at least our perception of how well we’re playing and how much fun we’re having. So we want them to be as involved in the performance for us as we are to them.
Graham: It takes two to tango. (laughs)
The band recently announced via twitter that they’ve been recording some live acoustic tracks to release as a bonus disk with the CD release of their debut album Star of Love in January. Asked if there was any thought of feeling on a follow up album and how it might progress from what has come before they answered:
Sebastian: Yeah I think the idea is that we like the boldness of our first record, and it talks about fairly large time honoured concepts but we’d probably go further into that with grander melodies and larger arrangements and more of the same but wholly authentic. Not that it wasn’t on this one but we were learning how to do things.
Gilbert: More of the same but better.
Sebastian: More of the same but better, exactly.
Your music videos are really striking in their imagery, creativity and just really how unique they feel. Who’s in charge of directing your videos and how the concepts for them put together?
Gilbert: We really like working quite close with the director. When we do video we put it out there with the core idea that we’re going for and see what ideas people have and work with that and we’ve been quite lucky to have met some really cool up and coming directors who’ve done some really nice pieces of work.
Sebastian: Definitely. We like to work with new directors. I know some bands sort of stick with one person but we like trying new techniques just cause the songs have different genres within them so it suits the visual thing as well.
Finally, what is your favourite aspect of the music that you play and what drives you to carry on playing?
Gilbert: I know that playing stuff we enjoy and finding new things within our own ears by combining sounds of one thing that we love with another and trying to put interesting stuff together and, you know, stuff that’s fun and we enjoy listening to.