In 2008 a little-known band out of Brooklyn called Crystal Stilts emerged with a fresh, dream-like sound on their debut full-lentgh album, Alight of Night. Te band’s music resonated with critics immediately, and the album went on to be one of the most celebrated independent releases of the year. With their first proper studio effort receiving high marks by the likes of NME, Pitchfork, and Spin, Crystal Stilts found themselves mentioned alongside some of the best new talent coming out of New York.
Initially formed in 2003 by vocalist Brad Hargett and guitarist JB Townsend, the band’s current lineup includes Kyle Forester on keys, Andy Adler on bass, and Keegan Cooke drums. The music they create is described as psychedelic noise pop, with definite garage rock and post-punk footprints. They just released their highly anticipated sophomore album, In Love with Oblivion, earlier this week on D.C. imprint Slumberland Records. Balanced between vintage and modern influences, the Crystal Stilts sound is moody and dark, yet has pop hooks that manage to shine over the top of reverb-drenched production and droning vocals. Take one of their new songs for a spin:
Crystal Stilts will be touring for the next couple of months in support of the new album, with one tour stop that we are particularly excited about around here. That would of course be when the band makes their way to town on Friday, April 29 to perform at Austin Psych Fest. On the opening night of the three-day festival, now in its 4th year, the Stilts will be joined by the likes of Atlas Sound, Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, A Place to Bury Strangers, This Will Destroy You and many more. Weekend passes and single day tickets are on sale now at AustinPsychFest.com.
We got in touch with Crystal Stilts guitarist JB Townsend earlier this week, and he obliged us with a handful of interview questions.
Do512: How did the four of you come to know each other, and when was Crystal Stilts born?
JB: I met Brad in the city we lived in, in South Florida, West Boca Raton or Boca Rotten– and the surrounding area. You are bound to meet anyone that is not either 88 years old, a sandals & sweatpant wearin’ oakley sunglasses/long keychain havin’ way too tan jersey shore type moron, or a tri-state area transplanted small time gangster or internet crook there. I met Kyle through Brad who worked at Rocks in Your Head in SoHo from ’02-’06 and that’s also how i eventually met andy- we had a few mutual friends- The Pudding Pops and Cause-Comotion crew. I met Keegan our drummer at the record store Academy, in Brooklyn.
Do512: Tell me a little about the new album. When and where was it recorded? What is some the new material about?
JB: It was recorded in our friend Gary’s basement in Victorian Flatbush on 2 inch 16-track tape about a year ago. I guess it’s about being in love with oblivion?
Do512: Your sound and production has a unique quality to it. Are you gear heads at all? If so what gear do you use?
JB: I would say that i would be a gear head if i could afford it. I end up trying to do the best I can do with the materials I have available. As for the production it’s just the way it’s happened thus far- the way i want it to sound coupled with the tools & abilities to do it.
Do512: Are there any particular songs that are favorites to perform live? Any cover songs you like to do?
JB: We’ve been doing some covers yeah. We’ve been doing a lot of the new songs live, it’s nice to be able to play them now and have people know them, because we’ve been playing them for a couple years now.
Do512: What are some of your favorite bands and hangouts in the NY scene?
JB: I don’t have a favorite hangout really, Daddys bar maybe… Favorite bands are McDonalds, The Surprisers, German Measles, The Beets.
Do512: When were you in Austin last? Are there any favorite things that you have found in Austin?
JB: Last time I was in Austin was SXSW at the end of a 2 month tour and a whirlwind of shows so I didn’t even have the wherewithal to really soke it up. I did go to the springs, that was nice.
Do512: What is the best/wildest/most memorable tour/live performance experience you’ve had as a band so far?
JB: Compared to some bands of yore we really haven’t had that much WILD shit happen to us on tour. It’s not totally dull and square out there but — I’m probably the wildest one in the band. Wild stuff is bound to happen from time to time though- I have a feeling this upcoming leg of tour with German Measles will be Totally Wild. We’re all around 30 years old so it’s not like we haven’t ‘partied hard’ before. Wait- now that i think about it some funny stuff has happened- there are always the odd amusing tumult that happens so fast on tour that – impact is dulled. You’re moving around so rapidly from city to city- especially in Europe- it’s kind of unnatural – so ones perception is kind of Dopplerized.
Do512: What band either past or present would you most love to play a show/tour with?
That’s really hard to choose because it’s past or present. Um… Velvet Underground, Dylan?
Do512: What’s the weirdest interview question you’ve ever been asked?
It is and always will be… This one.
Do512: And the strangest comment or comparison ever made about your music?
JB: First place for best comment right now is “The new Crystal Stilts album makes me want to kill two assholes and drive out west to the desert and bury them.”
To talk about reviews for a second; Almost every time I read a review, especially internet journos, there’s something slightly off. Sometimes they almost hit something– or are trying to get at it from an angle that they’re half-confident about- sort of fishing at it without the proper bait– there’s a lot of that in music “journalism”. It’s like they’re fighting something else inside, haha. I find that some of the older guys that have been around the block aren’t scared of being true to themselves so i respect the old garde. A lot of folks are obviously either uneducated about music, or are just writing the review as an exercise because that’s what’s in front of them – released this month.
I usually just find it entertaining though, and i think a lot of them are great at what they do. I’d say although that few actually make honest, unbiased, not caring about what others think, not recycling, reviews… A lot of the time they feel they have to rip the band up and then put it back together again with words or something- which really doesn’t explain much about the record at all for the most part and in most cases. It’s like if you have this persons face that you’ve been asked to describe, but you don’t really look at it head on, you just record yourself sort of smearing some dirt around on it, then wash it off. Uncertainty doesn’t make for a good review is what I’m saying. I always say that aspiring journalists should write a book and really dedicate some serious time with their craft. I would if i were an aspiring writer anyway. It’s much more interesting to read.
Do512: Last question: As a musician, what inspires you to do what you do?
JB: Hmmm. It’s hard to answer that without an element of cliche… You know, all that “Feeling you get….” swash. I personally just like the soul of it. It’s sort of the main thing I feel confident to do and i always feel like I can do better- so I plan on continuing to do that. I never went to university or anything so it’s sort of in my blood.