Like so many practice spaces left abandoned during the pandemic, Hayley and the Crushers’ San Luis Obispo, CA performance space became nothing more than an empty room—lifeless, save for the smell of old sweat and a little spilled beer. Although the band’s sunny “poolside glitter trash” sound took a major pause during Covid-19, the scrappy surf punks found a way to craft their way back to sanity (read: an ungodly amount of paint pens were used during the filming of their new music video). The band’s “Cul-de-Sac” video is an unflinching reflection of “the silent screaming feeling simmering under the surface that so many of us felt during 2020,” said front woman and guitarist Hayley Crusher Cain.
Comprised of Hayley Crusher Cain on vocals and guitar, Dr. Cain ESQ on bass and “Action” Ben Cabreana on drums—the band knows a thing or two about feeling trapped in a sunny place (they spent all of 2020 literally stuck in their own real-life cul-de-sac). Lyrically inspired by Ira Levin’s 1972 satirical book The Stepford Wives, the new single is a moody detour through quiet, manicured lawns where everyone waves hello, but no one can hear you scream.
With dark guitars, wormy hooks and the band’s soaring candy-coated vocals locked and loaded, “Cul-de-Sac” is a powerful first single for the band’s recent partnership with L.A.-based Kitten Robot Records, helmed by iconic New Wave artist and label president Josie Cotton. Downtime from a rigorous touring schedule allowed these new creative relationships to blossom, “which was a massive silver lining,” according to the band. The track was recorded and mixed by legendary punk producer Paul Roessler (TSOL, Josie Cotton, Richie Ramone) at Kitten Robot Studios in LA and mastered by Mass Giorgini, who has worked with Green Day’s Billie Joe and Mike Dirnt to All American Rejects, Rise Against, and Anti-Flag.
The video—a foreboding, technicolor nightmare that slowly closes in on the viewer—features dynamic vignettes shot by Thomas Ignatius that take full advantage of San Luis Obispo, California’s vivid (if brief) spring display. Located on the coast midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, what the band’s self-created “Crusherverse” lacks in nightlife, it surely makes up for in prime shooting locations.
“We shot at the rose garden at the Madonna Inn, a pastoral hiking trail and a freaky tomb erected in our local cemetery back in the 1930s… Basically our favorite spots around our neighborhood,” Cain said. “In the past, we’ve filmed at our favorite local hot dog place, a mid-century shell shop, the Sunset drive-in. One good thing about living in a small town is you can DIY to your heart’s content. No one will ever try to stop you.”
The video incorporates striking neon-drenched live band shots (shot by Curtis Campbell), giving the Crushers a fresh edge that might surprise fans of the group’s summer 2020 Jacaranda E.P., a carefree romp reminiscent of Blondie and The GoGo’s.
Indeed, the band’s latest output is proof that the most sugary pop rock artists are feeling the collective COVID-19 hangover. Exploring the idea of feeling trapped by both internal and external forces, Cain recalls the new normal:
“I’d walk the dog ten times a day, waving to the same neighbors. The paranoia and despair of a global pandemic unfolding day-to-day became part of the daily ritual, like watering the vegetables. In many ways, we are all still grappling with this cosmic heaviness.”
Although several elements of “Cul-de-Sac” were recorded remotely, the project came together in producer Paul Roessler’s capable hands.
“Paul was the perfect guy to help us express this visceral, uneasy feeling that simmers below the surface,” Cain added. “Together, we were able to achieve this lush, bittersweet chorus that soars toward freedom. It’s like candy, but it’s got this nasty aftertaste; just what we were feeling at the time.”
Cain, a perpetual optimist (evident if you’ve ever met the gal or heard a Crushers tune), is beyond ready to step out of the darkness and into the light. “Cul-de-Sac,” it seems, has cleared away the Crushers’ cobwebs for now.
“Sure, we’ve let some muscles atrophy during COVID-19, but other parts of our music have deepened in surprising ways,” she said. “’Cul-de-Sac’ represents our dive into the deep end of the pool. There is post traumatic growth to all of this. And there is always a reason to dance, to laugh and to spread joy.”
Hayley and the Crushers are Hayley Crusher Cain (vocals, guitar), Dr. Cain, ESQ (bass), and “Action” Ben Cabreana (drums). “Cul-de-Sac” is available on DSPs via Kitten Robot Records here: https://ffm.to/culdesac