Ten minutes into a conversation with Sebastian, vocalist in Crystal Fighters, and you realise this band are on some next level shit. For one thing, this Kitsune -signed electro band are influenced by more than Ed Banger and Erol Alkan mixtapes – “I’m listening to Eskorbuto, Golpes Bajos, Siniestro Total.”
Instead of sucking at the teat of dance music’s rinsed out tech boobies, this London based five piece play a carnivalesque amalgam of all the best bits in ghetto house, punk, latin electro, South American and Basque folk traditions. The band consists of three guys (two English and one American), and two Spanish girls. According to Sebastian the group arrived at their unique style by fusing heavy dance drums with traditional folk instruments, and their own re-workings of vocal melodies and chants from old Basque sheet music. “We’re interested in using this music from a small community that’s been handed down through generations. There’s lots of Basque dances that are like two hundred or three hundred years old and we use the eerie melodies, and play around with them until we find the bit that resonates most with us, which might be like a two bar phrase or a two note phrase”. See, next level.
One important thing to remember when checking Crystal Fighters is that their folk music is not of the wandering lute player/supply teacher type. From 1939-75, Basque folk traditions were suppressed by Spanish dictator Francisco Franco, and all the excitement and energy of a freed form makes itself known in their incendiary live show. They’ve got the jump up club mixed with throw down Fugazi vibe sown up. Sebastian explains “A lot of our focus is getting the live show to be this real enthralling and overwhelming experience for the viewer. The live thing is massively important to us”.
It’s all glued together with the help of a large leather-bound journal/memoir, written by band member Laura’s Basque born grandfather. “There’s sections of prose and poetry, some in Spanish some in Basque, some in English. He wrote it in the late 80’s. The name Crystal Fighters comes from one of the passages in it” Sebastian explains.
Formed early in 2008 when Sebastian and Gilbert (laptop man and multi instrumentalist) decided to work together, the group evolved when Gilbert met Graham (another multi instrumentalist) and persuaded him to move from America to London. “We started to put together loads of different bands”, Sebastian tells me, “A synth metal outfit called ‘Body Bag Slumber Party’ and a sort of pop act called ‘Star of Love’. Then Laura (the Basque-born vocalist) came along with this book, showed it to us, and we sort of stopped doing those other bands because the music we were doing, inspired by this book, was much more exciting” the foursome recruited second Spanish vocalist Mimi, who was going out with Sebastian’s brother, and the rest is history.
Rave reviews in iDJ magazine and comparisons to groups like Baraka Som Sistema have all helped this lot on their way to total party domination; most importantly it pricked up Kitsune’s ears. Their first single Xstatic Truth is released through Kitsune on May 25th. “Buy it”, but save some pennies for a brew and entry to their next show.