Crystal Fighters's creative process falls short of being an instinctual pursuit. The band, it seems, are musical scavengers, constantly acquiring sonic bits and pieces from the privileges that come along with being a traveling band. Basque Country, South America, Africathe group look for cultural traditions to inform their sound at every turn, creating exotic music that's unlike anything their peers are doing. When the Fighters popped in on our Williamsburg prop house to play a few songs, they also talked at length about what inspires them, breaking down the performance song by song. Dig a little deeper into what makes this band so unique in our extended interview with them.
- I think you discover a lot, really, from just traveling around touring and finding some more of, sort of, instrument shops and even street musicians and things like that. Just seeing what the vibe of the place is, and obviously every cotch has its own dance and its own, you know, traditions. Nice place, guys. Nice place. You know, it's wicked to be, such a privilege to be able to travel around and, like, absorb all this stuff, and then be able to recreate it. Hello, this is Crystal Fighters in Brooklyn. We are gonna play You and I. to describe our sound would be like a combination of, like, old and new. Like mixing, on the one hand, like, old instruments with new, modern sounds, like dance music sounds and stuff like that. But also, like, let that old folk tradition of, like, you know, people sitting around and singing around fire in a cave or something like that. And then mixing that with the more modern thing of, like, you know, dance music genres and, like, modern contemporary pop music almost. things. We love Bass Culture, we are inspired by Bass music, and we like to use their traditional instruments in a recording and live show. And then we also like to kind of represent indigenous cultures from around the world, and use instruments from, you know, South America, and African guitar tones. And really just as we travel more and more we get to pick up more and more instruments from different and unique regions, and throw them in the mix. - Prob'ly the craziest instrument is one we picked up right at the beginning of our band, and it's called the Txalaparta. The wooden blocks we sort of have laid in the middle of our live set. And it's played by two people across from each other, and there's this kind of syncopation, or kind of collaboration on the rhythm going on between the two people. It's quite unusual to have such a simple instrument, but with quite a complex sort of ethic behind it. And we love to use that in our music and our life, sure. We played You and I. That was kind of the first single, I think, off the record. And it's always a special song for us right from when we started writing it it kind of felt, like, personal. And, you know, we were going through, like, quite a hectic time, like, touring but also writing the album, trying to get everything finished. And, you know, that feeling kind of gave us the inspiration to write this kind of hectic song that then kind of morphs into, like, a love song, you know? And tries to emulate that feeling you get when you meet someone you like or whatever. - It's really awesome to, like, play the songs from the album, like , stripped down and stuff, because a lot of them were written like that. So it definitely, like, brings it back to the original thinking of the song, and brings out, like, you know, the simplest things. As opposed to, you know, a complicated modern recording with lots of layers and stuff like that. So it's really enjoyable to just go back to how it started. Even though there's nothing left, just you and I no one else, but you and I - LA Calling is about, you know, anyone who has, kind of, a nightlife more than the daytime job or life. And you know, being out there, doing your thing and being away from home all the time, but obviously knowing where your heart really is, which is at home, you know, with the person you love. And it's also about our friend who went to jail, and was kind of a shout out to him as well. - I think he knew we were recording an album at the time, but then disappeared from the scene. - I think the particular lyric is, and we'll be singing this song when you're out, everything will be better. Yeah, everyone wants you out, yeah - Yeah, it was really interesting, like, when we recorded our debut, we didn't really, like, know that when we were recording our debut, we were just sort of collecting songs together, and writing music, and playing it out every weekend. And, like, just that was kind of our focus. And then when it came round to, like, the second time, we'd already toured a lot, and we'd seen a lot of the world, and we'd sort of been immersed in, like, music, like, more than we had at the first. And so, I think that definitely influenced us, like, when writing our second album, like, we're playing to bigger crowds, we're seeing what reacted well. This time round, I guess, was just like a greater appreciation of, you know, what people want to see, and how people enjoy themselves. We learned so much from playing around. - Totally, we also decided to, like, flip up the process. Initially we were making beats and then writing lyrics kind of over the melodies. And this time we decided just to start with guitars, and our voices and then, you know, add the beats afterwards. So, yeah, it was a fun kind of change for us. - Well, once we kind of were sailing on the name Cave Rave for the album, we kind of remembered this picture we'd seen at this beautiful cave, looking down into this sort of fiery pit of a cave in the Bass country. And we'd always wanted to sort of play a show there get out there and get enough people down. And once the album had this name, and you know, it was goin' around, we would, like, try to get it organized and eventually ended up doing it last month in August. An amazing cave party with local bands, local musicians playing the Txalaparta, much better than we could ever do. And just drinking a lot of cider. I mean, yeah, the cave rave did turn out to be, probably, our best achievement, I'd say. \ You know, it felt like a, sort of, coming together of five years of working on the music together, and you know, in honor of this culture, somehow. And being, sort of, accepted into this very old place that's kind of at the center of their culture, in some way, was, you know, very exciting. - I mean, it was really awesome to, like, do an event. Like, hopefully people who came to it would lose their kind of sense of space and time when they're there. Hopefully we can, like, strive to continue to do that with, like, more events and, like, things that we do in the future. You know, like, go beyond a normal concert. And where people can, you know, because part of our music is to provide, like, sort of a light to people to lose themselves, and to get away from the day to day things. And if we can, you know, take that one step further with these types of events, that'd be really exciting for us. Follow... - Yeah, we played Follow last. That's from the first record, Star of Love. We always enjoyed playin' it. It's kind of a, sort of, stream of consciousness, and kind of gathers in speed. Always, we can play it live in a big arrangement. But even just in the acoustic form it just seems to have a lot of momentum, so we just, we like playing that one. So thank you for lettin' us do that. - We're pretty excited about this US tour coming up. You know, we always love bein' over in the States. Been a few times, a few tours, and now we're supporting a band called Portugal The Man, who we're really into. And, you know, it's gonna be a great sort of collaboration out there on the road. And then we're doin' some of our own shows, so yeah, just USA. - Think if you're from Europe, you know, America feels like a bunch of different countries. North to South, East to the West. It's like the cultures are so different. It's fun for us. - We hope people can take away some energy from our performance, whatever that may be. And know when you come see us live with the full electronics, and full, you know, setup, you know, hopefully you'll be brought on some sort of journey of music and emotion, and you know, find yourself, somehow changed at the end. If only a small bit. Just enjoy the experience. You know, we love creatin' music, and we hope everyone out there can enjoy it. - I think, you know, we're really glad to have been given the chance to put out music. You know, we've always loved creatin' music. And, you know, we finally got to that stage where people actually wanna listen to it. And that's a great thing for us, and to then be able to travel. And communicate with the people you've given music to, you know, is a great thing, and it feels like a holistic experience. It's really nice. - Yeah, it's, like, more of a humbling thing than a proud thing, a pride thing. We feel very lucky to be able to do this. We're proud to be able to share our music. We're also very humbled by the experience as well. - Hello, we are Crystal Fighters, and you're watchin' Baeblemusic.
If you'd spent the last few years of your life wrapped up in an album like Star Of Love, you'd go looking for a little respite, too. Crystal Fighters' debut was the product of minds made manic by a deluge of fresh experience, both in the studio and on the road. It was inspired by an opera written by a man whose sanity disintegrated before he could finish it. It seemed to be influenced just as much by traditional Basque music from the 18th century as it was modern-day clubland, and contained residual traces of every genre, scene, style or party that had existed in-between.
But if album one was the sound of haywire electronic loops frantically kept spinning like plates on sticks, then album two is the story of Crystal Fighters mastering control of those rave repetitions, withdrawing from the chaos of the club to carve their music into the shape of songs.
To write the album, Crystal Fighters retreated to the Basque hills that they consider to be their spiritual home. Their music has always born traces of the local sound traditional instruments like txalapartas and txistus vying in the mix with razor's edge guitars and percolating techno synths but the purpose of this mission was different. Immersed in their creative cradle, they wanted to tap into something beyond their immediate experience, to uproot themselves from temporal bounds in order to write timeless songs.
These methods proved to be spectacularly successful Crystal Fighters wrote Cave Rave in its entirety during this two-month spell. There followed a quick detour to Los Angeles to produce the tracks, but after this it was still the songs written in the Basque country that remained most audible only now the melodies found there had been sharpened into hooks, songs exploded into towering anthems. This revelatory process also exposed the band to a new way of thinking: a realisation that even the cultures they considered traditional are comparatively new. The album draws deeper into universal, history-permeating themes of love, death, insanity and hope; using Basque culture as a stepping stone backward to the spiritual and primal.
The musical influences have widened too. Star Of Love was a manic, genre picking rush yet Cave Rave expands the sound palette even further. The beating hearts of Hispanic and African dance and Mexican electronic music 3bal now sit alongside folk and psychedelia, each artfully interpreted and united by the band's unconfined vision.
If Crystal Fighters have surrendered to the power of the song, they haven't run up the white flag in terms of energy. What's here is still an adrenal rush, and there is an awful lot here: the grandstanding of American road rock, the sweat of disco, the fervent initiative of punk, the house of Iberian twilights that anticipates everything coming very soon, all at once. What's changed is Crystal Fighters' ability to control those surges and as such Cave Rave feels a considerably more thoughtful and contemplative album than its predecessor.
Nevertheless, it has at its heart the same tension that provides all great records their emotional traction. Sebastian Pringle, Gilbert Vierich, and Graham Dickson are the three core members of Crystal Fighters, around whom a larger cadre of vocalists and instrumentalists revolve. They're the kind of people whose brains seem to be bubbling pots, all intensely preoccupied with anthropology, time travel, spirituality and their place in the universe, even as they're attempting to create the kind of cohesive sonic pieces that really connect and move people. They seem passionate about creating music that can make people dance, but that is equally adept at finding its way beneath a listener's skin.
With Cave Rave, Pringle, Vierich and Dickson have managed just that. The melodies, hooks and refrains of the album are so compelling it's almost as if Crystal Fighters had to devise them simply to navigate a way across the landscapes of their own avid genrelessness, to remain as masters of music that itself seems to be a disputed territory. Here you have a band hell-bent on locating their own musical heaven, a place beyond petty genre parameters, where all that remains, finally, is song, rhythm and sentiment, bursting in vivid colour from the dark of the silent Basque night.