SPANISH-BRIT dance outfit Crystal Fighters' entire existence is built around a scattershot manuscript written by vocalist Laure Stockley's grandfather, who suffered from dementia while living out his final years in the Basque countryside in Northern Spain. Within those pages were writings, sketches, and bits of an opera steeped in Basque mythology, including a passage titled "Crystal Fighters." What reads almost like a clever PR campaign turns out to be entirely true, as guitarist-vocalist Sebastian Pringle recently confirmed.
"We were already interested in European art," says Pringle, "and the writings of Laure's grandfather provided further depth and influence to the music."
The story behind Crystal Fighters might be more intriguing than the music itself—though only slightly. Since its inception, the group—whose core touring members include Pringle, Gilbert Vierich, and Graham Dickson—have delved deep into Basque culture, from its art to the punk movement that resulted from an almost 40-year dictatorship that ended with the death of Francisco Franco in 1975.
Crystal Fighters' music is not punk, but it definitely has punk rock's go-for-the-throat energy and spirit. The band's debut full-length Star of Love is a collision of countless cultural and musical swaths, built mainly on throbbing beats and alien synths, and given color through the use of Basque folk instruments (most notably the txalaparta, which resembles a wooden xylophone). The end result is something that's approachable for those who simply want to dance, and compelling enough for those willing to peel back the layers.
Star of Love was originally released in Europe in 2010, and has gradually made its way over to the States, eventually landing the group a deal with Atlantic Records. Crystal Fighters have played only a handful of US dates, but the legend of their propulsive live shows seems to be growing.
Meanwhile, the group is working on demos for their follow-up, which Pringle says will keep with its Basque roots in addition to exploring other styles of dance music. With its big-label backing, it should be interesting to see where Crystal Fighters fall within the American musical landscape. I could think of far worse things than having an insane Basque man's manifesto thrust into the clubs.