Viva Ruiz of the Crystal Ark | Interview
Due to space limitations, we couldn't print our entire interview with NYC's the Crystal Ark. Here you can read our Q&A with the group's lead vocalist Viva Ruiz, an actress, artist and filmmaker whose other projects include arty dance act Escandalo. The band's Thursday March 7 show at Elbo Room has sold out, but the Ark just announced a guest DJ set at an after-party at Berlin.
The Crystal Ark is a rather big group. Isn’t technology supposed to make a band more compact?
The band number fluctuates but I don't think machines should replace humans, instead we should work in concert with them.
How did you meet Gavin Russom, and what was the original concept behind the collaboration?
I met Gavin in rainy Berlin in January 2008 as I was touring with the [performance collective] Big Art Group as an actor, again by chance in Paris a few months later at Gavin's first Black Meteoric Star show—I was performing with BAG in the same festival. Synched-chronicity! The original concept was fun and experimentation, and that still is the basic concept.
You're writing a lot of the lyrics. What are you drawing on?
Gavin plays me tracks, I listen like I'm watching a movie and dream on it. I ride the subways with them in my ears. By the time we record they settle into what they're supposed to be.
Was the project conceived with visual/video elements in mind? What's been the guiding philosophy as far as making videos and doing the visuals for live shows?
There wasn't a plan beforehand as far as videos, but as I wrote the lyrics for the first "City" track I could really see the story play out visually, so I was excited to jump in and make that come to life in that video. The same thing happened with "We Came To." As we recorded that track I saw a crew of people stepping out of a spaceship into a new alien land, crisscrossing with themes of immigration rights, and so I got inspired to flesh out that video, too. We are both multimedia and performance artists, so it seems logical that the Crystal Ark would also share these different aspects in our collaboration, and that adds a whole other level of fun for us. We also collaborate with our good friends Bec Stupak, Johnny Woods and Seth Kirby, who created some cool video for the live show. All of us are like-minded in that we are very interested in an overloaded, immersive sensory experience.
Your tracks tend to have a krautrock-meets-disco-remix feel, in that they seem designed to play for an extended period, but they’re not the usual DJ fare, either. Is that a reaction to some of the ADD dance music happening now?
Gavin likes to take his time, and I don't mind.
How did Latin music enter the equation?
Originally it was Gavin's distinct intention for me to sing in Spanish for the first two 12" singles, which was perfect for me as my own work is often bilingual. Alberto Lopez jumped in to collab and his phenomenal drumming solidified that vibe for sure. Ever since, it's just been what this combination of people naturally produces. My cultural roots are always a part of my work, which feels especially delicious now as a small way to stand and be counted against the terrifying nationalism that's taken over, targeting Central and South American immigrants.
What’s the live show like? I hear there’s been some copulation at NYC gigs. Can we expect that in Chicago, too?
Let everyone make love not war. Live shows are a celebration, so come and celebrate how you like. For sure we've seen people doing all kinds of dirty stuff from the stage. Get into it, people.