The Traditional And The Modern: Our Interview With Crystal Fighters' Sebastian Pringle

Music. It's ages old. It's ever new.

Who among us doesn't get all aflutter when encountering something different? Well, I know I sure as hell do and I'm going to go ahead and assume you can rise to the occasion, muster some enthusiasm, and open your ears for something delightfully original.

More often than not a band will rely on gimmicky nonsense to catch a break and appeal to the masses for a shot at the big time; there is no such danger with Crystal Fighters. One of the most wildly original and appealing bands I've heard in a long time, they bridge the gap and close the distance with their fans cheering them all the way. We recently had the chance to ask singer Sebastian Pringle a few questions about their unique sound during their US tour and this is what we found out.

How are you doing today?
We're doing well. We've got a couple of days off between shows in Minneapolis and Vancouver, so were catching up on a little sleep, getting some laundry done for the next part of the tour. Fresh.

Your music is like nothing I've heard before and that's saying something as I've heard a lot of bands over the years. Was the very distinct sound something you strove for before you even began working together or was it something that popped up, like catching lightning in a bottle?
Kind of you to say. We did try to mix different [types] of music that we didn't think had been put together before, that is to say elements of traditional Basque folk music with many different genres and sub-genres of dance music. But you are right, a lot of things do just "pop up" when you're mixing strange things together. You just got to spot them when they do, and expand!

Who are your musical influences?
In terms of artists, anything from Ame to Zappa helps us really, but some big influences on Star Of Love were Os Mutantes, Ricardo Villalobos, Skream, Gilberto Gil, J Dilla, etc.

Your sound makes it easy to understand how you would be huge internationally as it seems timeless and without cultural boundaries. The use of traditional and non-traditional instruments is a big part of that. When you go on the road and unload your gear, do you ever get funny looks when the roadies carry in the txalaparta along with the guitars?
We have learnt to conceal the large beams of wood we carry around on tour when anywhere except the stage, so I think the funny looks must just be at what we are wearing. But on stage yes, we do try to combine the traditional and the modern; we have various synths, pedals, and samplers providing the modern element, but also classical guitars, the txalaparta and some old rope-tuned drums that bring a more earthy, natural sound. The vocals sit somewhere in between, I suppose, somewhere between folk melody, tribal chant, and rap.

Speaking of live shows, there is an enormous amount of buzz surrounding your performances (past and present) and their grand theatrical overtones. You've played giant festivals like Glastonbury, Leeds, and Isle of Wight right along with more intimate places. Do you find that there are certain songs of yours that are better suited to either one of these type of venues?
We started playing the small club venues and we'll always enjoy the intensity and sense of direct personal involvement of everyone in the room at these type of shows, and you really can't emulate that on a big festival stage. However, learning how to play at a festival and engage that many people is a whole different thing, and is great fun if you can do it right. In terms of songs, people probably respond better to the uplifting numbers in both scenarios, "Plage" and "At Home."

What can fans expect from your tour with Is Tropical?
We're about halfway through the tour and it's been even better than expected. The crowds have been amazing especially since its our first time in most of the cities. We're now on the west coast and the two bands are, for want of better phrase, a force to be reckoned with.

Aside from the excitement of playing large festivals in front of enormous crowds, did you have a chance to see or meet any artists you idolized at these events?
We've definitely seen some awesome shows before we've piled back into the bus: Paul Simon on the Pyramid stage at Glastonbury was immense; Lykke Li in Perth was very special, she has an incredible show; The Bloody Beetroots at Creamfields in Almeria, Spain, really were amazing. There's many more, but those sprung to mind.

Star Of Love was released in 2010 in the UK but we've just gotten it here in the states in April of this year. It's had a while to percolate and really catch fire all over the world while you toured to promote it. Do you think the U.S. is a harder market to crack or will it be made easier by the love the album has gotten everywhere else?
Tough to say, this country is massive! Honestly, really big, but I suppose judging from the reaction so far, yeah, it could happen.

Two final questions: what was the first album, tape, or CD you purchased with your own money?
Sebastian: Best Swing '96 (R&B compilation featuring Junior M.A.F.I.A., etc.)

Graham: Metallica, Black Album

Gilbert: Madonna, I'm Breathless: Music From And Inspired By The Film Dick Tracy

Pretend you're the opening act of a music festival. You can pick any five acts, dead or alive, to appear on the bill with you. Who do you choose?
The running order goes Crystal Fighters, Wu Tang Clan (full crew), AC/DC, Prince, Jimi Hendrix, and Michael Jackson.

Thanks for taking the time to talk with us today!
No problem!

More Crystal Fighters: Official | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube

Want to check them out live? Read our review and then check the dates below to see if they're playing near you:

05.31 - Vancouver, BC @ Fortune Sound Club
06.01 – Seattle, WA @ Neumos
06.02 - Portland, OR @ Wonder Ballroom
06.04 - San Francisco, CA @ The Independent
06.05 - Los Angeles, CA @ Echoplex
06.06 – San Diego, CA @ Porter's Club

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