Interview By Deb Draisin
Spouses and California natives Hayley and Crusher Cain comprise the backbone of Hayley & The Crushers, with each album featuring a hand-picked rotation of eclectic drummers to round out their sound. Their latest effort, Modern Adult Kicks, comes on the heels of the couple having made the very difficult decision to close down their long-standing comic book shop.
Self-described as “one part punk-pop, one part sunny surf, and a big dose of poolside,” the band evokes the image of perhaps a Best Coast fan enjoying their jams. However, that is NOT what I heard at all. I think their music will much likelier appeal to a Garbage fan. Their songs are vaguely metal along with their undeniably San Luis Obispo surf sound.
Jersey Beat sat down with the band to discuss the upcoming release and tour.
H: How are you, Deb?
Q: You must be Hayley – as if I couldn’t tell by the colorful ensemble (both laugh). Nice to meet you!
H: You too – I really liked the Paul Roessler interview
Q: Thank you! Good man.
H: (nodding) He’s a very interesting character.
Q: I feel lucky to have gotten to meet him, what a cool dude.
H: Yeah, he is the real deal. I mean, there are a lot of sensitive men in the world - and hopefully, I don’t make him sound like a hippie - but he’s a sensitive artist.
Q: He is a little bit of a hippie.
H: So, I was joking with him that he’s an original ‘77 punk rock Baby Boomer, because he actually is.
H: He has a love of prog rock that I find disturbing.
Q: Really, so you’re not into Pink Floyd, Queensrÿche, or anything like that? Rush?
H: In my defense, when I say that I can’t get with that music, I’m basically saying that I’m not smart enough – it’s just too above my pay grade.
Q: The i.q. level that’s required to get through a whole Muse album is just…
H: Yeah! I’ve recently gotten into more instrumental music, like jazz and exotica. So, I think that it is a progression. I don’t see myself as having particularly superior music taste, but…
Q: Who are your top jazz artists?
H: Oh God, I guess I shouldn’t have said “jazz” – I think I’m trying to make myself sound more sophisticated than I really am. It’s mostly exotica. I’ve been listening to this guy, Esquivel, from the 50s and 60s, and, of course, Martin Denny did a lot of lush soundscapes. I mean, they’re kind of jazz-like, because they’re free-form and flowing. It’s swanky, bachelor pad jams with xylophones. You might hear an animal call, or some weird bongos in the distance. It’s very atmospheric.
Q: Kinda like what Frank Zappa would be doing if he wasn’t singing.
H: Okay, well, I’ve never thought of Martin Denny that way, but yeah, I guess you could say that.
Q: Now you can’t unsee that, Hayley (both laugh).
H: If you really want to talk jazz, you have to talk to my husband, Dr. Cain, who’s also my bass player - he has an amazing record collection. We have quite a big age difference in our relationship, 13 years – he’s the one who’s been like “Oh, here is some classic jazz” or “Here is some interesting country you might not have experienced: western swing.” I think that, the more you get into that type of stuff, it helps solidify what you want to do.
Q: I think that reach, for an artist, is important. My husband was only 4 years older than me, but he knew way more than I did about music. I think those experiences, broadening the horizons of music that we initially pigeonhole ourselves into, are important, particularly for a person who plays. I think you have to draw inspiration from everywhere.
H: Yeah, that’s kind of what he taught me, he’s amazing. We have SiriusXM, and, lately, we just have it on the Motown soul station 24/7. We just moved across the country to Detroit, and feeling that music, in this place, is cool. We also love listening to Rodney Bingenheimer on channel 21 - he’s always playing our stuff. I met him once, at Canters Deli in L.A., and he’s just so interested in what new music is happening now, and how he can help promote those smaller bands. When someone becomes a big to-do music person, you think that these people are just riding on their nostalgia, but Rodney really cares, and wants to help that new band, he gets excited about them, and I just think that’s so cool.
Q: I think a plug for a plug is fair. You currently have three tracks available to fans for preview?
H: Our new single is out, it’s called “Taboo” We’re very excited.
Haley in the "Taboo"video
Q: Alright, talk about that?
H: I hate that this is the only way I can describe it, but it’s sort of like a Pat Benatar-vibe, pop rock song. I don’t know where that came from. We’re a very fun band, but this album is about growing up, becoming more adult, but also a bit more wicked. So, the song’s is essence is like “Love is a Battlefield”. And I love that video, with (all the women) dancing around (the brothel) (laughs). It’s just a fun rock song that has a darker mentality than some of the other stuff we’ve done. The whole album is a lot darker.
Q: So, you’ve so far described adulting as “dark”, but also way more risqué. Has that been your experience, that becoming a grown-up is one part "Oh, look at all the cool shit I can do now!" and another part "Ah, there’s all this stuff I never thought of before”?
H: I mean, yeah. “Vintage Millennial” is the previous album – it’s about coming into your 30s. And “adulting” is such a great term, so thank you for saying that. Because of course, the only people who would come up with a verb like that is a millennial - I can poke fun at that part of my generation.
I don’t know, I feel like I went through a lot of dark things as a teenager. I moved out really young and really lived the punk rock lifestyle. I had mental health, drug, and alcohol issues, I was in a very bad relationship. I remember being 21 years old, thinking that I was done partying - I was already going to clubs, I had a fake ID.
The Crushers are very positive and joyful, to me. The Crusherverse is like its own little thing, I’ve never really connected it with being an adult. I think of (the band) as a Wonderland, where things are fun and interesting, and lush and exciting. But, to your point, basically, 2020 was a huge wake-up call for everybody. Every single person went through their own dark night of the soul, and then, on top of that, I had a lot of issues within my personal life: codependency, addiction within my circle, people that I loved going through bad times that I had to reckon with.
Dr. Cain lost his ability to work during that time, and that’s not good for him. We had sold his comic book shop in California, which he had owned for 10 years, so that we could tour more, even though we had already been touring pretty vigorously. So there was this huge halt that really accelerated a lot of those adult things which were already happening. So you’re right, it can be wonderful, but also overwhelming, especially during 2020, when we were all forced to sit in our shit and the shit of the world, and have a really hard look at it all. I can’t imagine any band who didn’t metabolize that into their art.
And it’s so funny, hearing people listen to this album and say “Wow, it’s still pretty joyful!”, because in my mind, it’s full of angst and growing pains. Yes, you’re totally right, I do look at this album as an adulting album, but there’s so much juice in that, too. You get to actually be powerful and make decisions. So, to answer your question in a roundabout way: yes, yes, and no (laughs). I’m sorry, I’m just going to go on tangents.
Q: No, don’t apologize, expounding is how you get the good answers! Are there songs out of the four that you’ve made available which you think maybe the fanbase has misunderstood, or taken the ball and run in a different direction than you were expecting?
H: Oh, that’s a good question, but it’s also my doing. For instance, “She Drives” is about a friend of mine who was going through a rough time in her marriage, but when you listen to the song there are these sunny “la la la la” parts.
Q: Are you saying that’s by design?
H: Yeah, it kind of is. It’s a song about a woman who has had enough, and is taking her power back. To wrap it all up in sort of a shimmery bow is kind of The Crushers’ way. But “Cul de Sac”, a song inspired by the Ira Levin book “The Stepford Wives” - I love that book - is about being stuck in the suburbs in a cul de sac during the pandemic, and I feel like that really read as exactly what it was.
Q: Is that why you went running for Detroit?
H: You know, we took a good, hard look at our life, and we realized “Holy shit, we live in a white affluent bubble”. There may have been artists who lived there 10 or 15 years ago, but now it’s a golf course. We basically lived in a retirement community, that’s how it felt.
Q: I feel that way right now, where I am.
H: I felt disgusted, but you know what else? A lot of the people in my age group had started having kids and stuff – I’m in my mid-30s. I love and respect those people, but I know I don’t want that. I realized I could either stay there in my own corner, doing my little art, or go somewhere where there’s more art and stuff being flung across the room and against the wall, and people picking that shit up and doing something with it. That was what I had always craved.
I’ve always lived in California. My whole family, generationally, we’ve always been there. There was a sense of “Well, you can never leave the promised land!” And to leave it for Detroit, a place that is so different from it.
Q: It felt rebellious.
H: It is, it feels like a big adulting decision. To buy a house in the lowest income, highest density city in Michigan – I’m technically on the border of Hamtramck and Detroit. It’s really multi-cultural - the school district here speaks 26 languages. I’m in the minority here, and that feels right to me, it feels like growth, without trying to sound too woke. I had to realize that The California Dream is kind of on fire.
Q: The American Dream is on fire also.
H: Which is why my sister moved to Germany! I would love to move to Europe, too, but we’ll see about that.
Q: Norway’s looking pretty good right now, not gonna lie.
H: Yeah, seriously! But I do like the sense of community here – everybody is trying to make something, and that’s beautiful, it’s really cool. Even though I’ve only been here a couple of months, I feel really welcomed by Detroit.
Q: So, when I moved out to Long Island 15 years ago, I had the dichotomy of the little suburban escape with easy proximity to the City, but now, the City isn’t really the City anymore. And now I, too, am stuck in Stepfordland, because Manhattan isn’t how I left it, it’s not the place I grew up in. It’s very whitewashed, it’s very soulless.
H: Yeah, it’s almost like the toad in the water, being boiled little by little. You don’t really realize what’s happening until you wake up one day like “Holy shit, what happened to this community?” So I feel what you’re saying.
Q: That was a dark analogy, but it’s accurate.
H: I think every single person needs to have – whether it’s your legit, blood family, or a community that’s artistic - people who see you for what you are. It can be only like 3 or 4 people who really see you. Sometimes you need to move to see yourself in others, clearly.
Q: I try to do that by traveling - I know that’s a super privileged thing to say, but I try to immerse myself fully in another culture every couple of years. That’s something you get to do more as a musician than I do, with my 9 to 5.
H: Yeah, traveling in the van, you know, even just going to a different city – even just going to Milwaukee or something, I’m like “Holy crap, this is what you guys do over here?” I remember being in Iowa, staying at our drummer’s aunt and uncle’s farm, and they raised mini donkeys.
Q: Oh my God, I would never leave!
H: For lunch, we went to this tiny diner called Fat Annie’s, in a town of about 600 people, eating this crazy, giant pork tenderloin sandwich, breaded in crackers? People in Iowa will know what that is. It’s kind of bland, but sitting there eating it, you’re just thinking “This is their life.” It was an exotic and valid thing to celebrate, like “Okay, this is another culture.” You know, culture is what you make of it.
Q: I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I’m certainly past the age that I want to sleep on the ground in a tent anymore, but I try to make up for that bougieness by literally diving headfirst into the local culture when I travel, making sure I meet people there that live an authentic life.
H: Being a writer is like being a traveler in people’s brains.
Q: Oh, that’s true!
H: You get to dive into all of that. Putting yourself inside somebody else’s head, thinking about their intentions – even going through an interview and relistening to it – is like traveling, in my mind.
Q: Thank you for that tidbit, I really appreciate it! I’m going to look at it that way from now on. It’s probably the same way you feel about a song. You’re creating a story, maybe about something that happened to you or someone you know, but also maybe something that came out of your head. It’s like going to a whole other universe.
H: It is, and it’s a level of empathy too, to think about human situations that we all go through, and how we all are kind of broken, all going through shit, yeah, that takes a level of being interested in humanity and other people.
Q: The human experience.
H: Noticing them, and really witnessing their lives, and what’s happening to them. The coolest thing in the world is to have a song written about you, right? And I feel like I’ve written about every person in my life.
Q: Do your friends know that they’re the subjects of certain songs that you have?
H: (laughing) Sometimes. There’s a song on the album called “California Sober”, which I don’t know if you know that term - do you?
Q: I can deduce.
H: Okay, it’s people who don’t drink, but they smoke weed, or take mescaline and other psychedelics, and they feel that’s very spiritual. There’s someone that I wrote that song about who I will never tell that it’s about them.
Q: Will they figure it out?
H: No, I’m too poetic for that. Every writer, as you know, is always poking around in people’s brains, taking a pencil to it, like “What’s going on in there?”
Q: That’s a nice way to look at it, thank you for that, Hayley. What made you decide to bust out a Shivvers cover?
H: Oh my God, I don’t know! Nobody wanted to do it. My husband’s a builder – we were up in Loma Linda, have you heard of that place? Like in the Clearlake area?
Q: I know Clearlake.
H: Like up in the woods? I’m describing it so badly. It’s a lot of redwoods. We were in somebody’s kitchen, staying there while he was gone. It was completely isolated – there was nothing to do at all. It was actually not what I thought that experience was going to be like, it was quite maddening. I thought it would be relaxing and fun. A week in, I was like “Get me out of here!”
I had been listening to that Shivvers album a lot – I don’t even know how I came upon it, maybe it just came up on Spotify? I don’t even know about them, really. They’re a very obscure, as you know, Milwaukee power pop band. I really liked the song “No Substitute”. I liked that it was sugary and sweet, but also full of longing. So, because I was lonely and bored as fuck, I decided to learn that song, and thank God for that. I normally never learn covers, I would rather just take that time to write a song.
But nobody wanted to do it, so we got a friend out of San Luis Obispo, where we were originally based out of, and had him learn the guitar parts - I wasn’t about to do all those. The bass on the original song is quite busy – Reid kind of managed to simplify it a bit.
I actually hit up Jill from The Shivvers, and she gave me her blessing - I just sent a record out to her today. I was lamenting to her over Facebook Messenger “I don’t know what it is, but in half the song, I’m saying ‘no substitute’, and on the other, I’m saying ‘no substitutes’, and I don’t know why.” She said “Oh, I did the same thing every time I played the song, don’t worry about it. I’m so happy that you did this, thank you.” She was so sweet and kind, so shout out to Jill.
Sometimes covers just end up working out, you know? It’s an obscure band that I feel like now more people might know about – but maybe not, because we’re also an obscure band, so.
Q: Well, we are going to try to get this interview out to as many people as possible! You’ve stated that you collect drummers in lieu of children. Is there a reason that you change drummers so often? Is it just that the sound of each album requiring a different skill set, or do you just kind of enjoy playing with new people every time?
H: You know, I love that thought, but it’s not either of those things (laughs).
Q: What is it really?
H: It’s really, literally, hardcore necessity. It’s the most bare bones, “Who can we get for this tour now?” I don’t want to take away from any of the drummers’ talents, because we don’t work with people who aren’t skilled – that’s a prerequisite. It’s more about being married to my bandmate. We are a trio, at least at this point, but we’re going on tour next month as a four-piece. When you’re a trio, and you’re married to your bass player, you have that fReidom to go anywhere. But in order to do that, we have to have a wonderful drummer. There’s no drummer in the world who is going to want to do that as much as we want to, for the glory that we are getting out of it (laughs), so it’s more like “Okay, we’re going to be in the Midwest for a tour, who can we get out there? And we have Dougie Tangent, who is wonderful. And then, when we’re in California, we have either Action Ben Cabreana (although he had a skateboarding accident, so now we’re working with Sam Cole.) And we have another drummer on the East Coast interested in playing with us, who we will announce.
So, it’s a bug, but a feature. We’d love to have a dedicated drummer, but we don’t. So we call them our honorary Crushers, and they all get loved on. Once you are part of this experience in the Crusherverse, we will talk you up till the day you die. It’s kind of like a cute little cult, you know? I say they’re my kids, but I’m the kid, probably. I’m the one that’s the wild card, so. The drummer is the most important member of the band, unfortunately.
The new album, Modern Adult Kicks
Look, it's a unicorn! No, it's a drummer! From the "Taboo" video
Q: I don’t know why the drummer curse exists, but I always thought it was them leaving – he and someone else in the band got into a fight, so he quit, or he can’t drum anymore, he fucked his hands up. But it seems like so many bands refuse to have a permanent drummer now.
H: Well, I’m not going to say anything bad about drummers as a whole, because I’ll get in trouble, but these are people who beat on things for a living. My mom always told me “Never marry a drummer, and never marry someone who won’t dance with you.” Drummers make the world go round, I love them, I appreciate them, they make my life livable, honestly, but at the same time, the person who is attracted to drumming is a very interesting animal. A wonderful animal, but also complicated. That’s what I think the curse really is. It’s the same way that frontpeople are narcissistic, and think that they’re so important and poetic and smart, when, half the time, they’re really not.
Q: So funny that you should say that, because my son - who is also a singer/songwriter, so it’s even funnier - made that remark about somebody recently. He said “I feel like that dude just listens to Morrissey, sips scotch, and talks about how ingenious he is”. I was like “That’s every frontperson. I’m sorry, did you think there were exceptions?”
H: That’s so true, and your son is 100% right. I have a theory about this: you have to be somewhat delusional to go onstage and be like “Hey, beer bottles, directed right here (points at face).” You get the glory, but you also get the shit. So, to do that, you have to have a little bit of self-delusion, or else you’re just gonna get eaten alive. I keep that self-delusion alive just enough to keep my mojo going, so I don’t cry myself to sleep when something does go down – because, sometimes, you just miss the mark.
Q: I think that having a crowd turn on you is probably a rite of passage, and I agree that you have to be made of some strong stuff to tolerate that. So if narcissism works, then so be it.
H: Just a little bit, you know? A sprinkling.
Q: Like cinnamon on top of a lattè.
H: Yes, but I would say more delusion than narcissism, because narcissism also implies that you’re taking from the band. I think that frontpeople, a lot of times, work really fucking hard, because it’s on us. Like, for instance, I do all of the marketing, and the web stuff. I do all my own video editing. Reid does all the poster design. You can be self-delusional, but you’re also a workhorse, whipping yourself constantly. It’s a job with very little pay. I don’t want to be too hard on any person in a band – don’t cancel me, I don’t want to be canceled! (laughs)
Q: The internet age is an interesting age to come up in, as well, as a band. I want to talk a little bit about what that’s like, because, as a Millennial, you can’t escape it, right? So now it’s integrated into your life as a performer - you now must have this presence, which will be your sole presence, because there’s really not music television or radio anymore. Is that tough to manage?
H: I have a song on the new album called “Overexposed” that’s literally about, very obviously, about a young girl in a chat room – because I was that young girl. When I was 10 years old, I discovered chat rooms, and I was never the same. I’ve been on social media since I was 13. I was a punky little MySpace girl with stupid hair and a lip ring. A hundred percent, this is something that’s culturally ingrained in our generation, much more than Gen X.
H: Gen Xers were like 20 when they got their first cell phones.
Q: We remember vividly the pre cell-phone age, you guys probably almost don’t anymore.
H: So, vintage millennials - older ones, like myself - do, but the younger Millennials haven’t seen it at all. So, I would say that, yeah, it is definitely difficult. I do have one piece of advice that I will put out there to literally anybody of any generation, of any age. Just like you said, you are kind of beholden to this internet to promote your work – any author, musician, burlesque performer, whomever, you’re 100% right. But you can separate yourself from it, and treat yourself like your own marketing client. There is the version of me who is promoting, and then there is the real me. I tell my friends and family that anything they see on the internet, even if it looks authentic, is all marketing. And those words free me.
I can remind myself what I’m doing this for: It’s to push this music forward, and I really care about that. I’m pushing forward this art that I think will add onto the world in some way. That allows me to not feel like a disgusting, soul-sucking troll. I think that’s the problem that you’re kind of touching on, for artists my age and younger: not only do you have to do it, but you kind of have a self-loathing about it, because it’s so much a part of your everything – your emotional life, your identity, and, no matter what anyone says, it’s all really marketing.
It is what it is. I text a lot of my friends privately if there’s something important, I send letters, I collect typewriters, I send a lot of pictures to people that no one sees but them. I have my own life that’s not online which is very rich.
Q: So, when family members come out to shows, do they find it weird, getting both versions of you at once?
H: Yeah, I think it’s disconcerting – it would be for anyone. When I first met my husband, he was in a country band. He had a fringe outfit on, a cowboy hat, and Wrangler’s. He was singing these Hank Williams style songs, and I literally thought he was a cowboy for like 2 weeks. And then he was like “Actually, I’m a comic book nerd and surfer who likes doom metal and crust music, and doesn’t wear deodorant.” I was just like “What?!” So, we all have our personas. It is weird for anybody who isn’t a creator or a performer. Like, performers are just weird. Like, why do we feel the need to get up onstage and do what we do? I don’t know, it is weird, and I think I’m weird. I don’t blame anyone for thinking that I have multiple personalities.
Q: I think all artists are weird.
H: It’s weird! I think that all the time. Like, I’ll be at a concert, in a crowd, and I’ll think “This is weird. We’re all just, like, looking at a stage, and someone’s doing something, and we’re all feeling something. What does this mean? I still don’t understand what it is.” I don’t know what live performance really means, it still trips me out.
Q: It is trippy, if you start breaking it down. Alright, so this guy’s making noise by banging on stuff, this one’s yelling, we’re yelling. If I was like an alien, I’d look down and think this was so chaotic, like “What is happening right now?” But I think artists are integrally weird, because we’re always in our heads.
H: It’s like that concept of wabi-sabi, which is like something that may be broken, but put back together and still beautiful – and also beautiful because of its flaws. Sometimes artists grow from the places we’re broken as young people, and we see the world in a different way. Because of how you were raised or whatever happened to you growing up – you see so many artists who have had a lot of struggles in life that they were able to bring together and amplify some mission that they have. Every artist has some integral mission there, like really deep. I read a lot of music biographies and autobiographies – I don’t know if you do, too? Like memoirs, I really like them for some reason.
Q: Have you read “Tranny” by Laura Jane Grace? It’s amazing.
H: Ooh, no! I’ll put it on my list. But every artist does kind of have that mission statement, you know, like, why?
Q: Some thing that carries them, something they either really badly needed or an answer that they couldn’t get, or something they’re trying to solve. I mean, one of my favorite artists is Scott Weiland, and he had this one woman, Mary (who was a kid when he met her, but anyway), he just couldn’t resolve things with Mary in his head. Scott Weiland went through like 10 albums just trying to resolve the Mary problem, then died without solving it. It’s interesting, we get stuck on things.
H: Yeah, we’re all trying to figure out what is reality, what is this existence? Why are we here? And, in the meantime, let’s have fun while we’re here is what I take away, somewhat from punk rock.
Q: Who were you inspired the most by as a young punk?
H: I had a couple of different phases, like most people did, but the band that I keep coming back to, who has grown with me, and I’ve grown with them, is definitely X, who are an iconic L.A. band who have fused so many genres.
Q: Yeah, they’re great.
H: There’s like a soulfulness, and a sweetness and an imperfection to them that just hits me right. And they’re just a band who, I don’t know, no matter what your genre is, you like them, so that’s why they’ve stayed with me. But I’ve been through all sorts of phases. I had a big Ramones phase, I went by the name “Hayley Ramone”, and I had black hair (her hair is bright orange now). In high school, I went through a British punk phase – there were actually a lot of British bands coming to L.A. during the time I was growing up, so we were going out and seeing all these cool bands, like Motorhead, the UK Subs, and GBH. They were all coming together for that cash grab in the early 2000s. I had a spike punk phase, and a Lookout Records phase – and I still love a lot of that music. But, I guess what I was getting at before was this “Let’s just have fun” attitude that is deliberately a little dumb. I think I’m attracted to it because it’s about not thinking so hard about everything, just enjoying that you’re here. That’s The Crushers’ vibe, too: how we can make this moment as sparkly as we can.
Q: You want your art to be more uplifting than deeply meaningful.
H: Yeah, if someone found it meaningful, then that’s on that person, but I certainly don’t go into the songwriting process with that in mindI could look back at all my old poetry from high school, and it never worked. I don’t think that’s ever worked for anyone.
Q: I tried really hard too (both laugh).
H: In the end, we all are who we fundamentally are, and everybody can get out of that whatever they want. Some people might find it extremely soulful, and connect something to it. I know that, as a kid, I would sit and listen to The Ramones and feel so much emotion, but they were singing about, like, bananas, and not wanting to go into the basement, and the KKK taking their baby away. Why did that connect so much? I don’t know, it’s a mystery.
Q: There was a period when everyone spent an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out what “Nevermind” was about, and then Kurt saying “It’s about absolutely nothing”.
H: Oh yeah, that’s a really good point. Kurt was a punk rocker.
Q: Yes, he was.
H: He was kind of here to pull the wool over people’s eyes. He was smart and mischievous. There’s an SNL skit spoofing “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, isn’t there? (the band did play it on the show).
Q: Are you thinking of Weird Al?
H: Oh, maybe it was Weird Al. He’s singing about having marbles in his mouth?
Q: Weird Al. It’s funny, because the same thing happened with “Stairway to Heaven”. Plant was like “I don’t even think I had a thought in my head when I was writing that, I think I was just writing words.”
H: (humming a few bars) This reminds me of “Wayne’s World.” I love that movie.
Q: It was such a cultural statement.
H: That and “Spinal Tap”, they’re still so applicable. Like, the egos behind everything. How black can the album be? Turning the amp up to 11. We pride ourselves on being a quieter band. We see a lead singer going “Oh, can you turn my vocal mic up?” and the sound guy being like “No. You guys need to turn it down”, which no guitar player, bass player, or drummer ever wants to do – they always want to turn it up. All this stuff prepared me, thank you, Spinal Tap!
Q: “Now I know not to take myself too seriously.” I think that was the point of it all. By the way, did you know that “This Is Spinal Tap” was 100% ad-libbed?
Q: Yes Ma’am.
H: Oh my God!
Q: Michael McKean confirmed this – the band actually tried to get everybody in the film a credit, but the producers wouldn’t do it.
H: Wow. That’s a Christopher Guest movie, right?
Q: Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, Harry Shearer, and Rob Reiner.
H: He did a bunch of other movies too that I liked. Did he do that for other movies, too, or were they scripted?
Q: That he has not said.
H: I want to go watch that now.
Q: I know. Imagine having that much genius in your brain to just come up with dialogue on the spot like that, and have it make sense.
H: They must have been drawing off experience in some way.
Q: You can definitely recognize 4 or 5 band references in every scene.
H: Everyone knows that the music industry is crazy, and I don’t do full-time. Like, I’m a musician, but I’m also a freelance writer and marketer – I’ve had my own company for 10 years now. My husband’s a builder.
Q: Not a doctor or a lawyer, because he has both in his title?
H: He is the world’s finest fake doctor and lawyer. My parents were very proud when I married him.
Q: Your parents must have been like “Jackpot!”
H: That’s right. He’s a funny guy such a stubborn, interesting person. I love him. I don’t know where I was going with this…
Q: You just wanted to put that out there in the universe. How did you guys meet? While he was doing the crazy cowboy show?
H: So, I’ve had many phases in my life. I moved away from Los Angeles in my early 20s because of the partying, which we talked about briefly. I wasn’t doing any music at all. I’d briefly been in an all-girls band in high school, but then from high school through my early 20s, I did nothing but go to parties. And so, I’d moved to rural San Luis Obispo County, where my dad was living, and moved into his basement – yay!
I said, “Well, now what do I do? I have no friends here anymore. I don’t know what to do with my life. Oh, I’ll learn the banjo!” So in learning it, I was getting into bluegrass and early country, people like Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton – all these feminist singers. Loretta’s songs like “The Pill” and “Rated X” made me realize “Holy shit, Loretta Lynn, you were a feminist! Damn Girl, you are cool.”
So I was playing country music, and living in a country-type setting, trying to grow and explore a little bit more in my life, and that’s when I met Reid. He was in a country band called Red Eye Junction - they still pull more Spotify plays per month than The Crushers. They toured Europe a few times, they’re big there.
H: Yeah! We met through that little country scene. And then from there, we joined a punk band called Magazine Dirty. We were in that band for a while, we truly respected each other. We would go see each other play. And then it turned into a romance.
Q: How did this happen? Because, usually, you’re not supposed to shit where you eat.
H: Totally! I think one of the blessings, but also curses, of our relationship, is that we are in a band together. We’ve been together almost 10 years now, and we’ve never, ever had a point in time when we weren’t working on an album in some capacity, whether touring, promoting, or recording – it’s just baked into our relationship. We both have different social lives and passions as well, different things we want to do.
Q: Shout-out to your girl Trixie Mattell!
H: I love you Trixie (even though I think Shangela should’ve won “Allstars”). I love drag queens, I think that I am one – all women are, to some extent. I like how they play with the idea of illusion, and femininity as a performance. I think that’s very punk.
Q: Speaking of Dolly, she once said that she intentionally went over-the-top with her stage appearance.
H: She said “Find out who you are, and do it on purpose.” I love her, she is in my pantheon of female artists, along with Joan Jett, Debbie Harry, and now Josie Cotton, who has been a huge supporter and angel. All these women are irreverent in playing with their sexuality, I love that.
Q: While on the road this fal, what impression would you like to leave with new listeners?
H: That’s a great question, thank you for asking that. It’s a good question to ask somebody who’s putting out a new album. I do want to show something different. As a four-piece, we’ve put together a really high-quality band that will serve these, yes, more modern adult songs. There are still kicks to be had. I want to bring another layer of the music forward. We’ve always tried to have an orchestral, Phil Spectre-like vibe to our music, like adding glockenspiel. I hope this material will connect with people on the soul level, because we all need that right now. We’ve all been through so much. I hope that tour will be fun, but also almost like a therapy session.
Q: I think the return of live music very much feels like that for everyone, like all of us being let out of a cage directly into the psychiatrist’s office. If you could “Bill and Ted” your life right now…
H: You’re really bringing out all of the cultural touchstones right now! That’s what I should say, when you ask me that “I would like it to be an excellent adventure, and I would like everyone to be excellent to each other.”
Q: So the phone booth lands, and out comes younger Hayley, then the other phone booth lands, and out comes older Hayley, what type of conversation do you have with each of them?
H: You should watch the new “Taboo” video, because that’s the demon that’s going to be coming out of the other elevator. Oh yeah, I’ve entered my villain phase.
Q: Did you just watch “Wandavision” and decide you had to channel her?
H: No, I haven’t seen it yet, but I want to! On tour, I really only watch junk tv, journal, read, do a lot of recreational eating.
Q: Stop, this is really important: best junk food?
H: On the West Coast, we really love this place called Frank’s Famous Hot Dogs, which was all chili dogs. But I’m really partial to the regional Coney dogs of Detroit, which I’m sure you are aware of. I’m stoked that I can get one for $1.25 on any given day. On my tour journals, I just draw pictures of food all day – even if it’s just a gas station salad.
Q: No! If you’re eating a gas station, just get Cheetos.
H: Oh, I got the gas station sushi once. I caught an intestinal bug which was literally eating my insides. I’m definitely a grown-up, but I sometimes make poor decisions.
Q: Speaking of poor decisions, favorite and least favorite thing about festivals?
H: I like that they smell like grass. Least favorite thing is everything else (laughs).
Q: The worst.
H: I remember going to one festival, and I went to go pee in the Port-A-Potty, but I didn’t put the lid up, because it was dark, and I peed into my boots. I feel like that encapsulates the festival experience.
Q: You’re always going to end up with pee on you.
H: Okay, I’ll tell you one other thing I do like about festivals: the fashion. People are there to be seen - and not just at Coachella. I like that, I like when people dress up.
Q: I like the “Free Hugs” signs.
H: As long as you’re topless with tiny little pasties.
Q: That’s most of the crowd, and they’re 13, so.
H: I feel like, for most musicians, the dirty little secret is that they don’t even like going to concerts.
Q: It’s true! My son hates them. I have had so many fights with him about that: “You literally are a performer”, and he’s like “Yeah, I don’t like crowds.”
H: Concerts can make you anxious. I feel I should be doing something, or helping, or minding the door. I like having a job. That’s why, at a lot of concerts, people will see me taking photos of the band. It’s not that I’m not enjoying the band, I am, but I’m thinking to myself “They would love it if I got a cool photo of them.” I’m that person. But I think that a music scene needs all kinds of a people. I know there are people who go to concerts, and that’s their church, and I love that – and I love that those people come out to see us.
I’m mature enough to admit that it’s not my favorite past-time. I don’t want to stay up late anymore. I want to go to bed early, I want to play early shows.
Q: I don’t want to stand anymore, and I want to be able to pee when I need to.
H: Hallelujah! I always joke, though, that our audience base is punk rock dads and their cool daughters – it’s the sweetest little thing, I love it. Punk rock dads, they get out, and they support, but I know they want to go to bed early – that’s why we never headline. I want to be in the middle of the set with the punk rock dads.
Q: So you’ve been turning down the headlining spots.
H: No one wants to play last, but we’re going to be forced to headline some shows this tour - that’s okay.
Q: Which track on the album would you like folks to check out first? I know that albums usually have a deliberate track order, but you and I both know that people just stream tracks now.
H: Of the singles, or the whole album?
Q: Whole album.
H: You know, we put the first track first for a reason, I think the first song is a really good intro into the whole album. So, I would say “Taboo”, which just came out, so I’m excited. It’s about following your desires, however twisted they may be. It’s a little dirty, I like it, it feels like a new era of The Crushers, but it’s still the Crusherverse, it’s still kinda PG-13. We got in trouble for doing an X song and taking out all the curse words. But we want to be here for everybody, old people and young people. I want to be played on the radio, I have no hang-ups about that – I want to be a radio whore. I like music that gets stuck in your head against your will.
Q: Here’s hoping that “Taboo” becomes that earworm. Hayley, it’s been a pleasure.
H: Thank you, Deb, you’re awesome, and thank you for your service. People who wrote about music, I swear you guys do not get enough love. You’re one of us for sure.
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Haley in the "Jacaranda" video.