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Crystal Antlers have returned to their roots as an agile power trio of singer/bassist Johnny Bell, drummer Kevin Stuart and guitarist Andrew King and signed with high-powered L.A. independent Innovative Leisure to release their new album Nothing Is Real.
The band have accrued plenty of stories in a short space of time: their debut 7” was funded by a friend who also happened to be a bank robber; they completed the FYF Fest tour in a veggie-oil powered school bus, which got them on the front page of the Los Angeles Times. Their eponymous debut EP was recorded with Mars Volta/Jack White keyboardist/Free Moral Agents mastermind Ikey Owens, and they had both the honour and the heartbreak of being the very last band to release a new record on legendary indie label Touch and Go. Add all that to them learning how to record, make screen-prints, book their own tours, and recruiting legendary artist Raymond Pettibon to contribute a Crystal Antlers album cover, along with countless other weird and wonderful stories and you have an insight into one of the most DIY/punk rock bands around.
Nothing Is Real is Crystal Antlers going beyond the beyond, with songs that rattle and ricochet from desolation to delirium. Opener “Pray” sounds like what would have happened if Black Flag’s Greg Ginn had produced the first Psychedelic Furs single; “Persephone” and “Anywhere But Here” match the desperate, relentless rhythm of the Wipers with the inside-out guitar melodies of the Pixies, and “Licorice Pizza” recalls lost cult-punk heroes like the Flesh Eaters or the Embarrassment. On Nothing Is Real, you’ll feel as much as hear echoes of bands like Wire, Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr., especially on the bleak closer “Prisoner Song”— bands who knew beauty and noise could be the same thing. And for the first time ever on a Crystal Antlers recording there are also drum machines, synths and even 4/4 drum beats.
Although that might sound different, it feels more like Crystal Antlers than ever to Johnny Bell: “We’ve always played different music we didn’t necessarily put on record,” says Bell. “But with each album, we’ve tried to figure out ways to include more of our whole selves in the recordings, while still keeping things cohesive. And from growing up in punk bands, there always needs to be that little element of something that might piss someone off. We might be using a drum machine—but we’re gonna use it completely the wrong way.”
Nothing Is Real, featuring cover art by famed surf/skate/graffiti legend C.R. Stecyk III, is out 14th October on Innovative Leisure.
“Merging psych, garage, lo-fi, prog, and countless other influences, the group easily maintains consistency despite a complete inability to be pinned to any specific movement or trend” PITCHFORK
“It’s hard not to admire these out-there dudes” NME
“[Crystal Antlers] make punk-ignited, psych-influenced, soul-fueled garage rock…not just rioting but inspiring, living up to their impressive promise.” THE GUARDIAN
Photo Credit: Pixie Mol / HIGHER RES HERE