Features Crystal Fighters: ‘The Deeper Questions Still Exist’

Basque dance outfit talk cave raves and leaving behind an East London scene.

Crystal Fighters are no strangers to exploring the more spiritual side of music. After all, their first album, 'Star Of Love', was based upon the philosophical writings of singer Laure Stockley's grandfather, and stands as a continuation of the unfinished opera that he penned during his final descent into insanity.

With their debut, the Spanish-via-London Basque dance outfit managed to delve deeper into both their ancestry and history, whilst constructing a much more juxtaposing blend of electronic music. Continuing in the vein of their Basque past, the band took the more traditional instruments of their folk roots, and fused them with guitars and synthesisers to form a unique brand of dance.

Three years later, the band are set to return with their sophomore effort, 'Cave Rave': it's an album that sees them search further into the past, all the while asking bigger questions. So, what better place to find some answers than the place that provoked their inspiration in the first place?

“We went over to the Basque country to write, for two separate month-long sessions,” explains the band's Sebastian Pringle. “That was a very different way of doing things. It was the place that inspired us, along with Laure's grandfather.

“We hadn't spent that length of time solidly writing in the Basque country before, absorbing the vibrations. That made us think about the 'Cave Rave' concept, being that, we could've been living at any time; we had basic instruments and some food bought from the market. It made us think that if this was a cave, we'd ultimately still be trying to make music with our voices and those basic instruments. That's a powerful concept; the idea that humans, at some point, break into song, or start drawing on the walls of caves to break us into culture. Obviously, all of this going on around us is a development, in some sense, from that.”

What seems evident, too, is that the isolation of their new writing location also fuelled the fire of their inspiration. Leaving behind the hectic East London dance scene that saw the birth of their debut, their new home further reflected the quiet solitude that Stockley's grandfather once faced. With a distraction-free environment came the opening up of the band's collective mind.

“We weren't necessarily expecting that. The first time we were out there, we were in a less isolated place - it was still pretty quiet - where we'd go into a rehearsal studio where Basque punk bands were playing all around us. We were trying to get into that kind of vibe, which was cool. We were staying with a Basque guy so we were just hearing stories about their history and his own situation, which was interesting and inspiring in its own way.

“The second time was when we really thought, you know, Laure's grandfather could've been writing at any time, and actually his questions about life weren't necessarily contextualised within his own time. They were deeper and more spiritual questions. That's the sort of things that happened in caves. In altered states of consciousness, induced by dance or whatever, people would've, in some sense, seen some spiritual side of the questions surrounding that. Not to say that we're believers necessarily in some sort of beyond other realm, but those questions would've been deeper to people like them. They would've had no way of answering those, whereas we can naysay things, or call upon science to 'solve our problems', when actually, the deeper questions do still exist.”

This album also sees the band move away from the stricter concept of continuing with Laure's grandfather's opera. This time around, they've begun to establish their own voice on his issues.

“It's a sort of reinterpretation, in a way. We took [his writings] quite literally last time; his own struggle and his own time and the culture he was looking back at and looking forward to. In the 80s, punk in Spain was really powerful, after Franco and it was a very heated time. We didn't write about that directly, but there was that political fire behind what we were doing, even though we said we weren't. There was that feeling. This time around they were more out-of-body, deeper thoughts; less contextual and less cultural, but more human.”

'Cave Rave' also marks a new journey for Crystal Fighters musically. Following on from the more primitive, basic relocation for the writing process of this album, they decided to go a whole 180, and head to Los Angeles to record.

“That's always been our thing - the heavy contrast. Mixing folk and electronica, like we did on our last album. We still wanted to do that, so there was a guy - Justin Meldal-Johnsen - who we really liked; the way he mixed his vocal production with electronic stuff. We had the folk thing because we had been writing in the Basque country, it all fell in to place and we happened to do it out there.”
And, with contrast being such an important factor to the band, they hope to have produced an album that's both enjoyable on the surface, but deep enough to provoke the listener to delve into their own ideas of introspection, if they so wish.

“We want the songs to be enjoyed on face value by a kid or something, who wants to hear melodies and things like that. Hopefully, the atmosphere, the uplifting nature and the optimism of the tracks and the sounds will appeal to them.

“Then, if people want to look deeper into it, they can, and make their own journey. I think with the internet in particular, there's this great thing where you don't have to go to a library to find out about stuff. That was a massive stumbling block, I'm sure. The information was there but it was all in a bit of a mess, whereas now, it's all free and we'd do the same. Our minds have been freed, essentially, by that pool of knowledge and I'm sure many great things could come out of it. Probably not directly from our music, but maybe people will be inspired to think a little deeper.”

Crystal Fighters' new album, 'Cave Rave', is out now. Read the group's Track-by-Track guide and check out the 7/10 review on DIY.

Tags: Crystal Fighters, Features

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