Crystal Fighters

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Crystal Fighters
Sebastian Pringle of Crystal Fighters Way Out West 2013.jpg
Sebastian Pringle of Crystal Fighters at Way Out West 2013 in Gothenburg, Sweden
Background information
Origin London, United Kingdom
Genres Alternative dance, synthpop, folk, folktronica
Years active 2007–present
Labels Zirkulo / PIAS / Atlantic
Members Sebastian Pringle
Gilbert Vierich
Graham Dickson
Eleanor Fletcher
Past members Mimi Borelli
Laure Stockley

Crystal Fighters are a British alternative dance band, formed in London, United Kingdom in 2007. Their debut album, Star of Love, was released in October 2010[1] in the UK and was released in the US through Atlantic Records in April 2012.[2] Their second album entitled Cave Rave was released 27 May 2013.


Formation and early years[edit]

Crystal Fighters consists of Sebastian Pringle (lead vocals, guitar), Gilbert Vierich (electronics, guitars, txalaparta, percussion), Graham Dickson (guitar/txalaparta), Laure Stockley (vocals), Mimi Borelli (vocals), and Andrea Marongiu (drummer).

Pringle and Vierich were old friends at St Paul's School, while Vierich and Dickson met through various parties before Vierich "forced [Graham] to move to London and start to make music."[3] The three then began making music under various guises before being joined by Laure Stockley and Mimi Borrelli.[4] The band added Andrea Marongiu as their drummer in September 2010 at the Isle of Wight's Bestival.[5]

The group took their name Crystal Fighters from an unfinished opera which Stockley's grandfather had penned during his final months of insanity. Stockley came across the manuscript while clearing out the reclusive old man's remote home in the Basque countryside. She quickly became obsessed by the intriguing scrawls within it and shared it with the others. Captivated by its seemingly prophetic contents, the band took on the name and formed in an attempt to expand upon the wild and deranged spirit of Stockley's grandfather's writings.[6] "We started writing music around the book and learning about Basque culture and how the music and history has evolved. From there we decided we wanted to finish the opera and do a live show that would get across some of the amazing, crazy...stuff that was in this book. So we crafted this live show around the book and wrote new music based on its directions and looking at Basque music as a whole."[7] explains Vierich.

Instruments and style[edit]

Describing their style as "fast, mesmeric and passionate",[3] the band play both electric and acoustic guitars, which adds lots of timbre, synths, drums, and incorporate traditional Basque instruments into their music. Many of their songs use a txalaparta, a wooden xylophone-like percussion instrument played by two people standing face-to-face. They also use the danbolin (a rope-tuned snare drum), and the txistu (a Basque pipe whistle).[8]

Crystal Fighters' style is a fusion of genres – fast progressive dance music joined by the melodies and dances of traditional Basque folk, alongside synthesisers, bass-driven wonk-funk, with beats fuelled by early 1980s Spanish punk and experimental electronica from bands such as Aviador Dro, Las Vulpes and Dulce Venganza.[9][10] Basque music informs much of their songwriting: the riff on "Champion Sound" is lifted from the Basque folk piece "Sagar Dantza" and "In The Summer" draws upon music heard at the Carnival of Lantz in Navarra.[11] Paul Lester of The Guardian has described their style as "what would happen if you went back 100 years, dropped a load of recording equipment into a remote Basque village and left the villagers, steeped in folk music, to their own devices."[6]

A melting pot of cultural, musical and stylistic influences, Crystal Fighters use eclectic reference points to create their unique genre of music, stating "we consider ourselves to be a mixture of folk, electro, punk, techno, dubstep and Spanish pop. We are kind of like the sound that would be created if The Velvet Underground and The Gipsy Kings were to travel back in time to the Pyrenees, 1980, and make a record with Skream, Madlib and Luciano on production."[3]

Their unique style has caused NME to comment that "Crystal Fighters have stood out as one of the most interesting prospects by a mile – something genuinely new sounding."[12] while Virgin Music describe the band's output as suitable for "the trans-continental, scene-crossing, cultural explorer".[13]

Kitsuné years[edit]

In 2008, music website Palms Out Sounds picked up the track "I Love London" and news of the band's unique sound began to spread.[14] This was followed by two single releases through record label Kitsuné in 2009.[15] "[We] sent "Xtatic Truth" [to Kitsuné] and immediately they came back to us and said they loved it and wanted to put it out and put it on the compilation. Then we suggested they listened to a couple of other songs like "I Love London" and they thought that was great too."[7] "I Love London" went on to be Mixmag's number 91 song of 2008.

In 2009, the band also recorded and made a video for "Robot Restroom" with Tom Neville and Henry Benett although it was never released.[16]

The group were chosen as Diesel U Music's Spanish representatives, and launched MySpace Music in the UK,[17] and went on to be listed as number 8 in New Band Day's 'Best New Bands 2010' Awards.[18]

2010-2012: Star of Love and Love is All I Got[edit]

Star of Love is the first album by Crystal Fighters. It was released to critical acclaim in the UK on 4 October 2010 via the band's own label Zirkulo. In Europe, the album is licensed to PIAS. In Australia, the album was released via Liberator Music, and the band have signed with Atlantic Records in the US who will release Star of Love in April 2012.

The BBC called it an "assured, sporadically thrilling first shot"[1] while Artrocker said "this lot really are a rare talent that you'd be foolish to ignore."[19] Mojo gave the album 4 out of 5, stating "there's a thrilling carnival atmosphere to Star of Love (...) unique and highly moreish".[citation needed] The Fly called it "a record as high in energy and delightfully messy as their now notorious live performances"[20]

Of the recording process, Pringle states: "we decided to spend a fair bit of time making sure it was all in place, that we were happy with how everything sounded, primarily making sure the songs somehow linked in with one another even though there's a slew of mad genres going on within the record. We spent a fair bit of time in the studio, having written most of it at home in our warehouse, the three of us together, before taking it to the studio to mix it properly."[21] Written and produced by Crystal Fighters, Star of Love presents the unique focus and the combined talents of the band. "It's absolutely collaborative... we all have our strengths within the band but because it’s all written pretty much in one room in Hackney, it all gets vetted by each other... there's a lot of tooing and froing of opinions and a collaborative relationship going on at all points of the process."[7]

The collection of songs explore the themes in singer Stockley's grandfather's writings. Themes include the unfathomable mystery of the universe, the turbulent journey towards being at peace with death, the triumph of love, and the omnipotence of the sun.[11] Each song tells a story, both sonically and aurally, and each story has its cryptic connections with the dark and tormented world of the original opera.[22] "[Laure's grandfather's] themes are grand, therefore in our songs we try to stick to them. Plus in the same way he is addressing things in this kind of crazed emotional and passionate way, and portraying the larger themes of life, we are continuing to follow on from that."[7]

Singles released from the album include "I Love London", "Xtatic Truth" and "In The Summer", with the single "Plage" being used to soundtrack various commercials and going on to obtain gold sales status in the Netherlands. 3 of the album's singles were selected as a 'Record of the Week' by BBC Radio 1.[citation needed]

For the album's US release on Atlantic Records, the band included new songs "Fiesta" and "Earth Island".

Crystal Fighters released Star of Love Remixes album, worldwide, in September 2012.

Crystal Fighters released "Love is All I Got", a collaborative single with Feed Me released by Mau5trap and subsequently licensed onto Sony Records in October 2012. "Love is All I Got" was premiered as Zane Lowe's Hottest Record of the week on BBC Radio 1 in September 2012, it was also Fearne Cotton's record of the week on BBC Radio 1 from 22 October 2012.[23] [2]

Frontman Sebastian Pringle was interviewed by Gigwise in November 2012. Bast comments on the Love is All I Got release and the support received from BBC Radio 1, "We basically just had a couple of songs left over from the first album that we needed to finish off. That is very much a stand-alone collaboration. When we do it live it will kind of be our own version of it."[24]

2013-present: Cave Rave[edit]

Crystal Fighters' second album is called Cave Rave; the name of the album comes from the ancient European times when people were documenting creative experiences in caves.[25] The album was recorded in Los Angeles and was set for release on 27 May 2013. The band call the Basque hills their "spiritual home and a great influence for the new album"[26]; Basque mythology sparked interest in the band to pick up more exotic instruments from Africa and South America and use them all over the record.[27] The band released a preview clip of "Wave" on 6 February 2013. On 18 February, they announced the release of Cave Rave, a larger tour in Europe and a tour across North America, and posted a full song called "Separator" on YouTube.[28] The album artwork is by artist Paul Laffoley, and was premiered on Jay-Z's Life + Times website on 18 February 2013.[29]

"You & I" is the first main single on the album. The song was debuted on BBC Radio 1's Zane Lowe show as the "Hottest Record In The World". Subsequently it has been added to BBC Radio 1's playlist and 3FM in the Netherlands' playlist as Megahit. The video was directed by Elliot Sellers and was premiered on Vice Noisey. Sunless 97 remix was premiered on The Fader, and Gigamesh remix was premiered on Vibe.

"LA Calling"[30]and "Love Natural"[31]followed as singles with "Love Natural" being featured on the Fifa 14 Original Sound Track.[32]

The album was produced by Justin Meldal-Johnson, and mixed by Manny Marroquin in LA. When asked about their sound, the band replied it is "a meeting of old and new, human and robotic".[33]

Live performances[edit]

Initially the band's live shows took the format of a musical opera to convey the story of each song and bring about evocative reactions from their audiences through the vehicle of performance art, "Our first show had props including two bottles of tequila, txalapartas (a traditional Basque instrument), signs explaining the plot of the opera, and loads of dramatic stage directions all to a soundtrack of wonky bass, latin percussion and enormous passionate hooks. It was chaotic and we've been trying to bring that sort of energy to every show since."[3] Now even with the live facets stripped down, their reputation as one of the UK’s most forward-thinking, carnage-inducing live acts is continuing to build and build.[34] The band’s dramatic and artful shows have become somewhat legendary with Mixmag proclaiming them to have "the single most exciting show in dance music."[17] Dazed & Confused has said "there is nothing more alive or energetic than Crystal Fighters".[35] The band describe the show as, "Maybe not an opera in scale, but visually at least, and with the aid of a live drummer and vocalist, the drama can only increase...making the songs as powerful as possible will become our main influence."[21]

The band are reputed for their energetic and engaging live performances, and in the last two years have played over 100 shows across 15 countries.[citation needed] 2010 saw the band play all the top festivals including Glastonbury, Bestival, V Festival, Leeds Festival, Sziget Festival, Creamfields, Lovebox, Secret Garden Party and Isle of Wight Festival, and at more intimate gigs including one in Manchester.

Worldwide, they played SXSW, StereoSonic (Australia), Eurosonic, C/O Pop (Germany), Creamfelds Spain, Lowlands (the Netherlands), Hurricane Festival & Southside Festival (Germany), Suprette (Switzerland), Emmaboda (Sweden), Parklife (Australia), Electric Picnic (Ireland), Frequency (Austria) and Bergenfest, with Australia's The Vine praising the band's stage show; "Interspersing [traditional Basque] instruments amongst the synths, electric and acoustic guitars, drums and ukuleles makes for pure spectacle and an unforgettable set of musicianship and performance."[36]

Their knack for fusing genres has garnered them a reputation for thrilling and involving live shows, of which Pringle explains; "With dance music you can go and see a DJ who is in a booth, so you dance all night and just watch him there kind of doing nothing, which obviously can be amazing. But if you have a live performance where you are playing the same kind of music, the whole experience then changes into a rock show and so much more besides, so we’re trying to make people experience dance music in a new way."[7] This reputation has led to the band being awarded the accolade of "a definite band to watch during the summer festival season"[37] by numerous publications, including The Guardian, Artrocker and Skiddle.

Crystal Fighters supported Foals on their UK tour in November 2010[38] as well as headlining their own UK tour in October of the same year.[39]

In October 2011, the band embarked upon a sold out UK headline tour, before heading to Europe in November.[40]

Crystal Fighters played numerous shows at Austin's SXSW festival in March 2012 before setting off on a US tour, taking in cities such as Miami, San Francisco, Los Angeles and a sold out show at New York's Glasslands.

The group recorded a Daytrotter session engineered by Shawn Biggs at Studio Paradiso, San Francisco, California in November 2012.[41]

The band announced a set of tour dates planned for May 2013, covering shows in the UK, Europe and North America including a homecoming show at London's Brixton Academy in November 2013.[42] All dates in the bands June 2013 North America tour were sold out in advance.

On Tuesday 14 May 2013 The Guardian announced Crystal Fighters plans to hold a "cave rave" in the heart of the Basque countryside on 29 August 2013.[43]

The Cave Rave event took place on 29 August at Zugarramurdi cave outside San Sebastian.[44] Support came from Belako and Wilhelm & The Dancing Animals. Newspaper El País described the Cave Rave as a "comprehensive review of their two albums", delivering "cathartic moments of communion with the faithful from San Sebastian."[45]

TV and film appearances[edit]

Crystal Fighters performed "Champion Sound" and "Xtatic Truth" on Later With Jools Holland in October 2010.[46]

They appeared on Channel 4's Abbey Road Debuts, a new music programme from the producers of Live from Abbey Road which began in April 2011.[47]

Two songs from the Star Of Love album have featured in hit TV series Skins. "Xtatic Truth" featured in Episode 7, Series 4 during the party scene[48] and "With You" in Episode 3 of Series 5 when Mini sees Nick sleeping next to Liv. 'I Do This Everyday' was featured on the Skins advert in February 2011.[49]

The Delta Heavy remix of "I Love London" was featured on the soundtrack to the film Harry Brown.[50]

They were featured on a small documentary "4Play: Crystal Fighters", which aired 25 February 2011 on Channel 4.[51]

Their track "Plage" was used on the 2011 television commercials for both Matalan and Target. Also in 2011, a portion of their song "Follow" was used in the U.S. Puma Shoes commercial "Pumagility".[52]

A portion of their track "At Home" is being used in Portugal and Spain in a History Channel advert since the start of 2012. "At Home" was synched to Google Advert in April 2012.[53]

Crystal Fighters' "Follow" was synched to Sony Xperia TV Advert in September 2012, and was also featured in the video game FIFA 13.[54]

The band have released videos for singles "Xtatic Truth", "I Love London", "At Home", "Follow/Swallow", "In The Summer", "Plage" and "Champion Sound" and in September 2011, unveiled a series of acoustic versions of the album's tracks, that were filmed and recorded in autumnal woodland.[55] The band have also filmed sessions for the likes of Spotify, MySpace, All Saints Basement Sessions and Kick Kick Snare.

Part of their song "Champion Sound" was featured during the second episode of Gossip Girl's sixth season in October 2012. It was also featured in the final scenes of the fourth season premiere of Cougar Town in January 2013. Their song "In The Summer" was featured on Beauty and The Beast episode 7 of season 1, in November 2012.

Crystal Fighters' "Plage" was synched to the trailer for the DreamWorks movie The Croods in December 2012.[56] A portion of Crystal Fighters' "Plage" was used in Marks & Spencer's summer 2013 food campaign 'Make Today Delicious'.[57]

The acoustic and album versions of "At Home" and the Roksonix remix of "Follow" appear in the soundtrack to the 2013 film Trap for Cinderella.[58]

The easyJet TV advert with the strapline "This is generation easyJet" features the song "You & I" from Cave Rave.

"Love Natural" from Cave Rave has been selected to appear on the FIFA 14 soundtrack.

"You & I" and "LA Calling" from Cave Rave have all been featured on e4 hit show Made in Chelsea

"You & I" has featured on the 2013 film How I Live Now's trailer


Studio albums[edit]

Remix albums[edit]

  • Star of Love Remixes (2012)


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External links[edit]