An Interview With Crystallines
Crystallines hit the ground running with a live version of a single that bears a whole lot of classic rock inspired shock and awe along with a deep sense of groove and an attitude that displays the bands character and presence in the form of pure Rock N' Roll.
The track is called Hammer & Tongs and it really has a way of invading your brain. When we say that we mean that in the best way possible of course seeing that the song gives us something we've been missing for a bit. Yes I'm talking about genuine arena rock and all the energy and fun that comes along with it.
Now, the original recorded version of the single is also quite invigorating and does indeed capture a certain sense of energy especially with the band itself as at times it seems like the players are feeding off of each other's energies and in turn sort of creating a live performance feel. But the actual live version of this track really takes the cake in terms of grabbing your attention.
There's something about those guitars that whale differently in a live setting on a stage. There's something about those drums that come off with a beautifully righteous rock vibe in a live setting. Even vocals have this different sense about them. There's a different feeling to them that makes them more alluring and more invigorating and more excited.
One thing is for sure, this is one hell of a rock banger and it does keep to its true roots. Those routes being purebred classic rock. You can feel that energy in your bones. You can feel that the music is alive and breathing and these are the things that you fall in love with when it comes to most music in general.
Crystallines managed to encapsulate those things and it all goes off without a hitch. I mean this does make you wanna see them live in your face. Just destroying everything in their path with a sense of rock joy that you would go home and still feel all night long.
With the release of this live single, we wanted to have a sit down with the band to find out where this track came from originally. Why they decided to release a live version, and what may be next for them.
Here's what happened. BuzzSlayers: Let's kick things off with "Hammer & Tong (LIVE)". This track has a great energy and was incredibly edgy and fun! Where did this single come from? Hi Buzz Slayers! Cal here, thanks for asking! This live version came about almost by accident. Earlier in the year, friends of ours As A Rival were gracious enough to include us on the bill for their "Lost At Sea" single launch at Shotkickers in Thornbury. In a cruel twist of fate, Rival didn't actually get to appear at the show due to illness in the band. So the pressure was on for us and the other band to pick up the slack and try to fill the shoes of one of our favourite Naarm/Melbourne acts. This was to be our debut show, so there was an added uncertainty there too, but we came out of the show feeling really good. Unbeknownst to us, off duty sound engineer Marcus Mailer somehow managed to record the stems from the soundboard as well as guerilla recording with his Zoom. Naturally we were so surprised and grateful that he captured this moment in our early history, and it made sense to give our debut release "Hammer & Tong" from August another moment in the sun. BuzzSlayers: When did this all start for you guys? CRYSTALLINES has been together formally since late 2019. Ben (drums) and I had been in bands together through high school and into uni, but after those all fell to bits as bands do, we found ourselves playing as the live band for art-pop / dance pop artist Mani Blü. That's where we met Devin (bass - spoiler). The two of us had continued yearning to put a new band together again, playing our own music. We kept writing on the side and eventually the time came to add people into the mix. Having formed a chemistry with Dev playing behind Mani Blü, he loomed as the no-brainer choice to jump on bass. Not much sooner than we got going, COVID hit and we were forever stop starting between lockdowns over the next couple of years. During this state of flux, we conducted a fairly exhaustive search for lead singers online and a few in person when we could. Although we met some great people and singers along the way, nothing ever felt quite right. In a state of desperation, I offered the suggestion that it'd be easier to find a guitar player - so I would handle the vocal duties instead. But, the guys hit me with a counter offer. In a true Old El Paso moment, they suggested I do both. This was a big mindset shift for me personally as far as my role and identity in the band, but I eventually came to grips with it - and here we are! BuzzSlayers: What inspires you to write a song? In CRYSTALLINES there's been a concerted effort to steer away from inter-personal relationship stuff, limerence and unrequited love etc. I covered a lot of that ground in the previous band, so we wanted to do something a bit different. There's been a penchant for writing about the dystopian developing for us of late, exploring existential threats and looking at these problems from different perspectives. Sometimes even trying to view the world in third person and give voice to (in some cases) objects that can't even speak. But with all that said, we've written lots in the levity space and that's where "Hammer & Tong" firmly sits. I enjoy taking the mickey out of myself or ways I used to think or feel, and 'H&T' is really an ode to that. It follows a character who bites off more than they can chew, ending up black and blue after a fight they instigated. Now that's never quite happened to me before, but I do think about the build up of aggression (particularly younger men) can experience when they feel pushed or put out by someone. In the worst cases that escalates to violence. It's awful on a surface level but I think treating that behaviour with some mockery, framing the perpetrators as foolish rather than holding them in esteem is productive. But of course, this all exists through the lens of introspection, I was a spiteful teen too. BuzzSlayers: This song has some great styles! Can you give us some of your top musical influences? We've got an eclectic mix of influences in our group, we always talk about Ben being the force of prog-rock & metal, Devin loves his alt-rock, math-rock type stuff - and I've been labelled as the dad rock devotee. From song to song, the balance probably swings back and forth between all those places - but on "Hammer & Tong", we're probably clinging more closely to those classic rock influences of mine. I always felt some of the riffing fell into Zeppelin territory, but we've heard comparisons to AC/DC too. Despite starting in that 70s rock zone though, the influence of the other guys definitely comes into play as the song progresses. There's odd time-signatures, some double kick, modulated bass sounds to be found in the latter part of the track. The 5/4 jam section could easily shape shift into one of King Gizzard's tracks in that vein like "Wah Wah" or "The River" - and we have toyed at mashing them up before! BuzzSlayers: What are you all doing when you're NOT working on music? Well we each have our day jobs, but that's probably not all that interesting to hear about! Devin is part of D&D group that streams on Twitch weekly, loves a bit of photography too. Ben is a doting dog owner and spends a lot of time with his two kelpies Tina & Ellie. I don't do too much outside of music myself, during football season here in Melbourne I try to get along and see my beloved Western Bulldogs when I can! BuzzSlayers: Who's in your headphones right now? I've been a recent discoverer of Frank Zappa through a local radio dj here, Chris Pearson of the show Pojama People on PBS. Zappa was one of those names I knew was a big deal but I'd never given him a fair shake. But it kinda makes sense that I dig him now knowing he's sort of adjacent to people like Captain Beefheart etc. It's progressive and smooth, his deep voice is so fun and alluring. Obviously cool guitar work too. Some of the piano flourishes remind me of Dr John or some of those more experimental Sabbath albums toward the end of Ozzy's tenure. BuzzSlayers: Are you doing any live performances right now? We're in conversation about some stuff for early 2023 with other bands, but nothing on the books yet. We're really keen to keep getting out there as much as possible. With that said, there's been some talk of revitalising the way we run the set for next year so I'm excited to see how that takes shape. At the moment we use these thematic transition tracks, created by Ben, to bridge songs together while we tune / swap guitars etc - but we're thinking of turning that all on its head. BuzzSlayers: This track feels like a big undertaking, is there any advice you'd give to other up and coming bands out there? If I had any real learnings to pass on from the birth of CRYSTALLINES it would be not to sit on things too long. H&T was more or less as you hear it now for a year or more, and we could've hit the studio to record it long before we did. So I guess my advice would be not to wait (arbitrarily anyway). Each recording is a documentation of where your band is at the time, we all hope we can continue to build and develop and change as we go as writers and musicians - but to do that you have to start. I guess the other main learning would be to work hard and be ready, don't leave anything in the tank. I think for me personally, studio time can be one of those really daunting things where I can be prone to walking away with regrets. I think you have to force yourself to say, if we released the song right now as it is - are we happy with it. Because that extra 10% of magic doesn't just appear because you're in a 'real studio'. Obviously recording at home is a different story, but if you're reliant on a studio then you best be satisfied before you go there to avoid remorse! BuzzSlayers: What can your fans expect from you in the near future? Speaking of the studio, we were in recently to lay down a couple of new songs for early '23. We're actually going back this weekend to do some overdubs and vocals, so that's really exciting. They're songs that have been part of our live show but we're finally gonna get them out to (hopefully) the masses. There's also a plan to do a music video for the first release, so that'll be a completely new, thrilling undertaking for us. BuzzSlayers: Before we go, what would you like to say to fans of the music?
We know at this stage we're still in our infancy as a band, but it's been truly heartwarming to have people come to our shows or add the music to their playlists. It's probably the same for all bands, but this whole endeavour means a great, great deal to us - so the support we've had thus far from our little community has been joyful. Looking forward to having more stuff out there early next year.