So dark, moody, and wan is the music of Crystal Stilts that it seems the Brooklyn quartet might melt if exposed to direct sunlight (or, possibly, burst into flames). But that shouldn’t suggest that Crystal Stilts’ debut full-length, Alight Of Night, makes for funereal listening. Gothy, yes, but hardly morose; rather, the group’s jangling tambourines and reverb-heavy songs tap into the drive of girl-group pop. So it’s not that surprising to find out that Crystal Stilts has sipped snake liquor while on the road, or that it’s having a hard time adjusting to the Obama-era climate of hope. In advance of their Wednesday night show at The Black Cat, newly recruited keyboardist Kyle Forrester and guitarist J.B. Townshend spoke with The A.V. Club about these tribulations, as well as the band’s forthcoming single, “Love Is A Wave.”
The A.V. Club: Kyle, do you feel like you have a lot of input in the band? Or are you just coming in and playing on songs that have already been laid out?
Kyle Forrester: The newer songs that J.B. is writing are influenced by the sound of the band now. The new songs are developed as the band plays together, so they are more collaborative.
AVC: Can you describe that sound?
KF: I was asked to describe the sound by an interviewer the other day and said that I had read in a German write-up the phrase “jangle schrammelpop.” I have no idea what that means, but it sounds just about right.
AVC: Sounds like a dessert… sort of.
KF: I think it sounds messy, so that’s good.
AVC: Do people in Europe seem more into the band than people in the U.S.?
KF: I don’t think there’s a big difference. Europeans are pretty polite, so what might be a bad show in the U.S. is an okay show here. But a great show in either place is a great show.
AVC: What was the worst U.S. show?
KF: We played in Eugene, Ore., at a place called Samurai Duck. There were probably six people there. I told jokes. I told the one about John Kerry walking into a bar and, surprisingly, killed ’em with it! All six of them. We opened for this crazy jam band with bongos. That night we slept in a house with no heat. They gave us some weird liquor that had a snake in it.
AVC: I don’t believe you.
KF: No, it’s true! Something Japanese.
AVC: Did you drink it?
KF: Personally, I refused.
J.B. Townshend: They obviously had some really expensive liquor that they’d been watering down for years. And it tasted like bad white wine and, possibly, snake excrement.
KF: The owner of the bar insisted we do shots of it with him. That jam band that went on after us played “Iron Man” with bongos and flute. Eight band members. All wearing cargo shorts. I shit you not.
AVC: Maybe that just made you guys sound heavier—heavy enough that the bartender thought you should have a snake shot?
KF: Yeah, it was a metal bar, attached to a sushi restaurant. It’s a real hippie town.
AVC: Do you guys go over well with hippies, or is your vibe too dark?
KF: I wouldn’t say so. Yeah, the vibe is a little dark. On election night, we played a show… we were in San Francisco. Everybody was celebrating. I turned to Brad [Hargett, singer] and he said, “I don’t know if this is good for the Stilts… all this newfound hope.”
AVC: How are the Stilts going to change in the face of hope? Or are you just going to soldier on in darkness and despair?
KF: Actually, the new single is pretty happy, relatively speaking. The A-side is called “Love Is A Wave.”
AVC: What kind of wave?
KF: Well, I’ll tell you the full line, which is: “Love is a wave, hate is included.” Seriously. Take that how you will.