Crystal Spiders: Interview With Brenna & Tradd

With new album Morieris, which I recently reviewed, having literally been birthed into the world last weekend, Crystal Spiders are well and truly back, with a bang. Two face melting albums in now, I got to fire some questions at Brenna Leath (bass, vocals) and Tradd Yancey (drums, vocals), and see where they’re at in Autumn 2021. The topics of inspiration, road stories, and guilty pleasures all came up, and the answers received made for a really fun read indeed. So come with me, as I take you inside the crazy world of Crystal Spiders‘Whoa… MOTHER!!’

Crystal Spiders
Crystal Spiders

How have things been, during these covid times, between the first and second albums?

Brenna: Mostly hunkered down with writing and recording the second album right after the first – we finished Molt right at the outset of quarantine, so 2020 was a bust for shows and a good time for album making.

Tradd: We definitely weren’t the only ones with the same idea. There have been a bunch of great ‘quarantine’ releases from our Ripple Music labelmates, Heavy Temple, Howling Giant, Thou, (too many to list em all). While they scratch the itch for new music, we’re all just biding our time until we can get out and perform live again.

How, and where did you meet, and how did forming Crystal Spiders come about?

Brenna: Originally, via a Facebook post and then a Craigslist post – the ultimate tried and true method for finding bored musicians. Coincidentally, Tradd was already good friends with a bandmate from an old project of mine, so he knew more about me than I knew about him by the time we got together to jam! We hit it off right away; I think we had a song or two pretty much done by the end of that first jam session and the rest came pretty quickly after that.

Tradd: Hey, when it clicks, it clicks. Brenna’s been a staple of the heavy music scene in the Triangle area for a long time so when I responded to the Craigslist ad, and it was her on the other end of the phone, the answer was an easy one.

We hit it off right away; I think we had a song or two pretty much done by the end of that first jam session…

With two great albums in such a short space of time, where did you find inspiration this time round? And where do you look to get your inspirations from?

Brenna: For Morieris, most of the songs have loose reference to classical mythology. A lot of lyrics I write are usually inspired by whatever I’m feeling and thinking about at the time, but I’m a lit and film nerd, so they’re usually peppered with metaphors. Nothing’s original, right? I guess that’s kind of a theme in this band – our name is from an Uncle Acid track, our album cover is a Memento Mori rip with a lot of trashy cultural ephemera… the whole genre is derivative of Black Sabbath, which is derivative of rock n’ roll, which is derivative of old blues… ha. If you look far back enough, everything is just inspired by something else. I’m not really selling us as very creative, am I?

Tradd: What do they say, ‘every note has already been played, but it’s the order that you put ‘em in that matters’?

Crystal Spiders 'Morieris'
Crystal Spiders ‘Morieris’ Artwork

What guilty pleasures do you all have musically?

Brenna: Party All the Time by Eddie Murphy? I don’t feel guilty about that. How do people answer this question? Does anybody say Nickelback? I don’t feel guilty about any of these things, but there are some indie rock bands I like; Giant Drag, The Raveonettes, Wolf Alice. I guess some other ‘music people might not know I listen to’ would be Morphine, Concrete Blonde, Depeche Mode and other dark wave/new wave, and when I’m bored and cooking at the house sometimes I throw on Earth, Wind, & Fire or some soul or funky stuff like Curtis Mayfield. Maybe that’s a little all over the place, but ‘it’s all rock n’ roll to me.’

Tradd: Party All the Time is a great track; nothing to be ashamed of there. I’m a sucker for Kool & the Gang, Robert Palmer, and Earth, Wind, & Fire as well when it’s time to get pumped up. In terms of guilty pleasures, I’ve recently been going down a rabbit-hole of ambient and experimental music lately (The Pointless Forest, 919NoiseCollective jams, random Hang Drums videos, etc.) Not exactly stuff you’d want to throw on a party playlist, but some of the textures that are created are beautiful and intricately layered, and on top of that it’s improvised! Really speaks to the musicianship required (and an intimate knowledge of loop pedals doesn’t hurt).

we had so much fun working with Dean we asked him if he’d do guitar on the whole record this time around…

What inspired going from a duo to a trio, as regards including Mike Dean getting more of a spotlight this time round?

Brenna: Well, Mike Dean isn’t a full-time member of the band – he’s a great producer and engineer (and obviously a killer musician). Mike Deloatch did guitar on the last record with Dean on the last song and we had so much fun working with Dean we asked him if he’d do guitar on the whole record this time around. It boils down to Dean being a great friend and really easy to work with, on top of all his talent and experience. We might do shows as a two piece or three piece with a guitar in the new year – probably not Dean, but I wouldn’t rule it out if he gets a wild hair. He’s been known to surprise.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen on the road while touring?

Brenna: I can’t really think of anything that crazy for what I’ve seen during Crystal Spiders touring – since our band only formed about a year and some change before the pandemic, we haven’t done much of it, haha. Maybe Tradd can think of one or make one up. I did get to play House of Vans with Lightning Born in Chicago in 2019, where Wolfbat had made some giant movable sculptures (wolves, birds, skulls) that were partying in the pit while we were playing. That was trippy.

Tradd: I definitely don’t need to fabricate when it comes to road stories. Fact is always stranger than fiction (and most of the craziest stuff isn’t exactly suitable for print); but yeah, with Crystal Spiders, the rug got yanked out from under us right when we were trying to promote the first record so we might have to get back to ya on the ‘Crystal Spiders Tales from the Road’. Although, that one time when we were in Baltimore, when you led the crowd in an acapella singalong of Danzig’s Mother after Deloatch broke a string and had to run to the van to replace it… that was rad and super impromptu.

Crystal Spiders with Mike Dean
Crystal Spiders with Mike Dean

Are there any new, or emerging bands who you would recommend?

Brenna: I’m gonna say Tradd’s other band Doomsday Profit (because he’s probably too polite to say it himself, but they have a new record out in November and I’ve heard the masters – it’s tuff). Off the top of my head, Hot Blood out of Maryland, Witchtit from NC, and Grave Bathers from PA are all bands to keep an eye on.

Tradd: She’s right. I wouldn’t have said anything unless it was brought up by somebody else first… that’s like wearing your own merch… I like to think of Doomsday Profit’s sound as what would happen if Conan and Earthless had a baby. But, as stated previously, our Ripple Music labelmates are cranking things out at a pretty solid pace, so I would definitely check out everything in their catalog and the Waveriders Unite Facebook group. Also, they aren’t new, but the homies in Heavy Temple put out a really solid release this year that’s amazeballs and I love my Witchtit tape. Both are very worth checking out. Also, our buddy Erik Larson put out three releases recently that are all worth a listen.

Commercial success, or underground heroes? Which is more important to Crystal Spiders?

Brenna: Define success; I don’t think too many newer bands are making the big bucks off stoner doom (but maybe I’d be surprised). I guess being an underground hero would be cool, but it seems like a lot of pressure to have people look up to you – since I assume that’s what you mean by hero. I’ll split the difference and vote ‘sell enough records to fund nasty gear habits.’

Tradd: Reading that question, I couldn’t stop singing ‘And be an underground hero… dive bars in his eyes’ in my head. At the end of the day, being in the black as a band is always better than being in the red ‘cause that allows us to experiment and continue to refine our sound. Hell, Matt Pike did both. Why not shoot for the moon?

We can’t wait to play what we’ve laid down live…

What’s next for Crystal Spiders?

Brenna: Shows and touring in the new year, assuming the world can keep itself together that long. Over the last couple months, I’ve seen a lot of bands having to cancel or cut short tours they’ve worked really hard to book.

Tradd: We can’t wait to play what we’ve laid down live. It’s a totally different experience (recording vs. touring) as a performer. Plus, how are we supposed to fill out our tales from the road/behind the music/post-white-house-tell-all books without getting out there and melting some faces and meeting more awesome people?

And lastly, when are you coming to the UK to rock out?!?

Brenna: I would love to book some 2022 dates. We’ll keep you posted!

Tradd: Not soon enough.

Big thanks to Brenna and Tradd for taking the time to answer my questions, as always, it was an absolute pleasure to converse with two super cool, and super humble musicians, who have come back and made their thing, a big thing indeed.

Crystal Spiders and their current album Morieris is out now via Ripple Music.

Label: Ripple Music
Band Links: Facebook | Bandcamp | Instagram

Interviewed by: Lee Beamish