Crystal Fighters' Sebastian Pringle on Secret Garden Party, environmental issues and positivity in their music

Crystal Fighters are preparing to headline the last ever Secret Garden Party and London's Alexandra Palace for a charity show called 'Mama Earth' later this year

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The Independent Culture

Crystal Fighters are one of those bands that exudes coolness and intrigue in a way that is almost effortless. Comprising Sebastian Pringle, Gilbert Vierich and Graham Dickson (as well as often being accompanied by other members on tour) these guys are three young talents with an irrevocable penchant for the Basque culture who are taking the world by storm, whilst learning (and teaching) a little on the way. 

The Independent caught up with Pringle as he and the band prep for a short North America tour before embarking on festival season where they will be headlining the final (for now) Secret Garden Party amongst others. “We woke up in Williamsburg in Brooklyn today, we’re playing a little acoustic session in the day and have a show tonight at Williamsburg Music Hall, we’re on a little US tour, before we head to Mexico.”

Pringle continues: “The audiences here are great, it’s the first time we’ve been over here since the new record and the reaction to the new songs has been amazing, it’s great taking different songs from all three albums and showing a real journey of music.” 

It’s this notion of journey that resonates with Pringle; he’s not one to travel with closed eyes and is dedicated to ensuring that the experiences he goes through traversing different continents embeds its way into the music he creates. “We started out playing live, experimenting with new songs so tours are a big part of what we like to do,” he says. "We do have wanderlust; the last album Everything Is My Family is very influenced by being on the road together as well as from our individual stories of travel. It’s good to get our here before all the festivals and try new things, it’s good to see the world.”

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Lead singer Sebastian Pringle of Crystal Fighters likes to connect to people through his music

Although admittedly a wanderer of the world, Pringle and his band have a certain affinity with Spain and the Basque counties, Pringle talks about his relationship with the people and the band’s role in representing them and their culture: “Spain is always amazing for us, there is a great connection we have with the audiences there, particularly with the history of the band (former band member Laure Stockley has links to the Basque countryside, hence the style the band has developed over the years), they’ve almost adopted us as their strange English representative. We try to represent the traditions of the Basque country and I think that Spanish people in general appreciate us highlighting their culture to the world.”

Closer to home, however, the band are now preparing for one of their biggest gigs to date, headlining the Friday night at what is the last ever Secret Garden Party in July; there’s no real reason as to why the festival, which has been running for 15 years, is coming to an end. (Rumours are circulating it will return in a different guise.)

However, and certainly for now, Crystal Fighters have clinched a well-deserved prestigious slot at a festival they have played twice before. Pringle says: “Hopefully it won’t be gone forever, but we’re sure it’s going to be amazing, it {Secret Garden Party} was the first ever festival we played as a band and for many of us the first festival we’ve even been to. It’s a dream come true having played at one of the smallest stages and to now play the headline slot, it’s brilliant."

On finding out the good news about the headline slot, he says: “I had a friend messaging me on Facebook saying how he hoped we were going to be there and then we saw the poster and just thought, 'Wow, that’s really cool'. It’s great that the guys think we’re the right vibe for the Friday night, we’re going to put on amazing show.”

Having starting out on the smaller stages at the festival to take the step up to headline slot is a considerable leap that could come with additional pressure. “There’s a bit of extra pressure, but we’re settling into a groove with how the three albums are coming together and sounding on stage,” he says. “By then we may have one or two new songs to work in and hopefully be able to bring some guests.”

However, much like the aura and sentiment that Pringle gives off, performing is about the energy and connection he has with other people; “It’s about the interaction between us on stage together and between the band and the crowd, it’s going to be a great show there.”

With 2017 already shaping out to be a big year for the band, they’ve also announced Mama Earth, their biggest ever headline show at London’s Alexandra Palace in October. Promising “a carnival of music and art in support of our beautiful mama earth”, this special gig will see all profits from the show donated to three charities, each close to members of the band: Cool Earth (rainforest conservation), Oxfam, and the Eternal Beat (a charity foundation set up in memory of the band’s late drummer Andrea Marongiu). Pringle says: “Mama Earth came out quite naturally from talking with the band over the past few years, a lot of the inspiration came out of travelling the natural areas of the world compared to the urban landscapes that most of us inhabit. It’s about being aware of the environmental state we live in.”

He continues: “Now’s the time to make an effort, to make an active stance to do something about it and spread the message to take care and responsibility of our environment, raise awareness and hopefully inspire other bands to make these types of events happen.”

Pringle and the band clearly have an emotional and genuine connection with wider issues around the environment and sustainability developed and honed over the years from touring and seeing different parts of the world, he says; “I’ve always been interested in it, mostly in the past 10 years but more and more it’s been through travelling, and connecting with the earth and how it used to be as opposed to this industrialised version of life that we live. Living simply and acting simply, once you get used to that it’s a much stronger comfort and brings a stronger drive to spend as much time and energy working to help the cause.”

This mantra of togetherness runs deep throughout Pringle and the band and everything they produce and create, including Mama Earth, he says: “It’s about people coming together for a good cause, we’re all children of the earth, children of the sun, and we hope it’ll be easy for people to engage with it. At the very least we hope it raises some questions around how we’re living and what’s sustainable when it comes to looking after the home we have.”

It’s hard not to be influenced by Pringle on his way of life: he speaks profoundly and passionately about the issues he cares about, and one thing that can be said is that the positivity he emanates is almost euphoric and somewhat contagious. From the music the band creates to the words he says, it’s easy to see why Crystal Fighters have such a passionate following.

“Positivity is really important thing to have with writing songs, the other option is to focus on the negative and the bad things that can happen to you which can be cathartic in its own right, but for some reason it doesn’t resonate with us," he says. "With us as a band, we like to have a good time, have fun and make people think in a positive way. The music and the beats and rhythm is important; we lean on folklore to celebrate and bring people together and love each other.”

Secret Garden Party 2017, 20 to 23 July (www.secretgarden.com)

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