Crystal Castles

Crystal Castles
URB wrote this about the band: "Crystal Castles barely exist. They formed by chance, they never practice and they supposedly hate performing live.” How much of that is true?
None of that is true. We used to have our friends do our interviews and we instructed them to make up stupid stories and names. My name isn’t Claudio – that’s one of my roommates. Our roommates’ names would get into interviews, and we’d go somewhere and a fan would be, "Hey Conrad, how’s it going?” Another time I’m Clint, and Claudio… But my name’s Ethan.

So, you didn’t form by accident, like everyone says?
It’s an exaggerated version of the story of our first single. Me and Alice put the band together, wrote five songs and booked a studio for a day to record them. And during the mic test, I was playing this loop while she was testing her levels. So after that we recorded the five songs and the studio guy gave us a CD with six song, including the mic stuff. Six months later, my friends were asking, ‘Where the fuck did you go? What are you doing?’ So I told them that I started this band and put up the mic test to show them, and then a month after that in my inbox I had three labels wanting to put ["Alice Practice”] out as a single. The one we ended up going with was Merok Records, only because they offered to fly us to London to do a two-week tour. Everyone else just wanted to release a record, but Merok was like, ‘We’ll put out the record, fly you here and set up two weeks worth of shows.’ So why the hell not? It was what we wanted to do. So we get over there and we’re staying at Merok’s house, and so were Klaxons because they were on the label too, before they got signed to Polydor. So the guy from Merok put out our seven-inches and they all sold out immediately.

What about the two of you being camera shy?
It’s probably journalists being lazy just because we don’t show our faces on two or three of our photos. We’ve been showing our faces since we started playing shows, like two years ago. Come to a show and see what we look like, y’know? But online we’re just hiding our faces for the fuck of it.

The music is pretty confrontational at times. Was that deliberate?
We like to use sounds that annoy people. Especially in the earlier songs, like "xxzxcuzx me” — that was just to annoy everyone. It’s really strange when people tell us it’s their favourite song.

Is that what led to implanting the Atari soundchip into a keyboard?
It was only to create annoying sounds. That keyboard was made back in 2004… and then we learned about this whole 8-bit scene, which we don’t really have anything to do with. It’s a completely different world.

Crystal Castles never actually released any music in North America. What made you decide to start touring and releasing records in the UK instead of, say, Canada? Is that just where you were first noticed?
The attention was worldwide, but it was just more fun at the time playing shows in the UK because that’s where we had a single released. The fact that it sold out so fast had everybody talking. And our friends in Klaxons were getting huge so whenever we’d play together it would be the biggest deal ever. To tour with them, when there was 6000 people a night. They’re massive, which makes things more fun; it’s the reason why we spent so much time there last year.

So why did it take so long to get a full-length together?
We’ve been touring non-stop, and when we’re touring it’s really hard to put things together. We needed to be home, or in one spot for a bit.

Your first few singles were released on tiny indies like Merok and Trouble. What made you sign with a bigger indie like Last Gang, instead of sticking with the lesser known labels?
You really think of Last Gang as that big?

I’d say in Canada it’s a fairly big indie, considering it’s distributed by Universal.
We just really see it as an indie label that has had success. They did well with Death From Above and Metric, but they also have a lot of smaller releases. We went with them because they proved themselves with DFA, which is one of our favourite bands. The whole DFA thing happened with Last Gang so that was enough for us.

Considering your sound isn’t quite as accessible as your label-mates, I’m wondering if there was any discussion with the label over what was expected of the album…They gave us the ability to do whatever we want, 100 percent.

A lot of the record has already been released online through MP3 blogs over the last couple years. Did that affect how you assembled it?
The album has 16 songs, which is eight of the early ones that we never officially released, and then another eight new songs. We could have just put the eight new ones out and called it our album but we realised that we never actually released those first songs [properly]. So we just threw them on there to make it a longer album, to give people everything in one shot.

Every new album seems to leak online months in advance. Does that bother you at all?
I don’t pay attention to that. I know that somebody said that our album had leaked online, but when they looked into it, it was just a fan who put together songs from 2004 in one folder. People started reviewing that as if it was the album, which was funny since they were writing about demos from four years ago.

Tell me about remixing. What got you into doing that for other acts?
Because people were talking about us online, other bands were attracted to the sound we were making and have us apply our sound to their songs. I would do it because we were touring so much, it would cost us money. We were losing money just touring, but if I did a Bloc Party remix, that pays for the next month on tour. That was basically the main reason why we kept doing remixes.

Is there any kind of process to remixing a song?
We really just put the band’s vocals on one of my unreleased songs. It’s not even really a remix. People would pay me to give me a vocal track — and I would be on tour not in my studio — and I would just throw that track onto an unreleased Crystal Castles track, and pay for flights and shit like that. I haven’t even done one in a year.