At a time when New York has become home to more bankers and bedbugs than actual artists, it’s especially satisfying to discover a band that embodies the spirit of the city’s fabled, creative past. Since emerging in 2008 with their debut full-length album Alight of Night—a piece of spooky garage rock seemingly tailor-made for late, late nights in dark, dark places—the Brooklyn band Crystal Stilts has engaged in the kind of classic struggle that haunted downtown artists back when the Bowery looked a little less like a mall: How do you balance critical success and sold-out shows with the necessity of soulless day jobs and still find time to make a new record? “It took us about seven months, working whenever we could,” says front man Brad Hargett. “It’s hard to coordinate everyone’s schedules. Plus, it’s not like we’re taking off and renting a château somewhere to go and make an album.” Scheduling became increasingly difficult, thanks to the fact that Crystal Stilts, which started out as a duo of Hargett and guitarist JB Townsend, had grown into a five-piece. Their sophomore effort, In Love With Oblivion (Slumberland), finds the Stilts taking their signature sound—a jangly pastiche of ’60s psych rock mixed with messy, gothy postpunk—in new and unexpected directions. With the record, due out this month, the group is also eager to shake off the lazy comparisons that plagued their first album. “We actually picked our first single from this new record to be sure that there was no possible way it could be compared to Joy Division,” says keyboard player Kyle Forester. And the press reaction to the single so far? “Joy Division, of course,” he laughs. Meanwhile, the band is eager to create a hit music video—a goal that they have yet to fulfill, at least intentionally: currently, one of their most widely-viewed videos is a mysteriously risqué fan-made clip featuring their track “Sugarbaby” synched to three scantily clad women doing the infamous “stanky leg” dance. “I still wonder how many people think that it’s actually an official video,” says Townsend.
Photos: Crystal Stilts in New York, January 2011. Top, from left: On Kyle: Vest: D&G. Shirt: Marc Jacobs. On Andy: Jacket: Marni. Shirt: Dolce & Gabbana. On Brad: Jacket: APC. Shirt: D&G. On Keegan: Suit: Marc Jacobs. Shirt: Keegan’s Own. On JB: Suit: APC. Turtleneck: JB’s Own. Second Row From Left: Same As Above Except Jeans: APC, Marc by Marc Jacobs and Levis. Styling: Vanessa Chow/Creative Exchange Agency. Grooming: Sarah Sibia/See Management. Special Thanks: Fast Ashleys.