The Muse in the Lens
Crystal Bright talks about her newest album, The Absolute Elsewhere, a surreal, symbiotic blend of the musical and visual arts.
Enchanting. Surreal. Playful. These are some of the words that come to mind when I think of Crystal Bright's music. She and her band The Silver Hands offer audiences her dark, unique tales, each crafted from clever lyrical imagery flowing atop a cabaret-infused musical melange.
This has been a busy year for Ms. Bright. Balancing a crazy touring, recording, and video production schedule, she is bringing to life her newest album, a collaborative effort involving visual artist DividingME (Rusty McDonald). I had the pleasure of speaking with her about what she has in store for this exciting new musical collection.
Throughout the creative process, artists can draw inspiration from many sources, both within their own medium, and well outside of it. Your upcoming new album The Absolute Elsewhere is a perfect example of the latter, a collection of songs inspired by DividingME Photography's surreal imagery. Why did this imagery resonate with you?
Rusty McDonald's imagery is dark, ethereal and beautiful all at the same time, which is one of my favorite aesthetics. My lyrics and music can be very dark and ethereal, and when I first saw his images, I was immediately drawn to collaborating with him because our aesthetic was so similar. His works are also layered with metaphors and stories just like my songs. So, this was the natural next step of collaboration between us - me writing songs to bring out the stories in his pictures, and in turn he's been able to listen to my new songs that were inspired by his pictures to create new images. It's a beautiful circle.
The fundraiser for the new album has some pretty awesome rewards for backers. What are your favorites?
There are so many that I like, but I really like the option of letting me take you on a wild edible foraging hike, because I love teaching people how to be more self-sufficient and healthy. Also, I have one about going roller skating or bowling with Rusty and the band, which would be so much fun. No one has picked that one yet for some reason. Haha. We could get a huge group to go! And finally, I love the most elaborate one, The Absolute Quantum Leap, where you can have a personal photography session with Rusty, followed by me writing and recording a personalized song for the photo, and it includes the CD, Artbook, and much more.
Your previous albums told some delightfully dark stories, often exploring the human condition through a witty, rather twisted lens. What tales are you spinning for us on the new album?
I had to do a lot of research for some of the subjects for this one. There is one about Samhain and the month of October, as seen through a Pagan lens. Another one revolves around what we love about the idea of Sherlock Holmes and how everything isn't what it seems to be. The tango I wrote, with Spanish lyrics, is about the pagan ritual "Drawing down the Moon." The Japanese folktale about a Crescent Moon Bear is making an appearance on this one. There are also tales about demons, seraphim, elephants, water nymphs, and sirens.
Your sound is surreal, atmospheric, yet danceable and fun. It's easy to see why the steampunk community has embraced your music. It has a timeless quality that doesn't need airships, clockwork, or other blunt steampunk tropes to transport the audience to another world. Can you recall the first moment you felt you'd arrived at your signature sound?
I was in a band before this one that felt like I was on my way. In fact, a few of the songs I still perform I wrote back then, but they sounded much different, including "Especially Your Mother." But, honestly the first two songs I wrote for this project that was finally my own, ("Toy Hammer" and Little Match Girl" I feel like I hit on my own sound. The songs on this album have matured and are much more refined and intense, but are still reminiscent of those original ones written back in 2010.
Every new album brings new challenges. How have you grown as musician during the writing of this new collection?
One of the ways I have grown has been emotionally. These songs have been a lot more closely related to my own experiences in life, whether the story came directly from me, or I am relating my own experiences through the already existing stories - sometimes a combination of the two. I have had to process a lot of emotions that came from difficult situations in my life through the lens of metaphors, which helps immensely. I've also grown as a composer and producer. I wrote string parts for this album, which I've never done before, and handed the sheet music to the string players and heard my parts come to life. That was very exciting. I also had to juggle a lot of schedules for getting many different musicians in the studio to be on the record. So, there are so many more emotions and instruments on this record. Get ready for the ride.
If you were introducing someone to your music for the first time, and could only play them one song, which would it be? Why does this song best represent you?
I can't even possibly pick one song that best represents me. There are so many sides of people that vary from day to day, it would be impossible to pick one word to describe a person. The same with my music. One day maybe I'll be able to encompass all of the sides of Kaleidophrenic Cabaret (which is a word I use to describe my music) into one song. Haha.
You've got some music videos planned for the new album as well. Are there any tidbits you could reveal about those?
One of the videos will be filmed in a haunted house here in Reidsville called "Nightmare on Scales Street" this month. It's around the corner from where I live. It's seriously haunted, too. I've already had a few weird experiences in there before they even opened for the season. That is going to be filmed by the same Ron Royster who made my other official videos. We've got some really creepy ideas in store for that, which will involve some of the characters in the haunted house. They will already have amazing Hollywood style special effects makeup on, and I'm probably going to die of a heart attack when I go in there.
The other video is going to be different from anything I've ever had. There will be silk aerials and some slow motion type stuff and more closeups and different kinds of angles/shots. I can't wait for you all to see them!
What's your favorite aspect of the steampunk community?
It really is the costumes and the creativity that people put into them, and they way they just do what they like no matter what other people may think of them.
You're well-known for playing a multitude of instruments live and on your recordings, including piano, accordion, various folk instruments, taiko drums, and singing saw. Is there a particular instrument that you wish you could take on, but haven't yet?
What are your plans for touring in the near future?
I think there are plans to do a west coast tour next spring. I would also really like to get to Europe next year, but it's really hard without a booking agent, for which I'm currently looking. I'll continue to tour regionally, up and down the east coast, the south and the midwest. So keep a look out.
Thank you so much for your time, and good luck with the new album!
Check out Crystal Bright and the Silver Hands at:
Check out DividingME photography at: