Published Feb 19, 2008Crystal Castles are something of a myth. According to legend (read: numerous blogs and glossy magazine features), the Toronto-based duo formed by chance, accidentally found their "8-bit terrorist sound, never ever practice, refuse to do interviews and at no time show their faces in press photos. "None of that is true," scoffs the guy introduced to me as Claudio. "It's probably journalists being lazy just because we don't show our faces on two or three of our photos. Come to a show and see what we look like, yknow? But online were just hiding our faces for the fuck of it."
Well, that's one thing cleared up. What about the rest? "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." Speaking with Ethan Kath, the group's multi-instrumentalist/ producer, it's pretty easy to see that his idea of Crystal Castles simply being a unique act looking to have some fun was misunderstood, hyped and then mythologized beyond their control. He and vocalist Alice Glass formed Crystal Castles back in 2004 on purpose. However, he's willing to admit that it did take an accident to get them first signed.
"Me and Alice put the band together, wrote five songs and booked a studio for a day to record them," Kath says over the phone from the office of label Last Gang. "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 songs, 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 [online] 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.
As a result of that "happy accident the last two years has seen the duo touring the world, playing arenas with Klaxons and Metric, selling out every last copy of their limited-edition singles, and remixing tracks by Bloc Party and Liars. But now they'll finally have a proper recording available on these shores with their self-titled debut album (out March 18): an anarchic outburst packaged in warped, lo-fi electro manipulations, thrashy noise fits and synths possessed by the heart of an Atari 5200 or make that an Atari sound chip Kath implanted into a synth by design. "It was only to create annoying sounds," he explains. "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. Its a completely different world.
With their bewildering existence and an album that fulfils their fresh and confrontational sound, that is what Crystal Castles have built for themselves: a completely different world. But what might signify this world best is how Ethan and Alice have done this without the intent to make any fans. "We just like to use sounds that annoy people, he admits with delight. "Especially in the earlier songs, like Xxzcuzx Me that was just to annoy everyone. Its really strange when people tell us its their favourite song.