Exclusive: Stream Calgary dream-pop act Crystal Eyes debut The Female Imagination

Calgary artist Erin Jenkins brings her vision of softer rock to life on her full-length debut with a little help from her friends in the local music community.

It’s her voice, her vision.

But it’s a band.

And without the band her vision wouldn’t be what it is.

That’s how Erin Jenkins explains her Calgary cloud-pop project Crystal Eyes and the music it makes.

“It’s my ideas but they come to life through the group. Without them it wouldn’t be,” Jenkins says, while sitting in the Rosso Coffee in Studio Bell.

She laughs. “I just get by with a little help from my friends.”

Jenkins has a whole lotta friends in the local community, with those who’ve been a part of helping bring her vision to life over the past four years numbering in the high teens.

In fact, she notes that she’ll utilize the talents of two different bassists on her upcoming cross-country tour and none of them will be the one featured on the album that it’s in support of, her full-length debut The Female Imagination.

The gauzy, glazy, gorgeous eight-song offering, which she’ll launch Friday, July 14 at the Palomino, features a cast that includes Samantha Savage Smith, Kenny Murdoch from Outlaws of Ravenhurst and drummer Mathieu Blanchard from Sunglaciers.

The bassist? Well, that would be Mr. Everything Chris Dadge, who also produced and added “a bunch of additional instrumentation,” including the bowed banjo and a box of tambourines that he would go to to find that extra little something.

“All of those little details that add all of those layers that maybe you don’t notice but if they were missing you would notice it,” Jenkins says of the Lab Coast man’s input.

“That’s Chris’s ear throwing in all of these ideas and rhythms and textures and different things.”

She continues. “Chris has his fingers all over this band for sure. A big part of the sound is definitely his hand.”

And a big part of that is the way it was recorded, using his preferred lo-fi analog method — the bio sound-geekily noting that The Female Imagination was “recorded onto tape on a Tascam 388.”

Jenkins explains that she wanted that “more natural sound” when it came to her material and the way she wanted Crystal Eyes to come to life.

“It’s not a perfect recording — there are those flaws that make it organic,” she says, explaining it required them to play through, encouraged them to get the take as close as possible.

She notes that it’s in keeping with the fact that the sounds of the ’60s — along with the spacier, shoegazier music of the ’90s — was a major influence in the music.

“I think we hark back to a bit of a time when music was a bit more organic — like we’re talking the Motown scene for example,” she says.

“Nothing against contemporary hip-hop and R&B and all that, but it’s mostly just samples. If you go back to Motown, they’re playing that stuff live, off-the-floor style recordings. It’s more an homage to the instrument itself and to the actual performing of it. I’m not going to say one is better than the other, but there’s just something about that sound when it’s not over-produced, there’s just something about that that I just really love.

“The aesthetic of the band is about the instruments, it’s about the guitar.”

That said, it’s also very much about her voice, which billows through the music, floating through it, hovering over it, lolling lazily inside of it.

And what it’s saying was something she wanted to matter, with tracks taking on everything from the tragic story of Matthew Shepard (So Alone In Denver) to the title-cut, which is something of a statement about the importance of hearing those other visions, those other voices in the world of art and, more specifically, rock music.

“Rock has been in some ways dominated by a male perspective, obviously, or a male energy. And when I use the word ‘male’ I don’t even necessarily mean in a binary sense, more just those characteristics we associate with masculinity …,” she says.

“So I think what I’m trying to do is rock music through a softer lens, through that feminine perspective. I think that’s just who I am, more where I identify, but it’s also I think an important perspective for music and for the world right now, because it’s maybe a different kind of value system that we could use more of.”

It’s why the Crystal Eyes jaunt to support The Female Imagination will be with Edmonton’s Marlaena Moore, feature other supporting acts with femme-filled or femme-friendly members and is called The Radical Softness 2017 Tour.

She thinks it’s important to send that message to other aspiring and would-be young ladies thinking about making rock music, that they’re not alone and that it is encouraged.

She notes that she certainly could have used it, when in Grade 9 she was punted out of the first band she was a part of.

“They kicked me out for being a girl because they decided that the female voice wasn’t rock n roll enough, it didn’t sound like the rock music that we were all listening to,” she says. “It was a long time before I tried doing it again.

“I mean it’s fine, it’s not like it’s something that bothers me any more, but it’s empowering. I wish I could tell my younger self, ‘Don’t worry, you’ll still make rock music.’ ”

And you’ll still have a voice.

Crystal Eyes release their new album with a show Friday, July 14 at the Palomino.