Crystal Stilts: The Weeping Elvis Interview

Share this post

If you ascribe to the theory that great ideas live on and persevere through the ravages of time, then the philosophical and musical underpinnings of Ian Curtis et al. oeuvre are alive and well, and flourishing in the Borough of Brooklyn.

On the eve of their upcoming mini-tour through the Northeast, Weeping Elvis spoke by phone with Crystal Stilts co-founder and guitarist J.B. Townsend to talk about terrorism, Frankie Rose, their new sketches of ’70’s hi-fi inspired songs (“…modified with the TK-421, which kicks it up, I don’t know, maybe three or four, um, quads per channel”), and the presentation of corporeal form on video.


WE: How did you and Brad meet? It says you “converged in the quiet of South Florida” – which could be in the bios of several boy bands or the 9/11 hijackers.

JB: We met each other in 2000 through some mutual friends in Florida, and we had similar tastes in music and I was recording on my own, just messing around and [Brad] wasn’t really a musician. We had similar taste in music and we became friends and both wanted to move to NY at the same time so we ended up moving up here.

WE: And you honed your sound in NY?

JB: I got a practice space and we just started playing whatever and getting some instruments together. It took a year of just messing around and then we started doing singles.

WE: It seems like they force the “Brooklyn” thing on you guys, so I wanted to ask what’s the most ridiculous forced genre classification anyone’s tried to give you? My personal favorite is when Pitchfork called you guys lo-fi Brooklyn jangle-pop.

JB: It’s kind of funny… but it’s all fine, I think at the time we got a little bit of notoriety it was kind of hip to be lo-fi, because lo-fi wasn’t a “thing” so we were kind of thrown in there with all that stuff. Our recordings aren’t hi-fi and it’s so broad. I take it literally – like the word “lo-fi” means recorded in “lo-fi” and “hi-fi” means recorded in “hi-fi.” You can say anything that isn’t recorded well is lo-fi but it can be anything, it can be Barry Manilow recorded poorly and that’s lo-fi. I don’t identify with it, that’s for sure.

WE: What genre would your album be in an old National Record Mart?

JB: Probably alternative, which is kind of funny because on iTunes it was alternative – which is probably more accurate.

WE: What prompted the most recent mini-tour (from April 12-15 in Stonybrook, Hoboken, DC, and Philly) –Is it the “Do Your Federal Income Taxes” Tour? Or the “Stops on the Acela Express” Tour?

JB: It was more like we did a couple of tours last year and we didn’t play Philly or DC and we got a couple of college show offers and said, “We’ll play some cities that we didn’t do on the other tours last year.”

WE: All the cool kids, or at least the kids who want to be cool, are talking about Coachella this time of year. Have you ever done any big festivals?

JB: You know what’s funny, in the states we haven’t done too many of the big festivals like that, they just haven’t called. We’ve done some U.K. ones, we’ve done Primavera [in Barcelona] – there are so many more in Europe. We’ve done some big ones in Poland and it’s pretty crazy, we do pretty well, we play these well-attended shows, and then the next thing you do is a festival where there’s thousands of people and you’re on a Jumbotron.



WE: You guys are notoriously video-shy. Is there a reason you never show yourselves in your videos, unless you count “Silver Sun” where you’re either blurry or in the dark?

JB: It’s really hard to make [the video] look cool featuring yourself. I’m not really against it if it looked right but if it’s us hanging out and pretending we’re doing something but we’re actually just posing I don’t like the way that looks. We kind of have to be doing something.

WE: Why the 1968 Paris riots in the “Departure” video?

JB: It’s not that calculated – a friend of mine worked for the BBC and had access to a library of B-Roll stuff so he got the tapes and was allowed to use them and it was just a cool thing.

WE: There is a cinematic quality to many of your videos – it’s not like you’re not making OK Go videos meant to go viral.

JB: We’ve never had a video that was directed or cost more than $1,000 so they’re pretty organic. I like videos a lot, Andy [Adler] in the band went to film school and he does our projections and lately live we’ve been doing way more projection stuff so it’s definitely a big part of it but as far as the way things are going with music media, I’m not even sure man.

WE: The scale is so tangible – it’s like the Departure video has 215,000 hits, which is more people than live in most cities.

JB: It’s cool – I guess there’s a general aesthetic that kind of ends up happening when we all put our two cents in just kind of rounds out that way. It just kind of happens.



WE: Any plans to re-adopt Frankie Rose? Why doesn’t anyone want Frankie in their band?

JB: (Laughter) No, I don’t know… she’s doing her own thing. I haven’t seen her in about a year.

WE: Was it a happy departure?

JB: Some of the groups she was in, maybe it wasn’t as smooth, but with us it was fine. We had toured for a year straight and it was a natural move. We all kind of knew she wanted to do her own thing so it ended up being fine.

WE: What are you guys doing now?

JB: We’re working a lot – we’ve been writing quite a bit actually. We have a ton of songs which are in the sketch phase right now. [The new album] is going to sound like us but it’s going to be a little more rounded out with different things going on. There are some baroque style songs, there are some songs which sound like they could be on any of our records – it’s kind of all over the place – there’s some slow stuff. I kind of want to make it a little more hi-fi and recorded well to sound like a major-label mid-70s style as far as recording goes – kind of escape the lo-fi tag.

WE: Alright, that’s awesome. I have to go wash my hair. I love you.*

JB: I love you more.*


* Did not happen. At all. Although, WE does take hygiene seriously and also believes in the power of love.


Leave a comment!