Saturday, July 30, 2011

INTERVIEW- Crystal Antlers - Two Way Mirror, Paul the Cerebral One, Worm Holes, Partial Nudity and Never Ever Wear Shorts on Stage

Crystal Antlers seems to be a band on the move and taking full control of their art. On the heals of the vinyl release of their second album Two Way Mirror and on the cusp of the release of an animated video of the album's title track, I got a chance to hang with them and chat. Enjoy.
(You can also hear the audio here
Conducted on 7-25-11 at the Echo in Los Angeles.

AP - I'm sitting here with Jonny Bell, Andrew King, Cora Foxx, Damien Edwards and Kevin Stuart, collectively known as... the Jumpettes?
AP- Did you have any worse names before you came up with that?
JONNY- Oh yeah, but we can't talk about that.
AP- Why not, I like to hear the bad names.
JONNY- It was too bad.
ANDREW- I don't know. I came in when the band name was already there.
AP- Oh, so you were all set up. Nothing embarassing?
CORA- Oh, there's always embarrassing stuff.
JONNY- There was this huge list, ya know?  And in retrospect, when I think about some of the ideas we were coming up with they were pretty bad. But, um... I remember when we were going to be called Crystal Antlers we talked to our friend Tim Moony. He played drums in a bunch of old bands and he said that if we were going to have a name that stupid then we should just be called "The Most Crystal Antlers." 
(laughter in the room)
AP-  That would of worked. Well you guys have cool names anyway. Jonny Bell is a cool name, Andrew King is a cool name.
ANDREW- That's Syd Barrett's manager. (Laughter)
AP- Cora Fox is a cool name, it sound like a BBC journalist...  "Cora Fox"
CORA- Oh good, I would love to do that.
AP- (to Andrew) Now how often have you gotten the thing about you looking like Paul McCartney circa 1970...
CORA- Everyday.
ANDREW- NEVER in an interview.
AP- No? Yeah about 8 million times (embarrassed) I am really original
ANDREW- All the time... not, not... yeah it's been a few days. I used to get it a lot more maybe a couple of... a year ago.
CORA- Depends on the hair cut at the time.
ANDREW- My hairs a little too short (now)
AP- Well, the Beatles ... Lennon was supposedly the cerebral one, Paul was the cute one, Ringo was the funny one and George, what was he... um?
CORA- The invisible one
AP- (ha) yeah, the quiet one. So, do you have distinguishing characteristics like this guys "this one" and (that guys "this one"?)
CORA- That's such a dangerous question.
JONNY- But I think Paul McCartney was more cerebral than he got credit for. He sort of ran the show.
KEVIN- Yeah, ya know- it's funny, I always... I'm just butting in here but I thought it was always funny because everyone assumed that John Lennon was the guy, was the one who was making the Beatles be all trippy but then you listen to what John Lennon was doing after the Beatles and a lot of it was pretty much just like bluesy standard rock and roll. I don't think that he was actually doing as much of that stuff and contributing as much stuff as everyone assumed.
AP- Supposedly they put "Lennon and McCartney" for everything no matter what they wrote. 
JONNY- Well, I think all of us are insane. We have conflicting personalities. We argue constantly and that's what makes us good.
AP- And that's the process (?)
ANDREW- And that's what makes a good family.
AP- Right, a good dysfunctional band and family. Does someone in particular bring songs to the table and everyone jumps in or is it the kind of thing that the song comes together from an idea?
JONNY- It happens like 3 or 4 different ways. I mean it's happened a lot of different ways. It used to be I would just come in with a bass line and that would be kind of  the basis for the song and then a lot of stuff was being written from the keyboard and then, this last record when we were writing it, we were in Mexico, and it was kind of just whoever would have an idea, we would just try to build a song off of that and it was really collective. Cora wrote a lot of stuff. She had a lot of the initial keyboard ideas. And sometimes it will even be like, she'll play a keyboard part and then we will make a song around it...
CORA-  AND then I won't even play the keyboard part anymore.
JONNY - and the keyboard part goes away...
AP- Or the keyboard part turns into a guitar part or whatever.
JONNY - Yeah.
AP- Well with so many bands there is the one narcissist guy who puts everything down. (to Jonny) and you said that you do most of the lyrical content?
JONNY- Yeah, well, I write all the lyrics but that would be weird though.
KEVIN-  I write all the lyrics for the songs I sing. (laughter)
AP- Bowie used to, during one period, he would just take his lyrics and actually cut them up, mash them together on paper. He just wanted things that sounded good together. He didn't care if the words had meaning. He figured people are going to bring their own meaning to the song. Does it matter to you? Do you try to write songs that have a particular feeling or emotional thing for you? 
JONNY- Sometimes we'll do things like that. Just sort of take things that sound good together.
CORA- What's that line in Summer Solstice?
JONNY- Oh yeah
CORA- "Thank your lawn and thank me to"
JONNY- Yeah or sometimes it's like I 'm just sort of  painting a picture but it doesn't necessarily mean anything to me at the moment like that last line in Summer Solstice, "Thank your lawn and thank me to" (laughter) but no one has said anything to me about that (?) they just take it, ya know. There have been a few songs that were about specific tragic things that happen... whatever... but most of the time it's a stream of consciousness type thing.
AP- Is it important for you guys to put out songs that affect people or is it more like I'm just putting my baby out there to make me happy?
JONNY- With the lyrics, at least, I hope that people can relate in some way  but mostly it's just my way of communicating, I guess.
AP-  When I reviewed Two Way Mirror I loved it but couldn't understand all the lyrics and when you sent them to me it was like a treasure trove. 
JONNY- Cool. Thanks.
AP- In some reviews people have said that some of the songs on Two Way Mirror aren't fully realized or they sound like they are just ideas or whatever. Does that bother you when people say that? I like hearing experimental things on albums.
JONNY-  Yeah, you know I mean... it's not a matter of not being realized. That's the way that we capture songs sometimes. I have seen people write stuff about the song "Way Out" but, it's like, that is just an organ thing that I did years ago. It's not supposed to be, ya know, a fucking over produced (song). We can't even really play it live, like it doesn't work. We tried to (laughs), we're working on it but I mean, like, some times it's deliberate and for whatever reason somebody can't wrap their head around it. That's why I liked when you sent your review and I was like, oh ok, seemed like you could appreciate those things as what they were.
AP- Yeah, you don't want to massage something to death until it's not fresh anymore. How many times have you guys written a song and then after six hours you're like, it was better at the very beginning.
CORA- It happens with recordings actually.
DAMIEN- Happens all the time.
ANDREW- Or we do two different versions like "Knee Deep" and we put it on a 10 inch.
AP- So what's next for Crystal Antlers? Cora was saying you're going to New York to perform?
JONNY- Yeah we have a couple of shows in New York and then we are working on the next record already.
AP- How easy is it to call your own shots, I know it's a financial burden but to actually put it out yourself and be responsible for that as opposed to having a label (behind you)?
JONNY- It's nice. I wish, I feel that we've learned a lot this time around. I've definitely learned a lot from the production standpoint and I think that... I want to start our next one because now I know a lot more than I used to about actually putting out a record, the way a label functions. I feel like we can stream line it. I'm going to learn  from a lot of mistakes.
AP- When you guys did Tentacles did the record company try to push the album in a certain direction or did you guys have control over all that?
JONNY- No, they weren't trying to push anything musically. We came with a finished record and then they told us they wanted two more songs. That was kind of weird but, no, there was definitely some urgency with it coming from them. It had to do with the type of things that record labels have to be concerned with like when the release date is going to fall within a calendar year and people buy more records in March than they do in July, things like that. It mean it's nice to not be burdened by that although then you end up not selling as many records.. I dunno. 
AP- I read about you guys going down to Mexico (to write). Was Mexico just a specific place to go because you had contacts down there or an uncle had a place or whatever or did you pick it for a reason?
JONNY- I dunno, I mean, ya know we live in Southern California and pretty connected with Mexico and I think we were all interested in going there. (to Cora) You had never really been there right before Cora? 
CORA- No, I had never been there before.
KEVIN- Yeah, I mean it's a totally different culture and everything and it's right there. And also it's a little cheaper.
CORA- And it definitely effects the (?)  you being next to the ocean versus being in the middle of Echo Park, ya know.
KEVIN- It's like you're taking yourself out of a situation you're used to, ya know, to be somewhere else. And that was obviously pretty convenient.
AP- Now I gotta ask you this, this is kind of embarrassing... Do they actually have Taco Bell in Mexico?
DAMIEN - (hardy laugh -(laughter- thanks Damien)
AP- Do they actually have Gorditas in Mexico? (laughter) I didn't think so.
KEVIN- No, I didn't see that.
JONNY- But then the Mexican food in Mexico I don't think is necessarily better than they have here for the most part.
ANDREW- Except for those clams right?
CORA- Yeah stuff on like little fire...
JONNY- They have these specialty items.
ANDREW- We are going to have a new music video coming out soon too.
AP- Oh, really?
CORA- Really AWESOME music video- 
JONNY- Maybe tomorrow... I dunno.
CORA- This week...
ANDREW- Within a weeks time. (group banter) Can we say what song it's for?
CORA- Yeah, of course.
ANDREW- It's for the Two Way Mirror.
AP- Oh, awesome.
CORA- It's animated by this really amazing animator who has this production company called "Treat" based out of London and so I kind of sought them out and they did something really original with it, I think, so it's exciting to have an animated music video, it's a big deal.
AP- Are you going to release it on a certain website like Mashable or is it going to be all over?
JONNY- It will be all over the place. I am sure it will be launched on, ya know, some blog somewhere.
AP- It will be on American Pancake for sure.
AP- The Summer Solstice one, where you guys happy with that and how it turned out?
JONNY- Yeah... I mean...
DAMIEN- Is that a loaded question?
CORA- Why do you ask?
JONNY- Yeah, why do you ask?
AP- I'm just asking.
CORA- Are you happy with how it turned out?
AP- Ya know what, I'll be honest. I love that song so much. Like I said in the review, it was like love at first sight when I (first) heard that song, I really dug it so I think the video fell a little short of the song but I don't think that's really important. It's a song and it's a video, ya know?
JONNY- Yeah, it was....
CORA- It was done really quickly. I'll say that about it.
JONNY- Extremely quickly. Like in a matter of like two or three days so... shot and edited. I think given the situation they were in, our friends Michael and Forrest did.. did amazing.
AP- Well, I'm looking forward to seeing this animated one.
CORA- Definitely really original. It's not like anything I've ever seen before so I'm excited about it.
AP- Is it going to be all avant-garde like some weird Radiohead video or something?
CORA- It's pretty weird, definitely pretty weird. All kinds of space and time worm holes and I dunno, it's pretty out there.
AP- So how did the collaboration with that person happen?
CORA- I am really into animation. I follow people on line whose animation I like and I got in touch with this guy Oliver who does a production company over there called Blink and they do all kinds of music videos and that guy connected me with Matt Layzell from Treat and so he came up with the treatment and we just kind of let him run with it as much as possible so he had a lot of creative leeway there.
(Andrew's zipper sound)
CORA- What are you pointing at?  your boxer shorts? Or what's up dude?
ANDREW- (under his breath) Yeah, these are my boxer shorts.
AP- Andrew just pulled boxer shorts out of his back pack.
ANDREW- It's a shirt, it's a SHIRT. 
AP-OH, it's a shirt. I thought they were long??
ANDREW- I'm NOT Damien.
AP-Yeah, Damien... you always like... in a certain time in the performance you get hot, your working out and so you roll your shirt up so I thought (to Andrew) maybe you should do that some time, ya know switch it up. So you're playing lead and all of the sudden you roll your shirt up. 
DAMIEN- I'm just showing love for the Revenge of the Nerds.
AP- (ha) yeah.. And then Kevin, he just rips his shirt off.
KEVIN- I hate the feeling of a wet shirt on my skin.
ANDREW- It's a percussion thing.
DAMIEN- It's nasty maan.
AP- Oh yeah right, percussionists are partial nudists.
CORA- It's true.
JONNY- Exibitionists.
KEVIN- It's so weird because I feel like... 
DAMIEN- Restricted...
KEVIN- I feel like I'm pretty shy almost in a lot of ways where I wouldn't do something like that and now since I've been doing it at every show for the past 4 years now I feel like if I'm playing a drum set with my shirt on, it's like... I feel like I'm just goofing around. 
AP- Like you're not being serious...
KEVIN- Like I'm just an amateur, like I'll sit there and take my shirt off and now I feel comfortable. It's like the opposite of imagining the crowd naked. It's like dancing. I'm too shy to dance right but I feel like if I was like naked I would be so embarrassed anyway that I would be forced to stop acting embarrassed and just do it. Ya know what I mean?
AP- Well, now we hear the philosophy behind it. We'll I coined you the shirtless wonder because you are an awesome drummer, maan. I am a big fan of Clem Burke and Keith Moon and the guys who do odd patterns and stuff so I think you are awesome.
KEVIN- Oh, cool.
AP- And I'd be let down if you didn't take your shirt off. Just keep doing it.
KEVIN- I will.
ANDREW- Maybe tonight we all will.
JONNY- Shirtless.
CORA- Wear pasties.
AP- (to Kevin) We'll at least you're not all hairy. That would be gross.
JONNY- Well, you don't know that.
AP-  Well, maybe you wax. I have no idea. Have you ever tried just taking your pants off.. just keep your shirt on?
JONNY- Damien has.
AP- Yeah, I have seen Damien in his underwear too often.
KEVIN- I've done that before but the thing is it's pretty hard. I'd have to get up, take my shoes off, then take my pants off, then put my shoes back on and I feel like the whole point is for the audience...
CORA- You need the ones with snaps on the sides.
KEVIN like we only have a couple of seconds between songs.
AP-  Break away like Vegas.
CORA- Yeah tear away pants for Kevin.
JONNY- Track pants.
CORA- You know what your getting for Christmas.
AP- You know a lot of drummers wear short but that looks kinda...
KEVIN- I saw this thing that Har Mar Superstar wrote yesterday on Twitter and it said. No matter how hot it gets on stage... or...  "NO matter how hot it is, never ever wear shorts on stage". That was like his little words of wisdom to all those performers out there and I thought that was really cool. 
JONNY- I've always thought that.
AP- Well, we were talking about the Beatles earlier and when they first came out and they had to wear suits.
JONNY- But see,  that was Paul McCartney's idea.
AP- Well, I thought it was their manager, Brian Epstein's idea.
JONNY- You gotta re-watch those Beatles documentaries.
AP- Well, we are going to conclude this and it's really been a blast.
JONNY- cool.

TWO WAY MIRROR courtesy of Pitchfork media 

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