Crystal Stilts Guitarist JB Townsend Talks Album Leaks, Musical Nostalgia + New LP ‘Nature Noir’
From ’60s-style neo-soul acts to electro-pop combos striving for an ’80s aesthetic, much of today’s best new music is all about nostalgia. It’s a word one might use in reference to Crystal Stilts, who certainly know their rock history, but the Brooklyn band keeps it fresh by drawing from a range of influences, referencing everyone from the Doors to New Order.
Formed by singer Brad Hargett and guitarist JB Townsend in the early 2000s, Crystal Stilts began reaching the masses with their 2008 debut LP, ‘Alight the Night,’ and they’ve followed that up with numerous 7-inch singles and EPs, as well as 2011’s sophomore full-length ‘In Love with Oblivion.’ Their consistent output has earned them plenty of praise, and they continue to define their sound and sharpen their sonic tools.
Their upcoming LP ‘Nature Noir,’ set to be released on Sept. 17, functions as the quintet’s most representative work to date. Whereas previous endeavors saw the band testing the waters of experimentation, their third album finds them diving right in. Diffuser.fm recently caught up with Townsend, who discussed his favorite musical decade, his definition of pop and more.
First off, did you know that JB Townsend is also a residential and commercial painting company in San Francisco?
I didn’t know that, actually. A paint company? Spelled the same and everything? Well, I guess it’s kind of a common name.
Let’s get a bit more serious. You’ve got a new album coming out quite soon, ‘Nature Noir.’
Yeah, except our album leaked really badly on the Internet. I didn’t know where I stood on leaks until this time when it happened to us. And it happened so early. The album leaked about six weeks before it was to be released, so like a month ago. People are gonna get it for free anyway and if they want it for free there are always other services like Spotify.
Leaks aside, how do you feel about Spotify and other streaming services?
I use Spotify. As far as I’m concerned, it’s just another thing. Sure, it’s diluting the revenues, but I’ve been saying this for a while and it’s been said in the past. For a time, the record industry got really bloated, but it’s too thin now. Back in the ’90s it cost maybe 25 cents to make a CD, and yet they were selling them for like $15. I feel like it’s a little natural to have that ebb and flow, though. Before, like in the ’40s, the record industry wasn’t a huge industry at all. Everyone listened, but it was rare that you could make a living off of it. You really couldn’t get rich, not until the ’60s at least.
It seems like a lot of different decades influence Crystal Stilts. Is there any specific one in particular that you’re more drawn to?
I like the ’70s, actually. I like some disco and try to find good stuff in all genres. I can’t say certain things are deliberate influences, but what I draw from is all in there. I mean, you really can’t shake what you’ve grown up with. I grew up listening to a lot of ’60s and ’90s music. It kinda gets into your bones. Lately, I’ve been digging Del Shannon; most of his later ’60s stuff. I’ve been listening to that and a few summer jams.
Your first single off ‘Nature Noir,’ ‘Future Folklore,’ has been described as far poppier than your other material. It’s almost a departure from the usual Crystal Stilts sound. How would you describe it?
‘Future Folklore,’ if anything, is in line with those ’60s songs. It’s like Love meets CCR. I really feel that it’s almost like a Creedence song. They were a total pop band in their day, even though they were just a band that played blues songs. People thought of them as a pop band. I think the word pop makes it a funny thing. It can mean so many different things now, from Miley Cyrus to indie music and Top 20 Billboard songs.
Crystal Stilts isn’t necessarily a pop band, either. Do you think your songs will be received as CCR’s were?
I can’t see us deliberately going in that direction. I like groups that create songs on their own terms with songs that weren’t supposed to be hits but magically became hits anyway.
The record may have leaked, but Crystal Stilts still have a lot to look forward to with the official release. What’s next for the band, and how do you feel about the upcoming release of ‘Nature Noir’ despite already being out there?
We’ll be touring in mid-September, but for now, we’re just practicing, doing interviews and figuring out how to get our stuff together. It’s starting to get a bit busy We’ve done a lot of prep for this record, and hopefully, it all manifests according to plan. I’m hoping people like it, no matter what happens. We’re trying to put out a new record shortly after touring on this one. We want it out as soon as possible.