Vocalist/guitarist Anna Shields talks us through the Glasgow quartet's sound and influence
Young Glasgow four-piece CRYSTAL released their latest single 'Heaven' to acclaim earlier in the year, with its soaring garage rock/grunge sound finding them new positions on playlists and festival bills this summer. We speak to vocalist/guitarist Anna Shields about putting the band together, how they approach songwriting as a four-piece and the influence Spyro the Dragon has on them.
Tell me about how the band came together? How did you choose the name CRYSTAL? The band came together when me and Blair decided to make acoustic music in 2015. Since then we have experimented with a lot of different genres and with the addition of Lizzie and Aidan we have found our sound as a grunge/punk band. We chose the name CRYSTAL quite early on when creating music. One of our first singles started off with this glistening sound and it reminded me of when I used to play Spyro the Dragon and Spyro would approach these kind of gems and crystals and they would make this magical, glistening sound so that's why we chose the name CRYSTAL.
I know that you had a strong YouTube presence prior to the band starting, do you think it was easy for your fans to follow you to his new project? Yes and no. I uploaded a video onto YouTube a few years ago explaining how I wanted to expand artistically and progress further creatively by making the music that I wanted to make. There were a few upset people who had followed my channel since the beginning but the majority of people were supportive in my decision and understood that it was important for me to grow as an artist. We still have a few people who follow CRYSTAL as they were fans of my cover channel, however, most of our fans now have found us solely through CRYSTAL.
What is your approach to songwriting as a band? Blair normally writes the music and records a demo with a few vocal ideas. Then he sends it over to me and I write lyrics over it and write vocals and harmonies that will suit my voice and Lizzie's voice. With the addition of Lizzie and Aidan we now have two more artists who are part of the music writing process and they perfect their parts when we bring it into rehearsal.
You played Edinburgh's Hogmanay, supporting Paolo Nutini, how did that come about? Has that changed things for your band? We entered a competition back in 2016. Basically Paolo and his management chose 8 bands out of over 400 entries which then went to a public vote. Amazingly, we were selected and got to play the gig. In terms of attention, I don't think we really gained many fans from the experience. However, it was such an amazing experience to be part of something so big and to perform on a stage of that size. Winning the competition really put things into perspective for us and has given us the motivation to keep pushing forward.
Can you talk about how you came to your current sound and if you think it is settled or still evolving? We started writing acoustic songs but we eventually progressed into Fleetwood Mac-esque 70s rock, then onto Blusey rock and now we have found our sound as a grunge band. Blair and I have always bonded over our love for 90s grunge bands and punk bands such as Nirvana and bands like IDLES and I think that our like-minded music taste has influenced our style a lot. It's also great to have Lizzie (who primarily plays sort of eerie acoustic folk) and Aidan (who is in a blues rock band) because it means that we can borrow different elements from a range of genres that we aren't so clued up on. I think that we will always be evolving as artists and getting better at writing music and performing so it is only natural that our sound will change. We love experimenting with different styles and I think you can't really be happy just stuck in the limbo of creating the same thing over and over again.
Do you feel supported by Glasgow's music scene? Is there anything that you wish was different? We have been gaining a lot of support in the local music scene since Aidan and Lizzie joined the band, released our new single and played at Wide Days. I think having a strong music scene plays quite a big role in inspiring people to write good music and put on a great live performance. I think the only thing I would like to see different in the music scene is more of a gender balance. There is an air of sexism that runs throughout the entire music industry and I find this in Glasgow as well. People have started to take action on this but there are still examples of sexism that seem to occur quite regularly. If I could change anything in the music scene it would be this.
CRYSTAL play Electric Fields on Sat 1 Sep. Tickets available now (click link below).
Formerly located in the Dumfriesshire hills, this popular music festival relocates to inner city Glasgow for its sixth outing. The line-up for 2019 features the likes of Metronomy, The Vaccines, Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls and more.