Ethan claimed Alice wasn’t involved with any of their best known songs. Alice hit back. Meanwhile, “I love Crystal Castles for Ethan Kath” said nobody. Ever.
Ever since they hurtled to hypedom in 2008 with their anonymity ensured by animal masks and a t-shirt design that kickstarted a fierce lawsuit, Crystal Castles have been something of an enigma. Seven years on, the masks are gone, the lawsuit has since been resolved, and their beef couldn’t be more public if they stood in the middle of London's Trafalgar Square with BEEF OVER HERE tattooed on their foreheads (which I would not put past them). But mystery still loiters around Alice Glass and Ethan Kath like an unpleasant sensation—one that you can’t quite identify but know you’re not comfortable with, like walking alone with headphones in or necking someone in front of your dog.
Last October, Glass announced on Facebook that she was leaving Crystal Castles. “My art and my self-expression in any form has always been an attempt towards sincerity, honesty, and empathy for others,” she wrote, “For a multitude of reasons both professional and personal I no longer feel that this is possible within CC.” Recently, Ethan Kath revived Crystal Castles as a solo project and released a new song “Frail,” featuring vocals from someone known only as “Edith” who pretty much emulate Glass’ style to a shrieking tee. Nobody knows exactly who Edith is at this point, but Stereogum have a theory that it’s Ethan.
An amicable split, you might think. But then, in a hella shady statement accompanying “Frail” on Soundcloud, Kath wrote:
"I wish my former vocalist the best of luck in her future endeavors. I think it can be empowering for her to be in charge of her own project. It should be rewarding for her considering she didn't appear on Crystal Castles' best known songs, (she's not on "Untrust Us.' 'Not In Love,' 'Vanished,' 'Crimewave,' 'Vietnam,' 'Magic Spells,' 'Knights,' 'Air War,' 'Leni,' 'Lovers Who Uncover,' 'Violent Youth,' 'Reckless,' 'Year of Silence,' 'Intimate,' '1991,' 'Good Time,' 'Violent Dreams' etc.). People often gave her credit for my lyrics and that was fine, I didn't care."
He then retracted most of that statement, which now reads: "I wish my former vocalist the best of luck in her future endeavors. I think it can be empowering for her to be in charge of her own project. It should be rewarding for her." Presumably because he realized (or someone informed him) that the original bitter and backhanded rant was doing him absolutely no favors.
There are many flaws in what he originally said. Any fan of the band knows that what Alice brought to Crystal Castles was far more than just vocals—“I love Crystal Castles for Ethan Kath” said nobody. Ever. Statistically nobody flocks to the band for the lyrics first and foremost even in the rare event they are audible, and if Glass’ voice wasn’t all that important then why release new material featuring one that’s eerily similar? But the worst part of it all is the opening line: “I wish my former vocalist the best of luck...”
“MY former vocalist”.
I mean, what a dick move. This is allegedly the guy who spotted Glass shortly after she ran away from home at age 14, moved into a squat and started playing with a crust band called Fetus Fatale. He liked her vibe, so they formed a band together. Since then, she’s battled through broken limbs, food poisoning, and sexual assault from audience members to make sure that Crystal Castles followed through on their promise of delivering apocalyptic electro to the masses. In fact, her entire Wikipedia page is basically a shopping list of injuries and breakdowns that occurred during or because of performing. Meanwhile, Ethan Kath stands safely at the back, creating the sonic backdrop to what was essentially The Alice Glass Show.
Crystal Castles at Vice 10 by Chris Bethell.
Regardless of who wrote what percentage of the material, Glass was undoubtedly Crystal Castles’ main draw. With her no-shit attitude, dragged-backwards-through-Robert-Smith's-eBay-history look and that expression that suggested she was constantly three seconds away from snapping someone's neck, Glass was—and still is—a refreshing role model for young women, and a wholly different face in a musical landscape of easily-digestable pop icons. Her position is one that proves there is still a space for weirdos, that you don't have to look like Katy Perry to get radio airplay. Unfortunately, this is still a message that bears constant repeating and figures like Glass are few and far between. These are all things that Kath himself has suggested in past interviews.
It seems pretty disrespectful, then, to turn around and try to downplay the influence of someone who is not only a great touchstone for young women, but someone who is essentially responsible for your fame after they decide it’s time for them to move on. And it is especially patronizing and calculated to refer to them as “yours,” as if they're a puppet for your own musical exploits, rather than their own person. It reeks of gross passive aggression. Thankfully, Glass hit back.
for the record, i wrote almost all of the lyrics in my former band and the vast majority of the vocal melodies— ALICE GLASS (@ALICEGLASS) April 17, 2015
There’s always been an element of “but what’s the real story?” about Crystal Castles, and pledging allegiance to either side is a little moot. So who knows why someone would release such a salty statement, apropos of nothing, as a way of “starting fresh.”
Perhaps Kath thought fuck it, a last gasp attempt at springboarding my own career off her popularity by drawing some attention to myself and probably causing a fan divide in the process can't help. Or it's always possible that it's a fully staged and orchestrated beef to draw attention to the impending launch of their respective solo projects simultaneously.
Or maybe it’s Kath's way of asserting his creative control as an individual, who has taken a backseat to anything Alice Glass was doing in the forefront—wrapping mic chords around bouncers’ necks until they pass out, beating on wastemen who touch her up, and just generally wreaking havoc on herself in a way that’s captivating in it’s absolute self-destruction. But let’s face it, how unimpressionable do you have to be that you’re in a really famous band, that has only ever consisted of two people, and even now that you’re the only remaining member most people still just refer to you as “Crystal Castles dude”?
Whatever the truth, Crystal Castles dude has not come off the best in all of this. Pour one out for Crystal Castles dude.
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