We had the good fortune of connecting with Hayley “Crusher” Cain and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Hayley, what role has risk played in your life or career?
That horrifying feeling when your heart drops into your chest? It has everything to do with making interesting, powerful art! I actually love talking about risk. It’s the dark/scary side of the creative process you rarely hear about when artists talk about their output and successes. We don’t like to think about it because risk and vulnerability are intertwined. The truth is this: The amount of risk (and vulnerability) you’re able to tolerate will dictate the amount of art you’re able to get out there into the world. The decisions that scare me are always the ones that encourage new creative muscles to grow. It’s painful as hell! Learning to “be a singer” and sing properly was really hard – I did that on my first-ever tour in a country band. Finding my style as a guitar player while opening up for bands I admired (like FLAG, Agent Orange, Weirdos, Adolescents, Jello Biafra) was a bloodbath – I did that in a punk band in my early 20s. Honestly, a lot of that is a blur! To learn as you go, in front of everyone, is the punk rock way and bands like The Ramones gave us the blueprint. Any punk rock artist is self-made and self produced. They didn’t ask, “mother, may I?” You pick yourself up and declare that you are what you say you are. No one really notices or cares, but you know you’re the real deal and that’s all that matters. The thing is, you have to believe in yourself first. Easier said than done, right? I do a lot of thinking about human behavior and read books and listen to podcasts about it constantly. Human beings are uniquely wired to seek safety and comfort within a clan. Any deviation from the rules of that group, whether it be to think differently, act differently or even dress differently, can feel super risky. AND IT IS! Rejection from any group–family, societal, cultural–sends shock waves of terror, shame and literal fear of death to our poor cave-people brains. This is faulty wiring, leftover BS from our evolution, but it’s hard to remember that when you’re just freaked out to hit “publish.” Full disclosure: I am always somewhat freaked out when I put out a song, a blog post, a podcast or just my honest, vulnerable opinion. I don’t let it rule my output, though. That’s one thing that I learned coming out of my 20s and into my 30s. Be scared and do it anyway (yeah, that’s an annoying cliche, but so true). I have become pretty aware of the voice in my head that says “you should just give up and eat a pizza.” That voice doesn’t care how many albums I put out or how I fulfilled I feel when my head hits the pillow. It’s the voice of my anxiety and depression. I have learned to have compassion for that side of myself. I will always have mental illness, but it doesn’t stop me from putting myself out there. I always wanted to be a performer but I never really told anyone around me. It seemed laughable as well as vain. To get on stage, to be raw and vulnerable and silly and 100% me and just “perform” my art like it mattered felt risky both in my family of origin as well as culturally (I grew up in the time of Spice Girls; women danced and pranced). Intellectual prowess was valued in my family, and for good reason. When I was a teenager I shaved my head, got into Black Flag and X and Operation Ivy and The Clash, cut class and joined a short-lived all girl band. I wanted to be kicked out of any club that would have me. I wanted to reject everything that told me I had to play nice. I was a total butthead and apologize to anyone I made cry during this period. : ) I remember being scared shitless at my first show at the Redondo Beach Teen Center. I was 16 and really green. I played faster and faster as my heart beat faster and faster. I really thought I would die. But I didn’t die! That was the first time I realized risk = awesome. I learned a secret that day: No one knows what they’re doing and the future belongs to who shows up. You could easily stumble from the threshold of “I’m not ready” to “I just did that” in the matter of a few heated minutes of pure passion. If that isn’t the key to staying young and engaged with life, I don’t know what is. It wasn’t till I was 22 that I really started playing live in front of people in any serious way, in a way that said, deliberately, I AM HERE TO DO THIS. I’ve come to realize art, ALL art, has a place in our royally screwed up world. It is not laughable and it is not vain. It’s the thing we fight to protect, the thing that refuels us when all hope is lost. It is valuable to our society regardless of what your uncle might believe (seriously – screw your uncle). It need not be political and it need not be polite to be valid. Freedom of speech is incredibly important to keeping this art vital and real. We all need to remember this in 2020, as the cancel culture begins to look a lot more like a freaky version of modern day McCarthyism. I am always looking at artists around me that might need that encouragement to keep going. i do this because I am also someone who needed (and still needs) to hear that. I feel like a broken record sometimes because I’m literally always saying “Just keep making art, just keep doing what you need to do to process the world.” The thing is…whatever YOU need to do to process the world is what a lot of other people need too. Not everyone is an artist, but they need art. They need your music and your writing and whatever else you do to stay sane. I might be most proud of the fact that I really do feel pretty comfortable on stage now – that I am ok with being me and messing up and even sucking at times. This came with the realization that anyone could, and should, get on stage. By “stage” I just mean a place of personal power. There should be no barrier to express your heart, now and forever! if you take anything away from this ramble, please remember: if you are scared-if it feels really risky-you should totally do it. (in a creative sense, of course). If you feel scared and you’re being chased by an ax murderer, run!
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Hayley and the Crushers is a poolside glitter trash band that wants to have fun, stir things up and kick your butt onto the dance floor. We have a new 7″ single that came out this summer on Reta Records, “Jacaranda/Angelyne.” We also released a full length album “Vintage Millennial” in January of this year on Eccentric Pop Records. We’re working on a new album to come out Spring or Summer 2021. We’ll also have a new single out this winter that is punk with a capital “P.” The new album is kind of a weird angsty record for us, but that’s understandable considering 2020’s onslaught of horrors. I am eager to experience the music everyone’s been writing this year. It’s got to be weird, right? My journey from a shy kid with a notebook to a guitar-wielding gal in go go boots was a long and crazy road. I was actually born to be a writer. I lived in my head and therefore my art lived in my head. Writing has been my day job and a huge source of pleasure and release for me. When I first started playing guitar and writing songs as a young girl, my words were suddenly much LOUDER with music. This felt different than writing an essay or a poem. It was loud! It It was VERY VERY loud! I cranked up my Line 6 amp to the most distorted channel and took it all the way to 11 1/2. I instinctively knew that a girl with an electric guitar, telling her own story on her own terms, was a very powerful thing, something that could topple buildings. I could feel this energy deep within me ticking like a bomb. Four chords and teen angst, is there anything more powerful than that? I still chase that feeling, years later. Now it’s adult agnst. Wife angst. Friend angst. Daughter angst. My songs are from my heart and from my gut. They are fun, playful, sassy but also honest. They are coy, cute, mysterious and at times deliberately cheeseball. I also want them to touch upon everyone’s human experience and to be universal, which is harder than it looks. I am trying to be a better songwriter every day and that’s what motivates me. Boring, but true! The Crushers would not be the Crushers without my beloved Dr. Reid Cain and his dangerous, discordant influence. I like to say that I write my songs pretty and Dr. Cain dirties them up – although he has a softer side that comes through sometimes, especially on love songs like “Kiss Me so I Can,” which we wrote together. Sometimes he gives me part of a melody and I run with it to craft an entire song around that, and other times he writes the lion’s share of the tune and I add a bridge or a chorus. He’s a fantastic songwriter and I have always admired his work. He is more literal in his lyrics and I am more poetic, so sometimes we argue over that (OK, we argue over that a lot). The road to collaborating has not always been smooth, but the songs we write together are some of the best songs I have had the pleasure to make. He’s an incredible performer and he scares everyone with his wild antics when he plays! I wish I could be the audience to watch him thrash around with his bass in his gold chain and Hawaiian shirt. Our drummer “Action” Benjamin Cabreana is a major piece of the Crusher puzzle. He is incredibly agile and high-energy – he keeps us on our toes, pushing us to be stronger and more unified as a band. I mean, he’s a jock and it shows! As a skater, he is always trying to “land the trick” and I think this incredible self-drive adds a clean structure to the band that you can really hear on “Vintage Millennial.” His stamina is insane. He’s also a really funny human being, always getting into shenanigans like you wouldn’t believe. We don’t even have time to get into it here! He’s also always ON TIME (when myself and Dr. Cain are always ten minutes late). Before Ben, I had no idea drummers could be so responsible. JUST KIDDING, settle down drummers, I love you. We have been #blessed to work with some of the coolest drummers out there and we salute every one of them for their service to the Crusher machine (Gabriel Olivarria, Dougie Tangent and many more)! We spent 100 days living in a van last year and worked with a handful of awesome drummers during various tours, so we joke about having one in every area code. That truly is the dream! With Ben, the group now is really solid and we are sheltering at home while recording demos for the new album. It’s always a lot of kooky personalities and energies bashing against each other, but that’s what makes us The Crushers.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
It’s our responsibility to keep local businesses alive during Covid! One of my treasured pals, Lindsay Shaver, owns a cool little punk rock shop in Long Beach called Dead Rockers. It’s packed to the gills with clothing, patches, shoes, leather jackets housewares–you name it! I remember when she was selling punk patches out of the trunk of her car in the Redondo Union High School Parking Lot as a teenager. It’s so inspiring to see how she’s continued to keep the dream alive all these years and her record selection is bonkers. I just got an awesome pink leather jacket from her and a bunch of band tees. Go check out her shop on 4th Street after you’re done drooling over all the amazing vintage swimsuits on Retro Row (I seriously want them all). Speaking of vintage: If you’re into cute vintage clothing, go see my gal pal Leslie Gengo! She’s at @venusinvintage on instagram. Also my good friend Shane Bagnall is all about the Mid Century finds, cool denim, and just weird old stuff. He’s @poormanstahiti on Instagram. Boo Boo Records in San Luis Obispo, CA is my local record store and it’s just a groovy place to hang out. You’ll understand once you get there – they don’t make places like Boo Boo’s anymore. Tons of used and new vinyl, CDS, cool local goods. I’ve been going there since I was 14 and had to take the bus 30 miles just to pick up records that I thought would impress the cashier. They’ve been around since the hippie days and they’re still going strong thanks to a strong backing by the community. Just got the latest X release, Alphabetland, from Boo Boos and had to refrain from picking up a new music biography. I already have way too many thanks to Boo Boos! Philippe’s on Alameda in LA is an obsession with my mom’s side of the family. Seriously, we buy the hot mustard as gifts during the holidays and everyone is so excited to receive it. It is so hot it burns your nose hairs a bit, so we warned! There is nothing better, in my mind than the classic French Dip (double dipped so it’s real juicy) served with a side of macaroni salad. Nothing comes remotely close. High Street Deli in San Luis Obispo is a must for sky-high sandos slathered in saucy goodness! The building is from the late 20s and the tiny little spot is always mobbed, so be sure to go online to order. I love the Dutch Punch with Smoked turkey, extra bacon, jalapeño havarti, red onion, tomato, romaine, avocado and chipotle mayo on Dutch crunch. Plus: You get half off at 4:20pm every day! Speaking of munchies…Frank’s Hot Dogs in San Luis Obispo has been a tradition since the late 70s and one of Dr. Cain’s favorite places to refuel after sweating to the oldies. You gotta try the chili dog with onions, cheese and a big squirt of mustard on top! Lastly, SLO Food Co-op rules for pre-made healthy snacks to go, insanely fresh local produce and my new favorite hard kombucha, NOVA. If you’re into vegan cheese (as I am), check out Artisan Wheelhouse, made in SLO. It’s a whole different animal!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My family might be surprised to know how they inspired my creative path. Although my mom’s side of the family worked in the Hollywood movie industry, they were not “performers.” I still found women to look up to in this department. My aunt Susie, a sail boat racer and lifelong businesswoman, seemed to me to be the riskiest of the bunch and she always encouraged me to be loud and proud. She is the kind of person who can rock a cape (seriously). I also had an early artist mentor, Susan Mina, who made pottery and was basically a bad ass who gave zero fucks. She showed me that you can create a life around your art and be perfectly happy doing that. I remember being like 10 years old and in awe of her attitude toward life, which was really: “get on board or get out of the way!” My mom Kathleen Collins is a staunch feminist and she taught me to speak my mind and to never “play nice” just for the sake of it. She has infused this strength into my DNA, in ways I keep discovering as I get older. I hear her strong voice whenever I wonder “should I really be here?” She also had Elvis Costello and Go Gos CDs growing up, as well as the Wayne’s World Soundtrack! She was in New York during the early punk days of the late 70s and I am jealous I never got to see Joey Ramone standing it line at the movie theater! My dad’s side of the family were coal miners and pool cleaners, but I watched my dad, Darren Thomas, make pottery and create graphic designs. He has always been a daydreamer and a deep thinker, always living partly inside a book. He has always had a very DIY vibe when it came to everything, and that got into my bones. He helped me set up a DIY recording studio in my walk in closet. He helped me set up my first website as a teen. When I wanted to make a zine, he loaned me his commercial staple machine. You get the idea! My husband and bass player Reid Cain is also amazing in this regard. If I have a dream, he says “how can we make that happen?” From touring to music making, he’s on my side and solid. I respect his artistic vision and he respects mine. I never lose sight of how lucky we are to have found each other and to be able to work together. My big sister Shakrah Yves was a rebel and a raging eccentric in our small town growing up, so I looked up to her and inherited her love of glam, glitter and theatrics. She taught me about Bowie, Rocky Horror. When she went away to arts school I found all her subversive books and an electric guitar, which I have no idea why she had. To this day, she’s still one of my biggest style inspirations. I send her early demos (which any musician knows is kind of a scary thing). My girlfriends are supportive even if they are not in the music business (I am looking at you, Lindsay Shaver, Leslie Gengo, Natalie Horn, Jenn Hix, Jessi Campbell and MerCrusher Danielle Bagnall)! They also deal with my constant complaining about not being able to tour and even star in my music videos at times! They come to my shows and help spread the word about the band, which means the world to me. Anyone who plays music knows how hard it can be to get people to come to your shows or give two craps about your music in the beginning! Recently, I made a new musical friend who has really helped me out in my career. I am talking about my Canadian sister from another mister Jamie Radu of the amazing band Pale Lips. She also started her own record label, Reta Records, in honor of her late mother. Her encouragement and support putting out my latest single, “Jacaranda,” has been incredibly fortifying. She’s been through a lot of struggles and triumphs with her own band, so we can totally relate and we end up Skyping for hours just talking shop! She is such a hard worker and so talented. I’m always looking for women who are in the same lane and want the same things as me. When I find them, I usually force them to be interviewed on my podcast! I really cherish those relationships, because they know what you’re going through. They can provide tips as well as support. They understand the endless rejection, the way you have to constantly market yourself, being asked if “your boyfriend is in the band,” etc. It’s not an easy path in life, so solid music friends are incredibly important to me. I am always looking to make more. I’ve talked a lot about my musical influences in past interviews (everything from oldies on KEarth101 to random records I found at the thrift store to pop punk). You don’t have to look hard to find my influences – I wear them very proudly on my polyester sleeve! When I think about books that influenced my creative path though, there are SO many that never get credit. “Harriet the Spy” by Louise Fitzhugh comes immediately to mind (because of this book I have a notebook for almost every year of my life). A lot of my songs feel like they are from my diary. If one book really made an impact in my trajectory as a songwriter, it would absolutely be that book. Weird, because as a little kid, I just liked the idea of writing down secrets about other people. I had no idea I would become a journaling freak. To this day, I always have a notebook and pen with me. I keep all my day to day thoughts, song ideas, feelings and revelations, song titles, and bits of lyrics down on paper. When I go to write a song, I know what numbered page holds the list of ideas. This is HUGE and I recommend all songwriters do this. The “Weetzie Bat” book series by Francesca Lia Block felt like a window into a world I wanted to touch and taste as a kid. As a California girl who dreamed of making art and living this fabulous strange life off the beaten path, Block’s juicy words fed me when there wasn’t much else to eat culturally. My friend Natalie recently gifted me a few of these old books out of the blue and this sense of intense nostalgia washed over me. Block’s words are so punchy and filled with color and texture and personality! I always wanted to grow up to be like a character in one of those slim books. I think I’ve done an OK job.
Other: Stream Hayley and the Crushers album Vintage Millennial: https://ffm.to/crushers Stream Hayley and the Crushers single “Jacaranda/Angelyne” https://ffm.to/jacranda.owe Hayley’s Rock n Roll Blog: http://www.isyourboyfriendintheband.com/blog Hayley’s Podcast, Sparkle and Destroy: https://soundcloud.com/user-324752935
Crushers6_Hayley_Credit_GunnShotsMedia Photo by Gunnar Velten of Gunn Shots Media jump5+copy Photo by Jenny Ashley Crushers_5_Hayley Photo by Reid Cain reidjump Photo by Gunnar Velten of Gunn Shots Media