Sunday 3 October 2021

An Interview With Crystal Spiders

Atmospheric Doom/Stoner Rockers Crystal Spiders released their 2nd album Morieris recently via Ripple Music. The record continues the journey first heard on their acclaimed debut album Molt but with a more Heavier and Atmospheric Sound.

The band have convinced C.O.C. legend Mike Dean to play guitars on this release but this still remains Crystal Spiders show. Mike is part of Brenna Leath's other band Lightning Born where we will discuss later on this interview.

I caught up with Brenna Leath (Bass/Vocals) and Tradd Yancey (Drums) to discuss pretty much everything with the band and how they're coping in these uncertain COVID-19 times.

Read on for more info. You can read my review of the album here.

Hi Crystal Spiders. Thanks for doing this interview. How are things with you today?

BL: Things are good! Happy to see tours and indoor shows slowly coming back to life, which is great news for everyone. We’re looking forward to hitting the ground running in a few months.

For people not in the know can you give a brief history of your band and where it's today?

BL: Crystal Spiders kicked things off in 2019, so we’re still a ‘new band’ all things considered. We formed with the initial goal of a “fuzzed out rock n’ roll” band, to which I think we’ve stayed pretty true. We have our second full length out on Ripple Music out on Friday, October 1.

What style of music do you play in your own words?

TY: We like to think of our sound as “heavy music”, whether we trend more toward blues on some tracks or straight up rockers on others, crushing tone and catchy riffs are always at the forefront.

BL: Nasty fuzzy bass, thunder drums, wailing vocals, the occasional shredding guitar solo. Sometimes slow, sometimes fast. A little bit punk, a little bit doom, a little bit heavy metal and rock n’ roll… but most closely the genre is probably heavy rock / stoner rock.

Why did you choose your name Crystal Spiders for your band and what does it have any meaning to you all?

BL: Crystal Spiders is one of our favorite Uncle Acid tracks.

You're about to release your new album Morieris. Great record. What is the album about and what can people expect from this record?

TY: This album is more “classic” than our debut, both in theme and direction. We were swapping out and trying different things up until the last second on our first record; but with this one, we really had a cohesive vision of the whole thing pretty early on.

BL: Thematically, most of the songs are loose metaphors based on classical mythology - the title track “Morieris” references Narcissus and Echo; “Harness” is loosely based on the fall of Phaethon, “En Medias Res” follows the labyrinth and the Minotaur; “Maelstrom” is Scylla and Charybdis; “Pandora” is a modern take on Pandora’s box; “Offering” is a sacrifice to Dionysus; “Golden Paw” is Orpheus entreating to Cerberus. I think “Septix” is the only one that doesn’t fit into that schema. As far as what people can expect… I think the record is a journey (not necessarily Odyssian, haha), but we have some songs with a lot of bite and some with a more meandering feel. Solid grooves throughout, we hope!

A much darker and heavier record compared to your debut album?

TY: Definitely. We wanted to accentuate and elaborate on the parts that everyone enjoyed on the last one. Specifically, we tried to make the spooky parts spookier, the faster parts faster, and the doomier sections even more crushing.

BL: I think most of us can agree there was a much different mood and tone to 2020 than2019… and I would consider this a much “moodier” record overall.

What influenced or inspired you when making the album?

TY: We were inspired by a lot of classic art (Greco-Roman stuff, Memento Mori, Dali, still lifes, etc.) early on. As the album developed, we pulled some of the themes back to be less on-the-nose and more ambiguous while still retaining their proto/classic vibe.

BL: The aim was for a more “atmospheric” record than the debut. Since we had a lot more free time without gigs and tours, we were able to experiment with a few more creative elements in the studio to add a few extra melodies and effects to that end.

Did you do anything differently when recording this album compared to your debut album?

TY: We didn’t use any click tracks on this record, which was a major change from the debut. Still did a lot the same, though: Straight-to-tape, having Brenna and I lay down our tracks together to start, etc. We went in with more open sections for guitars and extra instrumentation as well this time around. Having that extra melodic space allowed Brenna to layer her vocals and provided opportunities for fun cameos and added pieces during the recording process, which weren’t as available when making the first one.

BL: This time, I tried to do a few more demos at home ahead of time in Ableton, which I was able to give to Mike (our producer) to reference for some of the extra parts and pieces we added after we did our takes to tape. Sort of like doing outlines and a “rough draft” approach, rather than just having a straight up live feel to the tracks, which I think is one of the strong suits of the debut.

Did COVID-19 have a big impact on how you decided to make the new album. Did you have to change the creative process and recording process for this?

TY: At this point, it all seems like part of the routine. We finished the debut right as COVID was ramping up last year, even laying down the last track, “Fog” in our own separate home studios; so doing things with the pandemic in mind was simply a continuation of what we were used to. Having Mike Dean’s studio down the hall from our practice space was handy as well to minimize our exposure and keep our bubbles as small as possible.

BL: I think so. It’s different to write and record a record that you’ve never played live, versus a record that you’ve honed by playing the songs repeatedly onstage. It’s a more flexible attitude during recording - since none of the tracks had been played live before, we didn’t have that ‘set in stone’ mindset and were able to embellish or streamline some structural elements during engineering that we might not have thought to do if we’d been attached to a certain presentation of the songs that usually results from disciplined repetition in prep for gigging. That’s an asset when working with a producer, too; if you haven’t drilled the songs so many times that you’re committed to one particular vision, you’re much more open to experimentation. Obviously, having studio musicians can introduce more unknowns - which is an adventure in itself. The mixed product can still surprise you.

You have Mike Dean (COC and Brenna's Lightning Bolt bandmate) appearing on this album. Was Mike easy to convince to play guitars and how was that recording with Mike during COVID-19.

TY: (twists arm) “Okay, I’ll do it!”. No, it wasn’t like that at all. When Brenna and I discussed making a follow-up soon after we were done with Molt, Dean offered to do the guitar work off the rip, and that’s not an offer we would ever turn down. He was fastidious with keeping the studio clean and ensuring that everybody stayed safe throughout the whole thing. 10/10 would recommend.

BL: Mike is one of my favorite people to work with, hands down. He’s always up for a challenge and this was no exception. He played some guitar on the closing track “Fog” on Molt, and we had a good time working on that, so it was a natural fit when it came time to discuss what we wanted to do for guitar on Morieris. It wasn’t too bizarre to record during COVID - I’d already been working from home full time since March 2020, so my bubble was pretty much limited to like… three people. Plus working remotely made it easy to just take my laptop into the studio and multi-task; we could workshop guitar tracks and experiment with parts while I knocked out some work for my day job.

You also have High Priestess Nighthawk from Heavy Temple appearing on the record. Making your new album a real team affair. How was recording with the delightful High Priestess.

BL: HP Nighthawk is a good friend of mine - we actually met in a metal group called the Doom Hag and hit it off a few years back. Turns out, we have a lot in common! She’s a very talented multi-instrumentalist, so when we were thinking about adding some orchestral elements to “En Medias res,” she immediately came to mind. I sent her the demo and after listening a couple times, she knocked her parts out of the park. What a pro. One big bummer of 2020 was having to cancel a run of Heavy Temple / Crystal Spiders dates, so I am hoping we get to reschedule those!

COVID-19 has pretty much put a stop to all life as we know it for the time being. How big of an impact has it affected the band? And how are you surviving in this stressful time?

TY: Now that we’re waiting for the record to come out, we’ve both been keeping busy doing our own things until the world settles back into some semblance of normalcy and we can get on the road again. Brenna recently had a baby and a big promotion at her work and I’ve been doing more philanthropy while we ride this thing out. Both of us are always writing, so we have no worries about being ready when the world is.

BL: I try to look at the glass half full - even though all of our live music plans had to go on the backburner, we spent a lot of time in 2020 writing and recording an album we could be proud of, and I decided that if touring and traveling were out of the picture for the time being, I could probably best put the time to use doing things that touring and traveling would otherwise disrupt, like growing / birthing a small human and knocking out some professional certifications.

After everything is back to some sort of normality, what does the future hold for the band?

TY: We’d love to get back to touring and playing these tracks live for people. It’s something  we’ve really missed during the past year and change.

Will you be anxious, scared or excited when performing on the live stage again?

TY: Both of us are always playing in some capacity so, minus the first few hiccups that always occur on your first couple shows back after a long hiatus, I expect we’ll pick right back up where we left off and find that groove pretty quick.

BL: Well, I’m excited, but I’ve also already had like three nightmares about forgetting all my lyrics, all my cables failing, and my pedalboard falling apart onstage. Gah.

Ripple Music are releasing the album. Great that you have continued that relationship. Perhaps one of the best labels out there with a real family attitude. How important was it for you to continue working with Ripple and how has their support been like during the pandemic.

TY: We love being a part of the Ripple family! Todd, Matt, and the rest of the crew have been nothing but supportive and helpful throughout the entire process of making Morieris and have put us in contact with an excellent PR team (Purple Sage) as well. We’re most excited to see how the limited edition color vinyl turns out!

BL: Ripple is awesome. They took a chance on us when we were a brand new band and they’ve been nothing but supportive, especially during the pandemic when we haven’t been able to gig or tour. They have a loyal fan base and keep it close - check out the “Waveriders Unite” group on Facebook if you haven’t already.

Who are the band’s main musical influences? Any artists that may surprise your fans at all?

TY: Well, it will be a surprise to no one that we both dig legends like Motorhead, Judas Priest, Uncle Acid, Misfits, Sabbath, Kyuss, Sleep, etc. but we also listen to a lot of blues artists (Howlin’ Wolf, Samantha Fish, Robert Johnson, Freight Train Rabbit Killer) as well. There’s always another great artist to discover when you begin to investigate your influences’ influences.

BL: My first influences were ‘77 punk rock and some street punk, which I think is still in there sometimes, along with power metal and NWOBHM. I don’t know if there’s anything that would really SURPRISE anybody, but a few bands off the top of my head that have influenced me along the way are 999, The Saints, X, The Damned, Diamondhead, Doro… I also really like dark wave and new wave; I’m always bopping that stuff. Lately Drab Majesty and She Past Away are in regular rotation.

What got you all to start being involved with music and playing musical instruments. Was it a band, song, or album that ignited your passion for all things heavy music.

TY: For me, it was the first time I heard Children of the Grave on a tape that one of my parents’ friends put on. Upon hearing the layered drums and overall epicness of the track, I was hooked.

BL: I liked to sing ever since I was young, but I think the Buzzcocks were the first band that made me actually want to learn guitar and start a band. “Ever Fallen in Love” was one of the first tunes I learned to play.

Thanks for doing this interview. Before you go, do you have any words of wisdom that you want to say to your fans?

TY: Thank y’all for being patient with us while all of this COVID stuff settles down. We can’t wait to play these for you in person and get to know all of you, hopefully soon.

BL: Words of wisdom… hmm. I guess what I try to remember is to practice gratitude - it’s easy to get bogged down by all the things that are wrong with the world and wrong with your life, but everyone’s got something or someone to be thankful for.

Words by Steve Howe & Crystal Spiders

Thanks to Claire at Purple Sage PR for arranging this interview and for Crystal Spiders to doing the interview.

Morieris is available to buy now on CD/DD/Vinyl via Ripple Music.


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