Introducing Crystal Dorval is actually not as easy as it seems. She’s an experimental multimedia artist from British Columbia, Canada – you know, the place Kyle Bobby Dunn really wants to visit. Crystal makes music as White Poppy, manages a mental wellness blog called Sanity Soap, creates live projections and music videos, performs around the world, fights her demons, takes good care of her fans on Facebook, and apparently sleeps a lot. Let her tell us about the rest.
White poppy is an artificial flower used as a symbol of peace. How did you end up relating it to yourself?
The feeling I was trying to convey through my music was a sense of inner peace. Thus the flower made sense as a symbol for the project.
How did you get in touch with music? What made you realize that you want to follow this melodic path?
It just came about naturally when I was a teenager. I began playing guitar and taking an interest in music when I was 15, and I never stopped being interested in it.
You’ve labelled your own music as ‘experimental & therapeutic pop’. Can you explain that further? What do you personally call therapeutic?
Yeah, I wanted to express my intention behind the music, which is to provide a type of therapy or something. By therapy I don’t mean in the medical sense, but something soothing. Something to help you escape from your mind. To feel sedated but in a positive way. It is also directly linked to my own suffering and working through it. So to me, making the music is like a form of therapy.
You even blog about depression and anxiety on Sanity Soap, offering a special kind of musical ‘cure’ for the tired souls – including yourself. How do you think music can influence and change one’s way of feeling lost?
Well, I think music has a unique way of communicating to people on a subconscious level. If you are more of an emotive and sensitive person, you may just be moved by the music in a certain way, and that can be healing without even having to speak with direct language. I think that is very special about music. It can also have a more literal impact with lyrics and messages, and I think that can really help people to feel connected. I know that I have felt less alone in the world simply by hearing a lyric that I related to.
Did you get any surprising feedback on your writings on Sanity Soap?
I sort of predicted what would happen with the feedback, but it was still surprising when it came true. It was hard for me to work through my own fear and self doubt to start sharing those sort of experiences, but I had this strong feeling that it would do something positive for others, and help encourage others to feel okay to share their experiences to, which it has. I think the more people talk about these things that are stigmatized or taboo or kept private, the more we can feel okay about them, and work through them together.
You are making music, preparing mixtapes, live projections and music videos, writing, drawing, making collages and nowadays touring around the world. What are you doing when you don’t feel creative at all?
I like sleeping a lot, haha. I also like to hang out with my cat, friends, and family. Go outside. Sit and stare at the sky or whatever. I watch a lot of dumb TV shows.
You have plenty of music videos in your portfolio. All of them, without any exception, are experimental yet dreamy, soft and delicate. If you have to think of contemporary filmmakers, who would you say inspires you the most and why?
I am not so knowledgeable about filmmakers. It’s something I’d like to explore more.
Ethereal dreaminess became kind of a trademark of your work – be it music, writing or moving images. While we are dreaming awake, what do you dream about in your sleep?
My dreams are really crazy lately. They are often a big collage of different scenes all melting together. Lots of really epic and magical scenes. Amongst all the abstract story lines though, there seem to be these insightful clues into my waking life. Last year I was having really boring and realistic dreams. I would make a cup of coffee, or talk to my Dad about something. When I was awake I would remember the dream as if it actually happened in waking life because it was such a trivial, regular activity.
Last year you’ve released two albums which are different not just in their mood but also their physical format. While ‘White Poppy’ was released on vinyl on Not Not Fun Records, ‘Drifter’s Gold’ was released as cassette on Constellation Tatsu. How do you think that these sounds made in the same period of time can be so different?
It’s actually a pretty common method of creating I’ve realized about myself. I have a wide range of influences and styles that I like to explore. I find that if I am working in one concept, theme or style exclusively, then I need to jump the opposite end of spectrum afterward. Thus, with ‘White Poppy’ I was creating songs very driven by bass and drums and a full band feel, and afterward I wanted to create something more stripped down and raw with ‘Drifters Gold’.
Your collaboration cassette with Beau Devereaux (Samantha Glass) recently came out on Moon Glyph. The background of this collaboration is quite non-conventional, since you have been passing your sounds back and forth to each other online for more than a year. How do you think the lack of physicality influences the creative process?
Well, it was actually not really different then my usual process. It was still physical when it came to the actual creation and recording of the songs. Basically I started 4 songs and he started 4 songs, then we emailed each other the songs, and we each added to them and completed them. I think it was probably similar for both of us. We are used to home recording alone, so once we had the bed tracks to work with, it was just like our regular recording process. The thing I found most different with this project was that I felt more free to explore and experiment with techniques, and I really enjoyed the second half of the recordings where I was adding layers to the songs he started.
You’ve been touring around in Europe earlier this year. Where did you have the best experience while performing and which one was disappointing (if any) and why?
You know, most of the shows were pretty comparable in terms of good experiences. The promoters and show organizers were nice and welcoming and really helpful. We were treated really well! We actually only had one “bad” show and it wasn’t even that bad, it was just a wrong fit. Experimental music doesn’t go over so well at an Irish themed pub on St. Patrick’s Day, haha. Not really the best “party” music. It was basically just me and my friend playing to each other while drunk people tried to talk over our music, and the bar staff were really unhelpful.
How do you think the European audience is different from the Canadian? What kind of difference did you feel between the various European countries that you’ve visited?
Well, it’s hard to generalize such things, and I have a bit of a bias as well because I have toured Canada for a while now. Some of the shows I’ve played in Canada were just really crappy because I was still new to booking tours. The Europe tour was well organized and mostly geared to the right sort of people and venues, so it was really nice. I’ve played many shitty and discouraging shows back home in Canada and in the US. One thing that really stands out about touring in Europe is the treatment of the touring bands. Rarely in North America in the DIY realm do you get guarantees, accommodation and meals provided. It’s like, find a couch to stay on, and you might get $40 from the pass-the-hat-around door deal. Not always of course, but like, pretty often it’s like that haha.