Tea, libraries, strolls in the park, early to bed, early to rise: Ian Maleney had a quick Q&A session with Andy Adler of Crystal Stilts ahead of their Grand Social gig with Girls Names this weekend.
Not so much emerging from as slouching disconsolately out of the 2008 Brooklyn noise-pop haze, Crystal Stilts have moved on a little from the morose, echoing darkness that pervaded their earliest work. While the classic Joy Division/Jesus & Mary Chain references haven’t gone away, the reverb has been dialled back somewhat to reveal a very smart outfit indeed, when they want to be. Their second LP was released in April and In Love With Oblivion highlights a new tightness for the band, less industrial and blocky than its predecessor but retaining most of the debut’s menace. A vital – if divisive – part of that depressive appeal is the often-indecipherable baritone of lead singer Brad Hargett. On In Love With Oblivion and their new EP, Radiant Door, Hargett is understandable at least half the time, without the lyric sheet, and this makes for a more immersive listen. While Hargett has upped his game, so too have the rest of the band and the cleaner production work allows the newly intricate guitar and bass lines to shine.
After selling out their first show here, Crystal Stilts are back this week for a spot at the Grand Social. Andy Adler, long-time bass player with the band, took the time to answer a few questions ahead of the hotly anticipated gig.
Where and when did you record the new album and how long did it take? What’s your recording process like?
We recorded the LP in fits and starts at Marlborough farms here in New York City. The “a few days here, a few days there” method entailed a long process with recording and mixing taking quite a few months. The Process(TM) was varied, some songs nearly fully formed, some worked out when recording, at times knowing exactly what we would be doing at others experimenting with different sounds and layers as we went along.
How do you think this record is different to the first one?
At the most basic level the first LP was recorded by just JB and Brad, largely, whereas this newer one was recorded as a full band, so there are many ways the record reflects that change. Perhaps as a result it is a bit more varied in sounds and scope. I’ve never understood the “lo-fi” tag applied even to that first record, or this new one. Like ILWO it was recorded to two-inch tape, and while the sound may be clouded and dense at times it is not of “low fidelity.”
What kind of ambitions do you have for this record?
Well, hopefully people will hear, enjoy, find something of worth, the whole myriad of responses one may have to an album (obviously that includes the counter opinions), in the record. Of course we would love to play new places, new venues, travel, etc. Though I am not sure I have any specific in mind at the moment. Hopefully someone can CGI us into an episode of The Larry Sanders show one of these days.
It’s a pretty classic rock’n’roll name for a record, In Love With Oblivion. The kind of name Oasis might have given to a record in 1995 or something. Is there any story behind it?
Just the age old story of rock and roll: tea, libraries, strolls in the park, early to bed, early to rise. Perhaps THAT is the story, morning glory.
What’s your touring setup at the minute? Are you still in a van or have things gotten easier? Do you get to stay in nice hotels these days?
A van indeed, not to imply that that is difficult per se. Sometimes simpler is easier. We made it around the entire USA without a breakdown or a ticket so we consider ourselves lucky in that regard. The quality of where to lay one’s head changes with the weather, varying from city to city, continent to continent and the differing customs therein.
You changed your UK/European label for this release, why was that? What’s it like working with Slumberland?
Eh, the usual this and that. Slumberland is a delight. Mike is in this game for the right reasons and truly cares about putting out great records which is what this is all about, isn’t it? A stand-up gent, warmhearted to the end.
Going back a bit, can you tell us a little about how your relationship with Hamish Kilgour came about? Were you guys into The Clean before you met him?
I was not in the band in those days so I can’t speak too specifically to all that, though we have many friends in common and Hamish has indeed been a fan and quite supportive. I will say, yes, we are all very into The Clean, The Great Unwashed, and many other Flying Nun and XPressway bands, and have been for time immemorial. We could compile an amazingly lengthy list of NZ bands that we love dearly but will spare you. Suffice to say, many many of those bands have had a large influence on us.
Hamish is a great guy and been a good friend to us. We all eagerly await the new Mad Scene record which I can imagine will be nothing less than mind-blowing.
You’ve mentioned in the past that you like to play FIFA? Still a passion of yours?
I have unfortunately been out of the loop FIFA-wise for a bit of time now. If someone would like to gift me a PS3 or XBOX and the latest FIFA I would be thrilled and commit many hours to its mastery. I always played as MLS teams. The last one I played regularly was a few years ago and had the manager mode so I believe I slowly worked my way up from the lowest of European leagues eventually making it to a place where I could at least not be trounced by Real Madrid. Our friend Rob, after beating me (though I somewhat held my own), as well he should have as he is quite the player, many a year ago, early in my playing told me I had promise. I wear that as a badge of honor.
Crystal Stilts play The Grand Social with Girls Names this Friday, 4th November.