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Meet Vancouver-based Crystals Collective: First Releases, Future Plans and Inspiration

Tana Mazembe (So Sus) is in Johannesburg right now until the end of February, but he’s still continuing to make waves in Vancouver. The founder of Crystals, a new Vancouver collective, is bringing together a group of forward-thinking creatives that draws inspiration from bass, hip-hop, & trap music among other influences. With the upcoming release of their first Crystals compilation album, RENDRD has also received an exclusive minimix of what’s to come for the fresh collective. So plug in, pull up, and vibe out.

How’s the weather in South Africa right now?

It’s around peak-ish summer here, fairly hot but still around the low 30’s - that’s about all I can handle.

How are things going with your own project (So Sus)?

I’ve very stoked to have recently joined the Sola Collective roster, a project by Enschway, Myrne, and Awoltalk. I had been sending them tracks for a while, and to finally have them ask me to join felt so good. Awoltalk is actually helping me out with some artwork for So Sus and the Crystals Collective. He does all his own artwork so hopefully he can help create something killer.

I’m planning to start releasing some different stuff - playing around with my sound to keep from falling into the cycle of making the same idea and the same sounds over and over again. The coolest part about music now is how accessible it is; you can now make an insane track with just a few samples, drawing notes into a MIDI board, and having a creative idea. I haven’t been trained in any instruments, I really just press things and draw notes into the computer until something cool comes out. When I collaborate with other artists, they’re baffled by my process but I have to tell them “look, just let me work with it for an hour and we’ll get something.” And it usually works out (thankfully).

So where did the inspiration behind Crystals come from?

I stumbled across this one guy from Russia on Soundcloud randomly - he only had 30 followers but had this powerful remix of a Swedish House Mafia song. I immediately messaged him to say how much I liked what he was doing and to ask if he had sent any of his music out to anyone. He hadn’t really been sharing his work, so I told him I would link his music out to people that I know. After sending it around, the track built some response from a few blogs and some DJ’s I know have been rinsing it out, so it has found some success. These are the things that I know I can help people with - they have awesome ideas, but maybe I can help them with their mixdown or branding, or simply get their ideas out there to a greater audience and help their project take off.

Crystals currently consists of 10 members, 4 of which are Vancouver-based. The rest of the collective is located internationally - California, Australia, Germany, and Russia. The global connectivity that online media has created has given the collective access to each other’s music and allowed each member the ability to create and learn from like-minded creatives on the other side of the planet. Tana reflected on meeting one of the guys, Angst:

“I had first met Angst (previously Fvcetime) when he asked me to be in his collective like a year and a half ago. I don’t think it ended up taking off at the time, and then I started doing the live streams and he was submitting to them and I was choosing his tracks all the time. He makes the dopest 808’s. He’s still 17, a young kid, but he reminds me a lot of myself at that age - douchey and shitty, but so loveable haha. I’ve chilled out since then, too.”

You’ve also been giving back to the community with your feedback sessions - what’s your motivation?

Yeah, I really want to get back into those sessions - right now the internet in South Africa - especially Facebook for some reason - has been unreliable at best. I’m supposed to be getting an internet upgrade early January so I may be getting back into it sooner rather than later though.

Those feedback sessions are actually how I originally met so many homies. I’ve found that many people are afraid to give feedback, or at least critical feedback, because of the response they might get. It’s strange when someone reaches out asking for your opinion, but when you give your honest opinion they come back all angry, like “why aren’t you saying my track is awesome!?” I’m only trying to be constructive when I give feedback. Even on tracks that I think are great I’m still listening for the parts that they might be able to improve. Personally, I appreciate that the few friends I send things to are harsh with their critique - at times, going so far as to tell me to scrap the project and start a new song.

Having been involved in Vancouver’s music scene for some time now, what would you say is the ‘sound’ of Vancouver?

That’s a tough one. I don’t feel like Vancouver has one sound - there’s multiple sounds. Guys like Juelz and Landyn, more 808-driven trap guys, as well as the deeper dubstep producers. That’s a kind of generalized west coast thing - the deep, brooding bass element. I notice more the mood behind the music - I don’t know if it is because Vancouver’s always raining, or everyone here is broke, but for the most part, there’s a darker tone present.

And how do you see Vancouver’s nightlife?

There’s a range of after hours parties around the city that go off around the year which is cool. You have the Pacific Rhythm nights, some more bass-oriented nights, some dark techno-tech house nights. I do see that a lot of people, once they start to pop off they often leave. I don’t know why exactly, there are obviously many factors to consider behind that. The people here are cool, but it is an expensive place to live and there are other cities out there that have existing and well-established scenes.

A recent example is Fvded Fridays at M.I.A. I think it didn’t work because the artists brought in there were direct competition with Fortune’s Happy Ending Fridays, which was already well-established. That’s my favourite night - Happy Ending Fridays. I’ve become friends with a lot of residents there and they know how to build the audience. They’re very good at being openers. My taste is based around trap, future bass, hip hop, R'n'B - which is the HAF vibe - so it pops off for me.

What’s the vision for Crystals Collective?

The immediate vision is that the few of us with a larger online and real-life following can help boost each other’s audience. We have a group chat and are always sharing tracks, feedback, advice, connections, anything that can help each other grow. The longer-term vision is that as we become more successful we want to begin performing live shows as a collective. Hopefully we can bring some of the international guys out for those shows - a big hope but one we really want to achieve.

We’re also going to be putting out a quarterly compilation with one track from every member - the first compilations is scheduled for January 23rd, with the second coming 3 months after that, around the end of April. It’s going to be a fusion of forward thinking bass, trap, future house and Soulection-type music. In between releases we’ll be releasing free sample packs for everyone to use - all of our content will be free in the spirit of creation.

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