Crystal Fighters may have been one of the original kids on the scene of eclectic and dreamy electro pop. The four piece London-based outfit first arrived in 2009 with their single “Xtatic Truth” (Kitsuné), which got some serious remix attention from Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs, L-Vis 1990, Renaissance Man and a few more. It’s hard to believe that the group’s debut album Star of Love was released almost two years ago in the UK, but has only now made its way across the golden pond to the States for release by Atlantic Records. Even now, however, tracks like “Plage” and “At Home” still sound as vibrant and versatile as they did before.
Crystal Fighters can be classified as electro pop, but to corner them into that genre would be a disservice. Their music combines aspects of rock, punk, techno and, most notably, Basque folk (heard in their use of the txalaparta, a giant two person xylophone). All of these different influences come together to create a frantic, euphoric blend of sounds. After a recent stripped down performance at the Soho House in NYC I had a chance to sit down and interview Gilbert Vierich to talk about the band, touring and his ensemble. Full interview and more photos after the jump.
STREAM: Crystal Fighters – “At Home”
Nancy Lu: I recently saw a video of Chairlift and Das Racist covering Beyonce’s track “Party” on Australia’s Triple J Like a Version show. The idea of indie bands covering songs that they like isn’t new and I’m always pleased with some of the selections that seem to come totally from left field. If you were invited to that show what song would you choose to cover?
Gilbert Vierich: I’ve always thought about that and I’ve always stressed. I think that the great covers have been Foals’ cover of Swedish House Mafia. Someone also just covered Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know.” It’s hard to say now what it would be at least right now cause you have to pick something that’s really current and give a completely different spin on it. So we’d probably take a big acoustic track at the moment that’s quite calm and then mix the live and electronic and hype it up hard. I can’t think of any examples right now though. Generally I’d try to avoid it though, I’m more about the originals.
NL: When originally forming Crystal Fighters, I read that you “forced” Graham to move to London to work on music. Was that sort of a catchall statement or did you know exactly what you wanted to do as far as the music you wanted to make and what you wanted this project to be?
GV: What happened was I met Graham in the summer of 2007 and we had a great time together at various locations with lots of people. He had just graduated and he was going to move back to the US. I had been listening to his music at the time and thought, “this is pretty cool.” Sebastian the singer is one of my oldest friends. At the time I had a job but I had been doing music all my life. They met and it was like, let’s bring this all together with me in the middle. So we convinced Graham not to move back to America and we moved into Brick Lane together. Sebastian didn’t move with us at first cause he was like, “I don’t even know this guy,” but he eventually started coming around and staying on the sofa. Then we eventually moved to another place together. But Graham pretty much had no plans and after University I said, “let’s do it.” We tried lots of different bands and names in the months before and Crystal Fighters was the one that stuck. It was the one that was the most inspiring, that people responded to and asked for it again. We also got a lot of response from blogs like Palms Out Sounds. So yeah, I masterminded the whole situation.
NL: Your album Star of Love was released at the end of 2010 in the UK and released in Europe in February of 2011. It hasn’t been until April of this year though that its been released in the States. Personally, I have been following your music since the beginning and it’s hard for me to believe that not that many people in America have heard your material before. Do you think there’s that much of a disconnect in the music that’s happening here and the music that’s happening in Europe?
GV: I think cause we’re from the UK we played a lot more there and so developed an audience there much quicker. And when our album was ready to be released there wasn’t anyone interested in the US at the time cause the deal was on our own label in the UK. So it took a while even in the UK to build up our reputation live and stuff. The problem is America’s such a big country that it’s not as easy to pop up and breakthrough. It is a bit weird that it’s coming out later but it seems like a lot of people haven’t heard it so for a lot of people it’s brand new. It’s also all really to bring everything together before our second album and to have all the countries in tune with each other. We’ve still got a long to go with the campaign but I think it’s going to be awesome and hopefully people will react.
NL: What’s the dynamic like between you guys in the music making process? Does someone take the lead on the track, on the lyrics, etc?
GV: The great thing is with the three of us, it is really all together. Each of us take the lead on different things. People do come up with ideas by themselves but everything we do we finish together and edit together. But there’s enough space for everyone’s diverse background in music for the individual to get out their taste in music and do their thing. There will be ideas that will come up that I’m not lyrical or musical or that I’m not so into – and I’m sure it’s the same for the other guys. But when you work in a group sometimes it’s about stepping back a bit, working on it together and improving it until we’re all happy with it. So in terms of lyrics, Sebastian will write a lot of them since he’s the singer. He at least has a say in them since he’s the one who has the sing them. I do a lot of the music and the production and Graham does as well. Everything at the end comes out with all of us though.
NL: What’s the dynamic between you guys on the road?
GV: Really different, I mean now we’ve played probably around 400 shows and we probably used to argue more in the past. But now that we know what we’re doing and we’ve gotten more experience, less arguing.
NL: Is there an article of clothing that you are known to collect? Pullover sweaters perhaps?
GV: Black on black on black hoodies. Give me solid colors. And give Graham checkers and Sebastian stripes.
NL: What is your single most favorite (pop) song?
GV: “Six Days War” by Colonel Bagshot. And another favorite pop song…I’m really bad at these things. Maybe a Michael Bolton…what’s the name?
NL: Are you working on new material? You mentioned a second album. What can we expect from that and when?
GV: Expect it to be better than the first. It’s still going to cover a lot of different styles and influenced by new stuff that’s come out that we really like, new genres. Maybe some more thoughtful moments, some more restrained moments, as opposed to the full out energy of the first album. Still definitely a mix and the collision of the old and new and different worlds, but all sonically stronger and more powerful.