Crystal Fighters' Sebastian Pringle: The Culture Brats Interview

Like a shiny new object that defies categorization, the Crystal Fighters are now feverishly working towards making you stop, look, and listen to their unique brand of musical genius. While it is not at all surprising to me that they've achieved a certain level of notoriety overseas, their popularity and fan base in the States continues to swell as they win over audiences with their odd but alluring brand of musical fusion that frankly defies all labels.

We sat down to speak with Sebastian Pringle, the enigmatic but lovable frontman who gave us some insight about the new record, their upcoming tour, and avoiding the sophomore slump.

Hey Sebastian, thank you for taking the time to speak with us today. How are you?
No problem. We're good at the moment, back in London.

Since the last time we spoke with you, the band has been very busy indeed. You swept through the States--we caught your show at the Rock and Roll Hotel, you did a free secret show for fans in London, and now we are hearing new material and an album coming out on May 27th (Cave Rave). Where did you get the time to record new material during all this?
Well, it was all kind of fit in there. We dedicated the last year to the writing but in a month of writing, we kind of made these trips to the States which were a month long so once we got back we got straight back into the writing. And actually it did help a lot with being over there and seeing how people reacted to certain songs and stuff and it definitely informed the writing process as we were going along. But yeah, we spent a lot of time in the Basque country as well and as soon as we got back we'd go out to these houses in the hills and try to sort of reconnect with our roots of the band. That's where we wrote most of the stuff and then of course came out to LA at the end of last year to record the record. It was a bit of a whirlwind but we got it done and we're really happy with it.

I heard your May tour in Europe is completely sold out and while I was fortunate enough to catch you on the last leg of the East Coast run, I've got to say that you guys really surprised me. I'd heard many things about your live performances and I'd even seen some live footage, but nothing had prepared me for the energy of the crowd or the very interactive intimacy of a Crystal Fighters show. It was really intense. Are there any favorite memories you had of your non-stop trek across the States?
It was definitely intense! But it was a really fun time for us. We were touring in a vehicle with our good friends from London and it was the first time we'd really done or toured America and it was with a band we liked and so it was a great sort of bonding experience. Probably some of those times in the van, even though it was grueling distances, it was definitely a lot of fun and a bit of camaraderie was had. The shows were generally amazing. We were sort of shocked to see how many people came out to see us. Like selling out Webster Hall was pretty amazing in New York and of course the same in LA. To be able to shock people in some way, to show them our style, to get a reaction out of them was great as well.

I was interested in the number of really die-hard fans that came out along with the first timers. People knew the lyrics, danced along, got into it, and went along for the ride. When I wrote the concert review, I actually had a difficult time finding the proper words to describe it. Even had to break out a thesaurus because it was a little beyond my descriptive powers. You kind of have to be there to fully understand.
You do. Absolutely.

The video for the new song "You & I" is great. Besides featuring a very unnerving-looking singing tree, it's a blast to watch.
That's me playing the singing tree by the way, not that you'd ever know. I was the only one who knew the words to the song so they were like, "Well, you have to come down and be the tree."

That must've required a lot of time in the makeup chair.
Yes, it was a fair amount of time. I was there at a brisk six in the morning in downtown LA and down there on a Sunday with a fair amount of prosthetics and stuff around the chin area. It was great fun and really cool and we had an amazing directo,- so it was great to sort of hang out with them and then the rest of the band.

I liked that the video seemed to reflect a lot of what I saw live. You seem to have a real musical intuition, knowing what sounds great and pairing up stuff that doesn't seem right in theory but totally works. You switch it up quite a bit so that no two songs seem the same, like whiplash. The song is great. What inspired it?
Well, it was a strange one really. We were kind of talking with the producer before we came out and he tried some of the demos from other songs and he was like, "You guys should try some bass guitar" and I guess you would really know that the bass guitar is a big thing involved. It was the summer as well and we were just sitting upstairs in the warehouse where we've written most of our stuff and that one was actually written in London, and just a summery good time sort of thing. You know the lyric about, with that stream of consciousness style thing about being alone with someone. It happened to be just the three of us and it's about singing a song to a lover or whatever, so it originally was an intimate kind of song and it became this bigger thing. So that was a kind of inspiration, being isolated and writing music about love and being in love.

That song is so intimate but it's also something you can play in a huge stadium and get a great reaction. Speaking of great shows and reactions from an audience, I have to ask you more about the secret show you did as a thank you for your fans in London. How did you keep that under wraps?
It was a funny thing, we just let our core fans know about it and obviously some people who have worked with us. It was a bit of a struggle, but it was amazing to see how many people had sort of got wind of it and came down to see us. The new songs, we were obviously nervous about playing those live because we had sort of built this previous live set which was kind of more like what you were describing before, built around DJ sets and going from song to song smoothly or creating a drama between them, not just playing the songs. So yeah, we were nervous about how we were going to fit the new songs in. It worked out great though, people were kind of singing along to the new songs by the end which was hopefully a sign of good things to come for the live show.

Being as big as your are with the reputation of your live shows preceding you, when you went in to record Cave Rave, did you feel any pressure to live up to what you thought your fan base wanted or did you feel free to do what you needed to do in the studio?
Yes, I think there was some pressure to kind of deliver something that dance music side of things which we kind of hadn't really addressed that much before we got to the studio. Then when we come straight on with the lyrics and the melodies and stuff like that and checked back at the front, wanting to make sure the songs were strong before going on and then leave the production until the one place where we were going to be together with the producer and just make sure it was all a coherent thing which was fun and made the first album have what you called the whiplash factor. The first record was something that made me want to slightly get away from that and have a more coherent end result. You take a leap of faith of sorts when leaving the production of that one and hedging your bets not copying your previous techniques and leaving something to chance, which is definitely what we did. In the end it allowed us a freedom in the studio to expand and change as the process was going on and make sure that songs matched each other. It was great.

One of the great pleasures of music is finding something that surprises you. Who have you heard or seen lately that gave you a pleasant surprise musically?
I saw a band from LA last night, The Growlers, who were very interesting. Lapalux has come out with some stuff that's really amazing. I'm a big fan of the dance music which is constantly evolving. Any new stuff I can get ahold of, it's all that minimalist aesthetic in dance music. There's definitely an appreciation for that going on.

In May the album comes out and then you have the European tour. It seems to me that you are almost always on the road. When you are done touring Europe will we see you back in the States again?
We are. We are coming in June, I believe. The dates should be up on our website. Not sure of the exact date we arrive, but expect a long tour including DC I believe! We'll be going all around. It's been awhile since we traveled around, since we were stationed in LA for three months. It felt like home for like a hot minute there. That was certainly relaxing but we'll be coming around in June.

Yeah! I'm excited to hear that. I'm definitely coming to see you guys again. Looking forward to it.
Great, we'll see you out there.

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