Doing it live

Crystal Stilts hit the road
By MICHAEL ALAN GOLDBERG  |  December 5, 2008

FRESH STUFF: Crystal Stilts have been around since 2003, but only recently began performing live.

Crystal Stilts, "Crystal Stilts" (mp3)
Frankie Rose had a decision to make this past summer. For a year and a half, the Brooklyn drummer and songwriter was pouring all of her energy into two groups that were simultaneously blowing up during the hot months of '08: Vivian Girls, the garage-y surf-shoegazer trio she'd co-founded (and sometimes played bass and sang in); and Crystal Stilts — Rose's longtime friends and "favorite band in Brooklyn," one that'd been around in various incarnations since 2003, had played her birthday party two years ago, and which shortly afterward asked her to fill their drum stool. Going bonkers with the increasing demands on her time, she was compelled to choose one group or the other. Crystal Stilts won out.

"When we were writing the Vivian Girls record, a lot of the songs that I wrote were inspired by Crystal Stilts," says Rose during a short break from her bartending shift at Manhattan's Great Jones Cafû. "And then I started caring a lot more about Crystal Stilts than Vivian Girls."

Drama ensued on popular indie-music blogs like BrooklynVegan, which had been propelling the online hype that's enveloped both bands of late. Vivian Girls claimed they fired Rose; she says she quit.

"It wasn't an easy break, it was ugly," Rose sighs. "Have you ever been in a relationship where you kind of quit the relationship before you were really done with it? It was a lot like that. I stopped doing what I needed to do in that band a long time ago. And honestly, what it came down to is, one, aesthetics — what direction each band wanted to go in — and, two, who can I be in a car with for a month at a time? Two 21-year-old girls, or three 32-year-old guys?"

Whatever you may think of Vivian Girls, it only takes a spin or two through Crystal Stilts' recent full-length debut, Alight of Night (Slumberland) to make clear why full-time membership in the band was so enticing to Rose. It's moody, frosty dream-pop with the kind of guitar jangle, brooding basslines, deep and vaguely distressed vocal murmurs, and nods to '60s surf and girl-group music — all of it soaked in delicious reverb — that'd be appealing to anyone who fell for the Velvet Underground-inspired indie-pop that came out of New Zealand in the '80s by the likes of the Chills, the Clean, and Tall Dwarfs.

Crystal Stilts principles Brad Hargett (vocals) and JB Townsend (guitar) had actually been sitting on the completed Alight for more than four years before Slumberland Records put it out in October. "It was never really intended to be a 'band,' let alone a touring band," Rose explains. "It was just a recording project for so long — Brad and JB pretty much locked themselves in the practice space, and played out only once in a while. Being a live band has been a discovery for everybody."

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Related: No sleep ’til Brooklyn, Is 2010 the Year of the Girl?, Photos: Vivian Girls at Great Scott, More more >
  Topics: Music Features , The Velvet Underground, Vivian Girls, Crystal Stilts,  More more >
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