Acclaimed anglo-Spanish act Crystal Fighters have won widespread praise for their highly original fusion of Basque folk with everything from electronica and pop to house and dubstep.
Ahead of major festival appearances this summer – and a very special gig in a cave – frontman Sebastian Pringle spoke to Mark Butler about the band’s distinctive style, and why he’s delighted by the current dominance of dance music.
Hi Sebastian. You’re playing Leeds and Reading later this month, then Bestival in September. Raring to go?
“The UK festivals are always big. There’s loads of good bands playing and it’s really exciting. We love playing niche European events as well, but there’s definitely a place in our hearts for the major places.”
Your music seems particularly suited to the summer festival season, too?
“Yeah. A lot of our best memories from the last few years, and a lot of inspriation for the new album, has come from playing at big events, to large crowds. We write music for those kinds of scenarios now.”
A lot of the big events seem to be showing-off a major dance influence this year, with electronic acts and DJs prominent at even the traditional rock gatherings. Is that something you’re happy about?
“Definitely. I’m pleased to see it, because guitar music dominated for such a long time. Since the beginning of electronic music, there’s always been this play between the two. But everyone’s just trying to write the best songs they can – and maybe it’s just that the best and most relevant stuff is coming from the electronic side right now.”
Dance seems to be the biggest genre in the world right now. Do you feel part of a particularly exciting time for dance music?
“Absolutely. If it wasn’t for electronic music I’d be in a different place right now. It gives you an enormous sense of autonomy. You can achieve a sense of control and decision-making with very little budget. It’s an amazingly democratic thing, and I think we’re seeing more and more talented people getting out there.”
Your music has been widely-praised for its originality. How would you describe what you do?
“It’s a meeting of two worlds. A meeting of old and new, human and robotic.”
How did your style evolve? Was it a conscious decision to do something different?
“I think so. I’ve always liked the underground in music. Stuff that’s shocked me, and surprised me. We were trying to make sense of Basque influences, and trying to make it appeal to us as listeners of dance music.”
What is it about Basque culture that drew you in?
“For me, its appeal lies in exploring a culture that’s less mainstream and discovering what’s beautiful about it. It’s got this esoteric history. and has this originality and individuality.”
Your second album, Cave Rave, came out this summer. Is it true it took just two months to write and record?
“Yeah. It happened very quickly for us, and we were very happy with the songs. It’s a nice piece in time. It sums up where we were.”
You’re playing a real-life Cave Rave in San Sebastian at the end of this month. Given the title of the album, I’m assuming this has been a long time in the offing?
“We knew about the cave from the beginning of the band, and it had always been at the back of our mind. It just so happened that we got the idea to play there while working on the new album.”
You sound genuinely excited about the gig?
“Oh, it should be awesome. I went to the cave about a month ago and it’s incredible. It’s a massive place, half underground. It’s a magical venue, with a stage made of rock. It’s perfect for a performance. Shockingly, we’re the first band to play it in 10 years. There’ll be loads of bands playing and a big after-party.”
Are there any other weird venues you’d like to play at?
“We’d love to play on a mountain-top. Maybe we’ll go up into the Basque mountains next year.”
Your tour schedule for the rest of the year is crazy. You’re playing all across the US, Europe and then the UK. What’s the secret to surviving that kind of run?
“I think the key is to just rest when you can, focus on creative things to keep your interest going, try to eat OK, get some exercise – and not drink too much. The last one can be difficult! It’s the constant dilemma. If you overdo things, you’ll be in trouble.”
What would you say your ultimate musical ambitions are going forward?
“I’d love to record a series of albums that build on one-another and represent different aspects of my character. I want to just craft a body of work that’s worth listening to.”
The band play Leeds and Reading Festivals on August 23/24, and Bestival on September 8. They then tour the UK in November.
Catch Crystal Fighters at the following dates:
Nov 21: Brighton Concorde
Nov 22: London, Brixton Academy
Nov 23: Manchester Academy
Nov 25: Leeds University
Nov 26: Glasgow Arches
Nov 27: Newcastle University
Nov 28: Liverpool, East Village Arts Club
Nov 29: Bristol Trinity
Nov 30: Birmingham Institute