With their self-titled debut recently released on Burger Records, the members of the dream pop quartet Crystales have finally figured out how to “present” themselves. Growing up together, the Los Angeles natives have been writing and performing as a unit for years, but they pumped the brakes on going into the studio to record a full-length until they knew that the album they would produce was one they themselves would listen to. Satisfied with the creative direction of the debut but eager to move on to the next chapter of their musical existence, Crystales is now hoping to bring their laid back California sound into a sophomore follow-up as soon as next year.
We recently sat down with guitarist and vocalist Billy Gil to discuss sonic similarities, why they’re ready to tackle new tunes, and where the Hollywood Bowl comes into play.
TrunkSpace: Your debut album dropped on Friday the 13th. Did it prove unlucky or lucky?
Gil: Very lucky! We’ve been really happy with the response so far.
TrunkSpace: Do you think there is an added layer of pressure in creating a debut full-length album because in a lot of ways, it establishes who the band is sonically and vibe-wise to a wider audience? It sort of sets the table for those people who may not be familiar with you, particularly in the streaming age where listeners seem more likely to try out new artists.
Gil: Yes. I think we consciously kept certain elements similar to offer a kind of unified front soundwise. A song like “When It’s Over” is kind of a sweet, Beach Boys homage whereas “Kate Blanchett” is a more straight-up rocker, but there are sonic similarities that keep it all in the same wheelhouse.
TrunkSpace: What does the album say about who Crystales is creatively at this stage in your development as a band?
Gil: I think the songs were always good, but we’ve finally figured out how to present ourselves well. Adding a layer of synths and calming things down a bit, leaning into what our strengths are as a band, which is more in texture and depth. That said, some of these songs are getting old and we are excited to already record something new! We have about a half an album’s worth of songs in various stages of completion, so hopefully next year we can do another.
TrunkSpace: What would you prefer – writing a single album that the world adores, or writing a lifetime’s worth of music that a select group of people adore?
Gil: Definitely the second option, although there are plenty of bands that made one great album, like Television’s “Marquee Moon,” but that one album had more of an impact than most artists’ entire careers.
TrunkSpace: Did you have any sense of feeling sort of creatively lost when you were officially done with the album because from a headspace perspective, it must be difficult to put so much of yourself into something and then have to step away and leave it to fate?
Gil: We’ve been really grateful for the support it’s gotten so far. I don’t think it left us creatively lost. It’s sort of the opposite: in the studio, we finally figured out how to put together some of the songs we had been kicking around for a while, like “Agrias,” for example, which took on a new life in the studio, or “Seance,” which has a difficult balance to pull off, but we ended up really happy with the final product. Now it’s just left us happy with what we have, but also a little sick of it already at the same time and ready to make new stuff.
TrunkSpace: The band formed in 2012. Why did it take you six years to write and record a full-length album? Was it a conscious choice to put it off or did the path taken thus far just not call for one?
Gil: We’ve actually been playing together longer than that. We grew up together – Nick and I are brothers, Tony’s our cousin, Jason was our neighbor – but we all had school and other bands and things that took priority. I think we’re all very critical as well. It took this long before we were really happy with what we had, where it’s the kind of thing I’d listen to on my own even if I wasn’t in this band and we’re not just pushing something on people that we don’t fully believe in.
TrunkSpace: As you mentioned, the band consists of three family members and one neighbor. Does that closeness allow for a more democratic creative space or one where creative differences are more likely to get personal? What are the Crystales band dynamics like?
Gil: It’s very democratic. It’s kind of a constant brainstorm, although Nick mostly brings in the songs about 2/3 finished and we fill out the rest. I think we’re all good at taking the bare bones of a song and figuring out what the best way to get it across is. We don’t overthink it either. There’s no voting or anything, but if two or more people are on the same page, the rest of us usually trust the others enough to say that’s probably the best course. It’s never personal, I think we all understand we’re just trying to make the songs the best they can be.
TrunkSpace: You guys played together in various projects prior to Crystales, but how long did it take you to find your cohesive groove (and overall sound) in the band’s current form?
Gil: If we’re being honest, probably more than 10 years! Since the other guys were in high school.
TrunkSpace: What do you consider “success” in music?
Gil: Getting to do what we want, make great music, play with friends, make new ones, and play the Hollywood Bowl.
TrunkSpace: And finally, an era or genre of music that deserves a comeback? GO!
Gil: I’ll say jangle pop, space disco and early ’80s style hip hop.
The band’s self-titled debut is available now on Burger Records.