Print Edition: May 9, 2012
I was lucky enough to sit down with two members of the up and rising rock band Crystal Swells: Joel McDonald and Nick Price. The band most recently performed tracks from their new album, Goeth Head Soup, May 6 at the Astoria in Vancouver. In this interview I was given an inside look into the loud, fast-moving lives of the band members, discussing their pasts, presents and soon-to-be futures.
What got you into music?
Nick: Well, what made me get into music was Joel being into music. We went to high school together and he had a punk band when we were 14-15. I saw them play and I wanted to do that too.
Joel: My dad played guitar and when I was about 11, I wanted to play guitar, so I ended up taking lessons, and it spiralled from there through trial and error.
What is a value you base your music off of?
Joel: Well my parents always told me [that] this isn’t a career and you can’t rely on it, and you know what? That honestly has been the best advice because people who try to do music as a career take on a world of compromise. They just start compromising their ideals and their sound because you’re no longer making music to have fun and enjoy it. You do it more because you need a paycheque. Keeping in mind that it’s just a hobby and it’s just for fun ensures that I don’t start playing really bad bar rock. We try to live within our means and not blow a lot of money into this as well.
What was the hardest part when the band was getting started?
Joel: I think that it’s hardest to find like-minded people. It’s a real benefit that I have found three other guys who are into the same things as me. Finding people can definitely be a barrier.
Did you guys have someone musically you looked up to or who inspired you?
Joel: Bruce Springsteen
Nick: Doug Marsch
Can you describe the sound of the album in three words?
Joel: Well, loud… loud definitely has to be one of the words… loud and DIY – I guess we can count that as a word. Not punk because punk is such an overused term. If we just say we’re punk then we are giving this blank canvas. Oh yeah, and loud.
On the album, you have a song called “Waco Wasilla Waikiki.” What is the meaning of that title?
Nick: I think we wrote that in the height of the American elections with Sarah Palin; she was from Wasilla. At the end we all yell “drill, baby, drill,” which is my favorite Palinism. It was meant to be a big American critique, but it didn’t come together exactly. And Waco was like the crazy side. Then it’s compared with Waikiki which is like paradise. In the end it ended up just being a big party song, but we had grander ideas of what it should have been, but it still turned out to be this awesome banger.
Do you have anything specific that helps calm your nerves before a concert?
Joel: Our one guitar player has been working a lot so we haven’t been able to rehearse a lot. Sometimes that can make you nervous, but sometimes that can make you excited. If we over-practice sometimes we can play worse than when we haven’t practiced for a week or so. We don’t really get stage fright since we’ve all been doing this for so long.
What are you most looking forward to about your concert at the Astoria on May 6?
Joel: This show I am really looking forward to because all the other bands are the bands that we like and it’s kind of nice to play with other bands that you like.
Nick: My only concern is that the stage is really big and dumb; it’s kind of the big dumb stage. I would rather play on the floor.
When you’re onstage who is the most likely to randomly do something crazy?
Joel: Definitely not Tim or Ross, it would either be me or Nick. We usually try to do each other up occasionally.
Nick: I have done some crowd surfing while playing the guitar and I licked Tim’s face, but he needed to shave.
Joel: But I climbed up a really big speaker once.
Nick: It’s becoming an escalating thing and one of us is going to end up dead. But we never do anything violent.
How do you guys feel about the title you were given as an “Indie-rock” band?
Nick: I don’t like that; Indie-rock doesn’t mean anything anymore.
Joel: Yeah, it has definitely been used inappropriately. The sound means music that’s produced individually and a lot of it isn’t, but that’s not a big deal.
Have you guys ever had a really bad show?
Nick: No, not really. We have had more good shows then bad
Do you have any advice for people who want to start a band or get into music, but who are either too scared or don’t know what to do?
Nick: I think everyone should have a band. We should all have a band. We should all learn three cords and just start a band.
Joel: Just be yourself and have fun, attack it.