For the record: Crystal Fighters and the spirit of unfinished opera
Music columnist Meghan LeVota elaborates on Crystal Fighters’ inspiration for “Cave Rave”
I was introduced to Crystal Fighters when I got the opportunity to see the band live, opening for Portugal. The Man at Mojo’s a couple weeks ago. I didn’t really know what to expect, but I never am one to miss out on an opener — I did pay for it, after all!
High on energy, guitarist Graham Dickson greeted the audience, his bare chest standing out among the scarves and beanies of the crowd. Lead singer Sebastian Pringle made his presence known as he entered the stage with a sparkly vintage grandma scarf wrapped around his head. Though bizarre, his energy was contagious.
I found myself dancing along to the catchy, indie-rock beats. Toward the end of their performance, Dickson said something along the lines of “Live right now, the past and the future are nothing but illusions.” Though it is not certain whether or not Dickson was on drugs, I found this statement to be very profound. It reflects a very carpe diem attitude, and that is reflected throughout the band’s music.
The group got their start when vocalist Laure Stockley came across the unfinished opera that her deceased grandfather had attempted to write during his final months of insanity. Captivated by her findings, she shared it with friends Pringle, Dickson, Gilbert Vierich (electronics and percussion), Mimi Borelli (vocals) and Andrea Marangiu (drums).
Under the name Crystal Fighters, the group started a band to continue what Stockley’s grandfather had started. Stockley’s grandfather resided in a reclusive Basque countryside home, giving their music Spanish influences.
Themes like the triumph of love, the mystery of the universe and finding peace with death are prevalent in the band’s debut album, Star of Love, as they were found in the opera. After receiving critical acclaim throughout the UK, the themes continue with Crystal Fighter’s sophomore album, Cave Rave.
“LA Calling” opens with an extremely Californian inspired guitar riff. I could almost taste the summer sun, regardless of the October shivers. Crystal Fighters eloquently combines folk and techno, going together like French fries and ice cream; you wouldn’t expect the pair, but boy, does it work. Lyrics mirror Dickson’s quote from the concert: “Love this place, but I gotta keep moving / You got the best thing right now, it’s no illusion.”
This really speaks to me personally, as this is a philosophy I try to live by. “LA Calling” says no to dwelling in the past, as it is the past. Dwelling and negative thoughts are personified with these lyrics: “I didn’t want it to end … From now on it’s never gonna be the same.” The negativity is then completely knocked away by the grandeur of the present: “Everyone gather round the world / Give thanks throughout the world.” The message is mirrored in the disparities of the two melodic lines.
The album single, “You & I,” may be a popular song title, but it is anything but ordinary. For starters, it doesn’t make me sick to my lonely stomach.
Instead of solely expressing pure sunshine and happiness, Crystal Fighters accurately represents the uncertainty and the push and pull nature of relationships. Underlying tension is shown in the verses: “Speed it up, prove you mean it / Slow it up a little bit just to speed it back up again / Ham me up or simmer down / And I won’t ham it up or simmer down with every grin.” This leads up to brief moments of bliss in the chorus: “You and I.”
Each Crystal Fighters song comes from an equally intricate spiritual background, to which each individual guitar strum and synth adds to a bigger overall picture. For example, this is seen again in “Wave”’s allusion to the power of human connection.
There is so much you can see in this album if you are open minded to it. Take a listen — who knows what the spirit of an old, deranged, dead man can say to you.