In Love with the Crystal Stilts
Their first full-length, Alight with Night, having been released in 2008, is now followed up with their 2011 album, In Love With Oblivion. On this album, the two members expanded to five and proved critics wrong–they weren’t just noise-pop. Here, JB Townsend talks about that.
ELM: You’ve been pigeonholed as a lo-fi band and had the vocals compared to Ian Curtis a million times. Now that you have another album to showcase your diversity, do you find that those stereotypes are dying out?
CS: It’s funny. I thought that they would start to die out with this one but there are people still saying that a whole lot. I mean Silver Sun for example sounds absolutely nothing like Joy Division to me. I don’t know- I guess it’s just the deadpan vocals? I don’t know if it’s a lazy quick sell description kind of thing or? Ian Curtis was trying to sound like Eno and Jim Morrison and maybe some Bowie- i hear that when I hear Joy Division. I find it interesting that most peoples frame of reference for music is about as broad as what you can get at K-mart or Barnes & Noble- what’s more shocking is that a lot of people that review music and are supposed to at least have a standard knowledge of recorded music have no clue where we’re coming from. Plus it’s not like we’re consistently drawing from a super obscure well of influences, or are snobs that think our tastes are better than yours, or expect people to be on the same wavelength, but jeez. I watched this ridiculous filmed review of these 2 young kids talking about the record and it was obvious that they haven’t listened to any records at all that could’ve influenced us in the least, yet still have the wherewithal to record a review available for the whole world to see with an exoskeleton of musical authority- pretty embarrassing.
ELM: Did you set out to make a proper album, or did you just write songs until you had enough?
CS: Ahh- we didn’t write ’til we had enough in the sense that we wrote “filler” songs. I guess the majority of our records are that way. We’re not as conceptual musically from an LP point of view so far- although the lyrics are a little more conceptual. I mean, I like records that have some degree of shift in sounds and song styles i guess- in turnUi also like records that are kind of one session with one vision, so. We definitely trim our output of songs down prior to recording though. There are quite a few songs that don’t make the cut before we would even go near the studio.
ELM: What did you do differently on this record than on your previous one?
This one was a band, the first one was mostly me doing all instruments.
ELM: Can you walk me through the band’s songwriting process?
CS:It varies but we don’t write songs in the conventional sense with One guy writing the changes, melody, and words. It’s slightly more of an instrumental start with myself supplying the outline for the song- then Andy, Kyle and Keegan write their own parts and we work on timing, lengths, and additional parts and ideas and stuff. Then Brad who doesn’t play any instruments, starts weaving in words and melodies- we sort of feel out what works and then change along with the stanza of the vocals in some cases and change around that. So like, some songs have 5 verse bars instead of a round number to make lyrics fit, or we stay in a groove for awhile and change when it feels right with the vocals- which is fun. On the other hand there are also songs where the music is sort of all done before the vocals get written so, like i said, it can vary.
ELM: You’ve talked about your love of using old gear and recording on tape. Can you tell me more about that, what kind of equipment you use and what you like about it?
CS: Um well, everything I listen to was recorded on tape- pretty much everything until the late nineties right? I think combining old and new can really be effective because you can get specific things with different generations of equipment.
ELM: Is there a central message or motivation behind the record?
CS: I’m not sure if it’s meant to be distilled but I’m sure it’s there in the lyrics to be interpreted differently depending on the individual.
ELM: Did you work with anyone else to create the album?
CS: This one was mostly us. We had an engineer named Dr. G.
ELM: What kind of musical training do your band members have?
CS: Kyle, our, organist is a trained musician and music teacher. The rest of us are less scholarly in the technical arena, besides Andy who is a groove whiz & slap bass king of ceremonies.
ELM: What sort of jobs have you had before being musicians?
CS: We’ve all had all kinds of jobs from museums to bars to record stores to pizza hut to hotels to jockeys etc. I’ve been fired from a lot of jobs in my youth.
ELM: What videos have you done or are you going to do?
CS: We do/did. One for Silver Sun that our pal Dave Klein made. It’s all shot on black and white 16mm and then projected on to a wall and re-filmed. Dark and grainy, i love it. Then we have one that Andy made for “Through the Floor” that’s a flickering color strobe thing that’s sure to make you hallucinate. More on the way. I think we want to steer clear of videos that are super directed, band in a well lit room, over-posing and making eyes to camera type videos.
ELM: What does the live show for this tour look like?
CS: It’s better than it was in the past. We have projections now and our sound is a bit more filled out with extra amps and effects.
ELM: As a band, are there any sociopolitical causes in which you’re active?
CS: Hmmm…. We listened to an interview with Garry Shandling on the Marc Maron WTF podcast yesterday on the way back to New York that was really good. Seems like that guy has a good grasp of what’s going on in America. I recommend listening to it.