Interview: Jonny Bell (of Crystal Antlers)

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    We’re always in the mood for a good interview, and from the looks of it, Nicholas Comney snagged one. Recently, he had the chance to sit down with Jonny Bell, lead singer and bassist for the up-and-coming indie act, Crystal Antlers. If you haven’t heard, you’re definitely missing out. With a hot EP creating all the buzz, this Long Beach quintet is a must see on the live circuit and a must have at the record store.

    Let’s see what all the fuss is about…

    Consequence of Sound (CoS): I want to start off the interview by thanking you guys for not playing songs that sound like Bloc Party or Vampire Weekend. With that being said, what’s your view of the independent scene of today? Do you think there’s a healthy balance of innovation in the industry or is talent gradually losing out to trend?

    Jonny Bell (JB): You’re telling me you can’t hear Graceland in our songs? We were hoping to be a part of that trend. As far as talent goes, who’s to judge?

    CoS: For those who remain in the dark with the music of Crystal Antlers, can you shed a little light on the origins of the band?

    JB: Andrew [Guitarist] and Damian [Percussionist] played with H.R. of Bad Brains. The rest of us met in high school and have been playing in different versions of the band, ever since. Andrew and Damian have both been in tons of local punk bands and have always been around. Victor [Organist] comes from a family of Mariachi players, so it was very easy for him to learn how to play organ and join the band.


    CoS: Over the past year, a lot of buzz has surrounded the group (i.e. Pitchfork), due to the erratic release of your debut album, entitled Ep. Was this success ever expected or even sought?

    JB: We only made three hundred homemade copies of the EP, before SXSW of last year. We didn’t know what Pitchfork was and were surprised at the amount of attention we got after they reviewed our record. We had offers from a few labels before the review, but those definitely increased, afterwards. Our goal was always to get people to hear our music and the Internet definitely helped in ways we didn’t know were possible.

    CoS: Could you discuss the creative process of the band, in regards to song writing and organization, since there is so much variation and style on each track?

    JB: I write them each on different instruments, which is probably what makes them sound different. In a live setting, it is easier to notice that the songs really aren’t too different from each other.

    CoS: There seems to be a running theme of apocalyptic tendencies on Ep. With track titles like “Parting Song For The Torn Sky” and “Until The Sun Dies (Part 2),” could you expound on the cosmically fragile nature of this recording?


    JB: Many of our songs reflect our awareness of what is going on and what is to come.

    CoS: Recently, you signed with Touch & Go Records. How did this relationship form and why were they chosen to represent you, rather than another label?

    JB: Touch and Go was one of the first labels to notice us and we spent a good amount of time getting to know each other. They were very willing to work with us and basically just help us do our thing the way we had been doing it. We are very DIY minded and we wanted to keep it that way as much as possible.

    CoS: In the beginning of 2009, you will be releasing your feature full-length, presently untitled. What is the current status of this album’s production? Is it still drifting through theory mode or is a base slowly being laid, in-between touring and life?

    JB: The album, for the most part, has been written and we will be playing it on this tour. Right when we get back, we will be recording it in San Francisco.

    CoS: I read in a past interview with LA Record about you and the other band member’s jobs as chimney sweeps and I was curious, how did this unique choice of career come about?

    JB: I met Mr. Kincade, who runs a chimney sweeping company in Long Beach, and he was crazy. I knew he would make my life more interesting. I was also attracted to having an old fashioned job.

    CoS: As Election season finally draws to a close, why do you think so many artists were performing free rally campaigns for Obama and not McCain? Deep down, do musicians just not like old, white people – especially veterans?


    JB: Who really likes old white people? I don’t think anyone should have a problem with Veterans, though.

    CoS: Will you guys ever jump on a political support wagon, anytime soon?

    JB: Art doesn’t go well with politics. I don’t support the two party systems, but I do support voting and believe people should be educated and vote for what they care about.

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