By Ansharah Shakil, January 25 2022—
The 2023 BIG Winter Classic music festival welcomes a lineup of both international and local acts to warm up Calgary during one of its coldest and loneliest months, including Crystal Eyes, a Calgary-based indie dream rock band. Crystal Eyes joins Ramblin’ Ambassadors, Snake River, Wolf Willow and The Garrys during the Jan. 27 lineup of the festival at the Last Best Patio.
In 2017, Crystal Eyes released their first album. Their latest album, The Sweetness Restored, came out in April 2022. The Sweetness Restored is a fresh, bold album which has received praise for its distinctive sound from music critics. Lead vocalist and guitarist Erin Jenkins expresses her excitement for the new direction Crystal Eyes has taken, particularly regarding the sense of collaboration weaved through the record.
“This record, more so than our previous one, has had a lot more collaboration and contribution from all of the band members and our producer,” Jenkins said. “I think it adds a lot more depth and richness and sophistication.”
This quality of coalescence is clearly present in The Sweetness Restored. The album balances acoustics and hopeful lyrics with fast-paced rhythms, reminiscent of 80s new wave hits and 90s dream pop. With vocals similar to Harriet Wheeler of The Sundays, and drums and synths which gracefully capture the starry-eyed longing of indie-rock hits from bands like Wilco, the album feels like a reunification of past and present music. Jenkins says she loves music dating from the 60s to present-day contemporary music, and in the sound of Crystal Eyes, these decades come together and live again.
The song which illustrates this the most is perhaps “For Carole,” 34 seconds of spoken word poetry by Jenkins. When asked what inspired “For Carole” Jenkins revealed the story behind its existence, leading back to an old, second-hand copy of D.H. Lawrence’s Women In Love.
“Someone had written [the poem] for Carole and signed their name, although I could never tell what their name was,” she said. “I searched a lot to try and find who this author is, but I don’t know. And that book [ended up] destroyed in the flood of 2013 in Calgary. Luckily though, I had it memorized. So because it existed in my brain I was able to keep it going and give it a second life on the album because otherwise it would’ve been lost forever. I thought it resonated with the themes of the record in general about renewal and hope and possibility and fighting back against the doom and dread.”
“For Carole” is a serendipitous encounter, and a bold choice that showcases the uniqueness of the band as well as the attention paid to details — the upbeat “Pretty Dumb” follows immediately after the more serious poem, flowing together perfectly in a way that enhances the experience of both tracks.
“[The poem and song] paired really well together, and I just wanted that juxtaposition,” said Jenkins.
She adds that these days, people generally do not sit down and have a full album experience. While she says listening to single songs by themselves is a great way to enjoy music, she encourages audiences to listen to the full album to catch details and experience it in the order it was intended.
As a local band, Crystal Eyes also keeps an eye on their Calgary roots. The music video for “Wishes,” on Youtube, was filmed at the Calgary Castle near Mount Royal, and the album cover for The Sweetness Restored was taken by local photographer Walter E. Newman. Jenkins says much of her inspiration comes from nature and expresses admiration for Calgary’s mountains along with the local music scene and community.
“There’s lots of interesting folks and creative amazing people across different art forms in the city,” she said. “Being a part of the community, that’s how I’ve been able to make connections with amazing people that have worked on the album [and the] rich tapestry of people here.”
Speaking about Calgary’s BIG Winter Classic festival, Jenkins expressed her excitement to perform and attend. She particularly recommends seeing Ryan Bourne and The Garrys, who play with Crystal Eyes on Jan 27. Day passes, festival passes and the full schedule and line-up for BIG Winter Classic can be seen on bigwinterclassic.com. Listen to The Sweetness Restored now on Bandcamp, Spotify and Apple Music.