Interview: The Crystal Teardrop

NB: The Crystal Teardrop generously sent me an MP3 copy of their debut single. Thank you so much!

The Crystal Teardrop are a new band from England made up of Alexandra Rose Mason, Leon Jones, Stuart Gray, Caitlin Hare, and Connor Wells. Their biggest inspirations are psychedelic and garage rock music from the 60s and it shows in the band’s dress sense and in their debut single “Nine Times Nine”, which will be coming out on April 7th. The band will also be making their live debut at this year’s Le Beat Bespoke Festival in London. The band members are all passionate fans of classic rock and vintage clothing with Alexandra and Stuart being DJs who play songs from their vinyl collections at clubs. Alexandra is half of Disques Vérité in Birmingham who specialise in 60s yé-yé and other French rock and pop music of the 60s and she and Caitlin host 23rd Tangent in Liverpool. Caitlin owns the vintage shop The Octopus Garden, which has a beautifully curated selection of vintage clothes from the 60s-80s plus some original designs by her. Stuart hosts the Biff Bang Pow club night in Leicester. Connor is also in the band Formal Sppeedwear and Leon Jones was previously in indie rock band Alfa 9.

I was lucky to get an advance listen to “Nine Times Nine” and it’s one of those songs that is the perfect fit for a summer psychedelic rock playlist and very true to the classic rock era. If you love the music of the late 60s, you’ll definitely love this song. I’m definitely looking forward to future releases from The Crystal Teardrop!

Edit 7/4/2023: The single is out now to stream on Spotify! Check it out!

Today with us on the blog is Alexandra here to talk about the band and their music.

Angie: How did the band get started?

Alexandra: Leon and I met up at last year’s Le Beat Bespoke Festival in London and discovered we lived less than a mile away from each other and shared a passion for all things 1960s! Leon had previously worked with Stuart and it didn’t take long for us to decide that we wanted to form a band which showcased our love for mid-late 60s psychedelia and garage rock. Soon afterwards my best pal Caitlin agreed to join on bass and Connor, who is a talented multi-instrumentalist, became our drummer. 

Angie: How would you describe your music to a new listener?

Alexandra: We’re heavily influenced by mid-late 60s psychedelia and garage rock and if we could all time travel I’m sure I know where we’d end up! I remember saying to Leon and Stuart when we first got together that we should aim for a sound that evokes the authentic feel of late 1966. I believe that era marks one of the most significant turning points in music development because it’s where we see experimentation and innovation really come to the fore – for instance backwards tape techniques, Eastern instruments being used on Western pop songs, further guitar distortion, concept albums… there was a flurry of ‘newness’ that came from that very specific time in history that we all find inspiring. 

Our music sets out to combine elements of Byrdsian jangle with the rawer garage sound that was also prevalent in the mid-60s. We also love to create a more ethereal sound and experiment with different instruments and techniques to serve up quite an eclectic mix. I’m particularly interested in the Eastern influence on music in the late 1960s with the incorporation of sitar, tambura, plenty of percussion… our next release after Nine Times Nine will include all of these so it’s one to look out for! 

I think a recent review by Psychedelic Scene Magazine about our first single Nine Times Nine sums up our sound really well: 

“In it, you can hear influences like The Byrds, The Kinks, Love, and even shades of the Small Faces from their stellar LP “Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake”. Of course, any sixties-influenced group would have to acknowledge the jangling strings and high-pitched vocals of The Hollies. Make note here, this is NOT a copy band! They’ve got a unique style and sound all their own.” 

Angie: Tell me about Le Beat Bespoke Festival, what is it like?

Alexandra: Le Beat Bespoke Festival takes place every Easter bank holiday at multiple venues in London and is always populated by some of the coolest cats on the beat! It’s the brainchild of Dr Robert who runs the festival and produces compilation series of rare LPs and 45s. Rob also puts on other amazing events throughout the year – including two of my favourites, the summer psych all-dayer Suntrip and club night, Mousetrap. 

We’re delighted to be playing the afternoon slot at Strongrooms in Shoreditch on Saturday 8 April (it’s free entry!!!). There’s record and vintage stalls in the courtyard that afternoon and we will be playing inside the venue. Saturday is my favourite day of the festival – I fondly remember last year the courtyard was drenched in gorgeous sunshine and it was so dreamy enjoying the first warm spell of the year in the UK surrounded by wonderful friends, all wearing amazing threads and listening to the music that we love!

My favourites last year were Shadow Show who had come over from Detroit, USA and put on a great performance. After the bands, DJs provide the soundtrack to the rest of the evening. If you have seen Psych Out that’s what it looks like. Paisley, beads, hair… it’s all there. It’s the closest you can get to the UFO Club I imagine!

Angie: What does the band’s name, The Crystal Teardrop mean to you?

Alexandra: We were having a brainstorming session about the band name and the word ‘teardrop’ came to mind. We love the style of Vox teardrop guitars, teardrop pendants, the shapes that lava lamps create… Then as we were 5 individual people just getting together organically to create a shared vision we thought we were effectively crystalising our ideas for want of a better phrase. So that’s what The Crystal Teardrop means to me now! 

Angie: How did you get into classic rock and vintage clothing?

Alexandra: I was (very fortunately!) brought up in a home where psychedelic posters hung on the walls and records were everywhere. Vintage copies of Rave magazine and Melody Maker were around and the family car was an old style Mini Cooper called Ringo. 

Revolver became my favourite album when I was 5, I presumably first heard it on my dad’s record player. The Beatles soon became my favourite band and an obsession that hasn’t faded: I recently completed a Masters degree in The Beatles: Music Industry and Heritage at Liverpool University.

Inspired by my idols I picked up the guitar and started playing in bands in my teens, writing songs and seeking to break boundaries.

Then the fashion. I became fashion conscious when I was about 14 and fell totally in love with the 60s aesthetic. I adore Twiggy. I loved looking at pictures of her, Pattie Boyd, Brigette Bardot and others in magazines and watching TV actresses like Annette Andre in Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) and Dianna Rigg in The Avengers. They were just so stylish! I was inspired by the bright colours, the tiny fit of the skirts, the androgynous look created by the angular dresses and hairstyles. It all appealed to me. I think it’s probably the youthfulness that stood out so much, the clothes from that time are very fun and lift your spirits. Now I feel underdressed if I go anywhere without my Twiggy eyelashes drawn on… it’s a slippery slope!

Angie: What were the inspirations behind your debut single “Nine Times Nine”? Tell us about the recording process.

Alexandra: “Nine Times Nine” is a song about a character caught in a hazy state of indecision. The thought of ‘doing the hard thing’ has gone round in circles in their head so many times (81 to be precise!) that they feel like a broken record. They’re stuck on a track that keeps skipping – any record collector will understand this frustration. Instead of just taking the record off the turntable they insist on trying to enjoy it, but it’s simply not the same!

Ultimately, it is about accepting that something isn’t right and being able to take a decision to move forward. As a Libra this is something I find difficult! 

The inspiration for the chorus came first – I am a big fan of ‘Seven And Seven Is’ by Love and ‘If 6 Was 9’ by Jimi Hendrix. The repetitive imagery of numbers lent itself to the character in the song going over and over their predicament in their mind so much that it becomes this dreamlike or nightmare-ish state. The harmonies, backwards guitar and echoey vocal help to achieve this effect. 

We recorded at Leon’s studio over several weeks. It started out as a 12 track recording I had done as a demo on a portastudio and we rerecorded the song using the original tracks as a guide. Leon’s done an amazing job on its production – he’s really transformed it into something magical.

Angie: What are your favourite albums in your vinyl collection?

Alexandra: I must begin with singles! Stuart and I both regularly DJ our 45s at venues across the UK and are big record collectors. I run a night called 23rd Tangent in Liverpool which is a psychedelic club night and I also have a residency in Birmingham for the specialist French 60s night, Disques Vérité. Stuart has run Biff Bang Pow in Leicester for many years which is one of the best nights for 60s heads and also DJs at Mousetrap in London. One record that we both share a big passion for is The Tops – “I Found You”. The main hook is just so sonically beautiful and distinctive and we play it for each other specifically at these nights because we know how much the other loves it! 

One of my favourite 45s at the moment is The Mooche – “Hot Smoke and Sassafras” which has the most sh*t hot guitar on it. In my French collection I’d say my current favourite is Stella – “L’Idole Des Jaunes”. In terms of albums, aside from any Beatles album which would always be a constant, I’d say my favourites include: Love’s Forever Changes, The Zombie’s Odyssey and Oracle and Moby Grape’s first album. 

Angie: Which classic rock musicians are your biggest fashion inspirations?

Alexandra: I love that music and fashion are so intertwined! I am a big fan of Jimi Hendrix’s style, the vibrant colours, scarves, waistcoats, beads, and I love Steve Marriott’s trousers! I’m also fascinated by the evolution of Beatles fashion – from the suedes in the Rubber Soul era to the Afghan coats, loud pinstripes, big collars and silks that came in the later Beatle era – like those sported by Glyn Johns in Get Back – their fashion was so diverse! 

I love the evolution in the design of suits and jackets in the 60s and one of the most wonderful things about that era for me is that fashion became genderless. Unisex clothing crept into the market and the ‘peacock’ revolution marked the rise of flamboyant styles, colourful patterns and longer hair. It made the music and the artists much more accessible to female musicians and I am sure when I was a child watching my favourite rockstars in Help! (the film) I saw something in their image that I wanted to achieve for myself and make my own.

I am also a huge fan of Grace Slick’s style. She is so cool. The fashions that happened at Monterey Pop Festival are inspirational. Grace has an amazing voice and reading her biography had a great impact on me when I was younger.

Angie: What have you been listening to lately?

Alexandra: I had the pleasure of meeting Vicki Peterson (The Bangles) recently who was on tour with The Dream Syndicate and Rain Parade, so now I am very much going through a Paisley Underground phase (again!). 

My latest 45s that I have on repeat are the Fe-Fi-Four Plus 2 – I Wanna Come Back (from the world of LSD), The Craig – I Must Be Mad and The Aardvarks – I’m Higher Than I’m Down. 

Angie: What are your goals as a band for the rest of the year?

Alexandra: Keep gigging and recording – we hope to release more singles and an album within the next 12 months. We want to bring a bit of colour to the world and make great memories while we are doing it!

Angie: Any words for your fans?

Alexandra: We are really thankful for the enthusiastic response we have received for our debut single and the support we have gained already online – we can’t wait to start gigging and sharing what we have been working on for the last few months! 

We have received some really encouraging comments from being likened to ‘mid-late 60s Syd Barrett’ to being described as having a unique style and sound all our own. Lots of people are engaging with our social media accounts and are getting as excited as we are! It’s wonderful. I’m just so thrilled to be sharing this project with everyone and want to reach as many eyes and ears as possible.

We even had our first piece of fan art created this week! Thank you again – I really am so grateful. 

You can follow The Crystal Teardrop on Facebook, Instagram, Bandcamp, and YouTube.

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