Q1 – How would you describe a regular day for Lenkyn Ostapovich? What is the percentage of making music in your daily life?
A1 – Being around music is a constant in one form or another, but the actual time I get to focus on writing new songs/parts or practice with Rob and Aron can really ebb and flow week-to-week. We all maintain fairly busy schedules and hold down FT jobs away from Crystal Coffin, but music in all its forms (from just listening, searching out/learning new bands, scouring local record shops to practicing new Crystal Coffin songs and performing) provides the necessary balance that definitely aids in getting through this world. As each recording cycle comes, I find that any spare time I have away from work is increasingly spent on recording guitar ideas or song demos and beginning the work on interstitial atmospheres or backing synth lines so that what we pull off in the studio under such finite constraints and stress is maximized.
Q2 – Two full-length studio album releases since 2020, how do you feel about your experience since Crystal Coffin started? And how was the feedback after your latest, The Starway Eternal?
A2 – With each studio session, we learn more and more about process, discipline, and the sonic results of our intentions when placed under such studio stresses. Each recording has become more layered with instrumentation and polish (from a production standpoint), but there’s always room for improvement, and we want to push our creative intentions further alongside our playing abilities and songwriting. We have become quite comfortable with the process that worked leading up to the recording of The Starway Eternal: generally speaking, I write song ideas that, in a loose contextual demo, present a piece from beginning to end and then present it to the guys. We can tell fairly early on if overall the piece will work or not from just a bit of jamming on it. From there, we try to objectively look at each of the parts and pair them with appropriate rhythms and percussion as the arrangement starts to take form. Both Aron and Rob are incredibly sound in their judgments on how arrangements of my riffs/phrases could work and be re-worked and we’ve found success practicing these loose tracks up until they enter a first-round studio demo session. Hearing back the tracks via a high-quality demo allows each of us to critique the pieces holistically and hear the interactions between all the instruments/players rather than in the lead-up when we are generally only concerned with what we’re each respectively playing in the moment. With these demos, it’s then quite easy to re-arrange sections if needed – double the phrasing during an early verse or edit out passes of a repeated chorus, for instance – and then practice them up until final studio time is booked for. By then, I also have adjacent layers and backing synths/scapes written to be slotted into the mixes. Overall, as many will already know, it’s a lengthy process with a lot of steps involved, but it’s the sort of creative efforts the three of us love!
The immediate and longterm feedback from The Starway Eternal has been shockingly positive and we’re so, so, so appreciative for the time many people have given it! The album had a very loose concept to help unite the content of the pieces therein and to help direct some of the synth/FX choices, but it also helped to solidify part of the band’s identity thematically and for the longterm. We feel rather comfortable speaking/playing to otherworldly concepts, tones, and topics of mortality and strain and look forward to exploring more in these realms and sounds.
Q3 – What were the main influences in The Starway Eternal album, subjectwise and musically?
A3 – It seems that at some point during the first phase of songwriting and practices, we will come to a point where we brainstorm a loose story to underpin and focus the sounds and lyrical content. Our first album’s (The Transformation Room) lyrics/theme had a reference to the Holodomor of Eastern Europe during the early 1930s and tethered our exploration of extreme earthy sufferings – either through choice or force – and how it may yield an infinite state of awareness, reflection, existence, and a fettered retaliation that can unite both our shared misanthropy and humanity in various ways. This decision by no means acted as our attempt to create a ‘concept album‘ but rather we found that we benefitted from attempting a singular direction in our content development.
When it came time to cultivate our ideas for what would become The Starway Eternal, we knew that we wanted to keep ourselves symbolically linked to the Eastern European region, but also wanted to take some of the pastoral notions from The Transformation Room and modernize them, infused with a more technological, or spacey, feel. The realities of what happened in 1986 at Chornobyl Power Plant served as a setting for this album’s storytelling and contained nearly everything we had wanted to include: its geographical location and connection to some of our family histories, the edge-of-technology and pursuant of sustainable future energies and sciences, the catastrophic spoil of best-laid intentions when set against the folly of human control and nearsightedness, and an inescapable influence that still lingers to this day. The real-world setting of Chornobyl also functioned as a launchpad into the cosmos for our protagonist and allowed us to explore the incredibly dark themes of isolation, abandonment, and self-immolation while still including a touch of melancholic beauty and hope that, at brief moments, can actually unite a body of people. These ideas gelled and became all too presient, given the geography and the implied symbolism throughout the album, when Russia invaded Ukraine just months after the release.
Musically, our band influences have always been quite steadfastly Enslaved, Wolves in the Throneroom, King Crimson, and Hawkwind. We try to write a brand of black metal that can be both aggressive and hypnotizing while still infused with melody and pathos. A track like the opener, Shapeshifter Huntsmen, was one of our more traditionaly black pieces but the entire middle section reveals our love for prog and instrumentation/layering.
Q4 – What would be the three things that make this collective special, in your opinion?
A4 – By now, we’ve been playing together for over six years. It took a while for us to realize what our best strategies can be for songwriting and development, but through the process we’ve been using all matters of critique and communication continue to get better and better over time. We’re also actually friends with one another, which might sound like an odd aspect to point out, but I know of many bands where there are simply too many egocentric conflicts or disparate personalities involved that lead to an eccessive amounts of in-fighting and conflict. We respect one another and try to make time to test out all of our ideas so that everyone’s voice is heard. Finally, I think that when it comes to lyrical content, thematic ideas, and the visuals of the band/merchandise etc we are all on the same page because we’re all fans of vintage horror, so lots of ideas get expedited because we’re all coming at them from the same reference points!