Interview: Crystal Cities sound huge
Sydney-based band Crystal Cities are back with a new single, Tell Me Now. Courtney Dabb has a chat with them:
Hi and thanks for taking the time out to speak with us at Something You Said. Is it fair to say that Crystal Cities is a reincarnation of your previous outfit Jefferson?
Yeah it’s fair to say, we have lost a few kilos in the transformation, we are now a three-piece, down a guitar player and with a new drummer.
What aesthetics did you retain and what elements did you lose by forming Crystal Cities?
As a three-piece I wanted to create a sound that was still full and incorporate the instruments and or varied guitar layers from our studio recordings into our live performances, so I am using recorded backing tracks that I record at home or have taken from the recording sessions. The drummer now plays along to a click and all recorded parts fly in at the right time when needed, it just means we have to be very tight and well rehearsed with the backing tracks, but it’s sounding huge live while still being a three-piece band!
Having spent quite some time globetrotting, how much of your time abroad makes it’s way into your music and shape your subject matter?
I’m not sure how much travelling is reflected in my songwriting. I have written a lot of songs while travelling through Europe and The States and there is maybe a different head space involved. I do however seem to write a little differently depending on the instrument I may be using to write with at the time. I recently brought a 73 gibson 335 in Brooklyn and immediately wrote a track that seemed to just come out of the instrument!!
In watching your clip Talking To Myself I can see that it is spliced with shots from Newtown and New York, what common thread ties these together for you?
I live in Newtown and so hangout a lot there and we also recorded the single in Camperdown at Church Street Studios. I had just come back from a trip to The States and had a bunch of footage on my phone and so decided I wanted to start putting my own visuals to my own music, plus as a indie band it’s also a lot more affordable and a lot more creative to be able to put your own ideas together and have a complete project completed entirely by yourself. It’s very rewarding.
Your first single was produced by Daniel Vandenberg of Hercules Street Studios fame. What did Daniel bring to the table that shines through on this EP?
Daniel was great to work with, I didn’t know to much about his past credits to be honest until our manager told me just before I went to do the vocal takes who he had worked with and his recording credits. I was like yeah cool, but that could have waited until after I had finished doing my vocals, no pressure! Haha, but yeah he is a great, down to earth guy who is very passionate about his craft and was really cool to work with. The first thing Dan said to me when i met him was “I’ve listened to the demos and this needs to be tracked to tape”, that was a bit of a daunting idea at first but it was definitely what the track needed, you can really hear the warm analogue tape sound on the recording !
From that initial brain wave for a track to its finished state, can you explain the feeling of hearing it for the first time on the air waves?
Yeah it’s great, the first riff or chordal idea when writing a song is the best part for me. I love the creative journey trying different chordal ideas and different vocal melodies, coming up with various guitar or synth hooks is a really cool part of the songwriting process. Radio play is then the icing on the cake, I remember hearing our song on the radio in LA after doing an interview and to me it sounded almost like somebody else’s song, it takes on a life of its own in a way once it’s released onto the airwaves.
What has been one of your most memorable gigs to date and why?
Playing a show at the bitter end in New York was great, just for the history of the place alone was impressive, seeing scribblings on the wall backstage from John Lennon the stones, U2, Lady Gaga etc.. was like being at a rock n roll hall of fame museum!!
As we were about to start our set I noticed an older group of people begin to leave the venue, but as we played the first few bars of our first song, they turned around and then ended up staying for the whole of our set. I spoke afterwards and found out they were locals and had been coming to the venue from it’s earliest beginnings. They told me the only other time they had stopped when they were leaving the venue to hang around for a band they hadn’t heard of before at the Bitter End was back in the 1970’s when a band called U2!
What does the rest of 2016 have in store for you?
Writing and recording for our debut EP for release around September, we are playing a few shows around Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne throughout the year, you can check out our Facebook page for more details.
Interview by Courtney Dabb.