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Escape Velocity

Stepping Up To Shine? Crystal Stilts Interviewed
Luke Turner , February 12th, 2009 04:40

As tipped New Yorkers Crystal Stilts prepare to release their debut album Alight Of Night, the Quietus puts them aboard our new band rocket

What, exactly, makes Crystal Stilts stand out from the horde of groups – largely American – who've taken the sounds of 80s and early 90s shoegaze, got someone to stand up lazily thwacking a drum a la Moe Tucker, and forgotten to take off their sunglasses upon entering a darkened building?

Crystal Stilts' debut album Alight Of Night suggests that they're not afraid to imbue their lysergic ditties with rather more substance than we've perhaps heard from bands of their ilk in recent years. Although it's the sort of don't-give-a-shit haze where the inherent pop core can barely be bothered to get out of bed to make it to the pissoir through a miasma of vocal reverb, precise snare and guitar crunch, Crystal Stilts know how to mix it up - this isn't merely derived from a contrivance of black leather jackets and big hair, a la the languid insouciance Black Rebel Motorcycle Club's. Their addition of sparse synth melodies and blank noise to the sharp melodies gives an eddying oddness to proceedings throughout Alight Of Night - it's as if you took home some sharp-cheekboned hottie from the local fashionable nightspot, only to awake at 5am to find them breakfasting on your hamster. The Quietus got in touch to ask the New York trio about their new album, New York, and wonders if they get narked when people ask them if they get narked about there being too many bands around with "Crystal" in their moniker.

Hullo Crystal Stilts, and how are you today?

Hello. Doing alright. we're in St. Gallen Switzerland at the moment.

Please introduce yourselves:

My name is JB.

Brad is over here.

Can you tell us a little about how you got together?

Brad and I were friends back in the day in Miami and moved to New York in 2002. We started messing around and eventually put out a single in 2004. We've had a few members over the years. Brad met Andy and Kyle at a record store they both worked at in the city and I met them a bit later through mutual friends. I met Frankie about a year and a half ago at a job we shared.

How's New York for music at the moment?

It's pretty good. I feel like people are letting down their reservations and opening up to each other a bit. It's nice that there's beginning to be more and more like-minded people in NYC and in the states in general.

A lot of critics have said that you sound a lot like many of the British Creation Records/Shoegaze groups. Is that fair comment? Are there sounds and influences in Crystal Stilts that you feel are ignored? I can hear Suicide in the vocals and some of the fizzing, for example.

I think that's fair. We draw both from those groups and groups they were influenced by. Suicide is good. Especially the more melodic songs.

We also read that you love The Fall. The Quietus also loves The Fall. Which period of Fall do Crystal Stilts most love?

We do love The Fall and Blue Orchids. Slates era etc. I like a lot of the early stuff best right on through. I even like his newer records!

A wise sentiment with which we concur. The Doors would have been a lot better if Jim Morrison had joined the majority a lot sooner. Do you agree? Is there some of the Doors sonic voodoo in Crystal Stilts?

Maybe - not on purpose though. Someone once said that brad sounds like Jim Morrissey.

Please name three non-musical influences:

Brad - Baudelaire. Knut Hamsun.

JB - Bogart.

Do Crystal Stilts make pop music?

Not in the modern sense.

The fashionable denizens of London seem to be rather into Crystal Stilts at the moment. What's the fanciest piece of clothing you possess?

We're not really fashion hounds... I used to be more into collecting old clothes but these days I just steal things here and there from my friends.

Now your dollar is grinding our humble pound into the frozen earth, what will you be spending your hard-earned on while over here?


What was the last piece of vinyl you bought?

The Vertebrates. Got it for free though. Good mid-80s one man dark pop.

There are millions of Crystal Something bands around. Do you regret your name, if only because music journalists will keep asking you this question?

Yeah at the time we settled on it there were none. It is a bit annoying that folks are clinging to that. Oh well. No-one whines about the 50+ Black bands. There's like three or four Crystal bands and they're all really different. Oh well.

What is your ultimate ambition?

The song 'Ambition' by Subway Sect.

Please ask yourselves, and answer, a question:

Q: What is a Fancy Rat?

A: One of those rats that fancies people.