Musical Rooms

January 19, 2009

Musical Rooms Part 53: Crystal Antlers

Filed under: Interviews,Music,Musical Rooms Series — by Sinéad Gleeson @ 9:41 am
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crystalantlers

“Our favorite space to create music used to be a studio in Santa Ana, California called Orbitz, but tragically it was burned down by its creator in 2006. Orbitz was a fantastic art experiment, a drug den of sorts, and a studio all rolled into one. It was created by a mysterious artist-guru named Johnny Orbitz in the late 90’s as an escape from the typical work life. He rented out rooms for any creative purposes for around $5 an hour (but no one was ever keeping track). Each of the six rooms he created were completly unique in shape, structure, color, decor and even inhabitants. One room had a giant colored plaster figure reaching out of the wall, another had a 10-foot Boa Constrictor that lived in it, and another had a bulbous oval ceiling covered with thousands of pornagraphic clippings and scattered broken computer parts all over on the floor. I know this may sound a little cheesy or cliched, but it wasn’t. Orbitz was the first place we practiced and our second home.

Johnny Orbitz was a close friend and a true inspiration of artistic freedom. Sadly, Johnny seemed to be suffering from some kind of addiction/dependency towards the end and he rarely left the space except for an occasional trip to the grocery store. One night, for some unknown reason, a small accidental fire was started and in some frantic daze, Johnny began pouring kerosene all over the studio and it burned to the
ground. Johnny escaped the blaze and was later arrested. Firefighters found his Boa Constrictor still alive in the wreckage.

Soooo, now I mostly create at home and when the group gets together we get creative in Damian’s – our percussionist – living room. It’s very sparse, has hardwood floors and one light fixture on the wall. We have numerous organs, guitars, amps, drums and percussion equipment – mostly very old stuff. There’s a Tascam 388 eight-track reel to reel which we’re using right now to record songs for a 7″. The most important things for you to have in that space are several tape recorders, plenty of tapes, note pads and plenty of pens.

We practice whenever and wherever we can. Usually when we all get together, it’s at Damian’s house. There is no specific schedule because of everyone’s conflicting job schedules, but since we’ve been touring so much and everyone is losing their jobs, planning practice times is becoming a bit easier. Isolation is not crucial during the initial creative process, but it does help. It’s better though, to work with the whole band when it comes to some parts and arrangements. When it comes time to record though, we prefer to be as isolated as possible from the outside world. That’s why we’ve chosen to record at a studio called Closer in San Francisco numerous times. We usually eat and sleep in the studio, and rarely leave for more than a few minutes at a time.

I create songs most of the time at home with a boom-box tape recorder, a bass and an organ. I tape all of my stream of conciousness-type playing and melodies, and then play it back and try to replicate, arrange and add other instruments so that they’re overlapping. Sometimes this is also done with the whole band during rehersals. I use a Panasonic “Ambience” Boom-Box Tape recorder (early 80’s), a cheap Tascam four-track (with track bouncing capabilities), RCA cables, a 60’s Hagstrom bass and a very old Wurlitzer student transistor Organ.

What I like most about this is that it’s Damian’s house and that it’s in a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood where the people are relaxed and generally enjoy music. It’s the first practice space we’ve had in a house where the neighbors haven’t called the Police on us because of the noise. It’s also nice that there’s a guy walking around the neighborhood selling corn out of a shopping cart when we take a break from rehersal.”

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Formed in January 2006, Crystal Antlers’ Jonny Bell (bass, vocals, woodwinds), Andrew King (guitar, organ), Victor Rodriguez (organ), Kevin Stuart (drums), and Damian Edwards (percussion) have developed a reputation for eccentric live shows which has earned them comparisons to Comets on Fire and Les Savy Fav.
Their summer of 2008 was filled with the punk rock mischief of touring cross-country on a vegetable oil-powered school bus as part of the F Yeah Fest, taking massive orders for their self-released EP through their myspace page, and on downtime, drinking beers in percussionist Damian’s empty pool. The L.A outfit signed with Touch and Go Records, in August that year who reissued their EP in October, with its first ever pressing on vinyl in November. A new full-length album is due for release in early 2009. Crystal Antlers play The Pavillion in Belfast on Saturday, January 31st; the Roisin Dubh, Galway on Sunday February 1st; Whelan’s, Dublin on Monday February 2nd and The Quad, Cork on Tuesday February 3rd. Tickets for the Dublin gig are €12 from WAV, City Discs, Road, Ticketmaster, Tickets.ie. For more information visit www.myspace.com/crystalantlers.

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