Straight outta Brooklyn, and with a new, NSFW video to boot: meet another rock duo (and hint: this one’s special).
BY J. POET
“Drumming is like dancing,” says Moselle Spiller, the timekeeper for Crushed Out, the hard-driving Brooklyn duo that’s reinventing the roots of rock’n’roll for a new generation. Want To Give, the debut album the band recently put out on their own Cool Clear water label, goes off like a string of firecrackers. The disc’s ten short, sharp, hard rocking tunes are crammed into a brief 31-minute blast, digging deep into the sounds of ‘50s rock, early country, Chicago blues and ‘60s street corner R&B to create a greasy, glorious pulse that references the roots of rock with a thoroughly modern attack. (Below, check out the new video for steamy album track “Push Down & Twist,” which in some contexts is definitely NSFW…)
The album’s surprisingly full sound is produced by the fuzz drenched fret work of guitarist Frank Hoier and Spiller’s powerful, spine cracking rhythms. Hoier’s been playing guitar and dreaming of the perfect band since he was 11, but Spiller never touched an instrument until she started jamming with Hoier a few years ago.
“I always loved music,” Spiller says, “but I never imagined I’d be in a band. I took violin for a few weeks in elementary school, but I wasn’t interested in an instrument.” Spiller is an Olympic level downhill skier and grew up in Effingham, New Hampshire, a small town near the border of Maine. “My parents are progressive, hippie intellectuals and supported all of my creative outlets. I was artistic and athletic and started skiing as soon as I could walk. I’m very competitive. I was on the downhill racing team in grammar school and high school.”
She adds that her parents weren’t particularly musical. “They didn’t collect records. I don’t think they listened to the radio unless they were in the car, driving. Luckily, I had a girl friend in middle school and high school that was really into the music of the ‘60s. I don’t know how she discovered it, but she’d burn me CDs of The Beatles, Stones and Led Zep, so even though everyone else was listening to indie rock, my girlfriend turned me on to a lot of the classic rock stuff. I started collecting vintage vinyl on my own, as soon as I got to New York City. I started with the Beatles and Stones and worked my way back to Little Richard, Chuck Berry and the rest of the early rock stuff.”
Although she enjoyed her childhood in Effingham, Spiller couldn’t wait to leave home and start living her own life. She applied for early admission to college. Two weeks after she graduated from high school, she was in New York City working toward a BS in Product Design. “I graduated, got a nine to five job, an apartment in Brooklyn, and started living the life of a working girl in the city. Then I met Frank. He lived in my apartment building.”
Part of life in the city was going to shows. One night, while she was looking for shows online, Spiller saw Hoier’s picture advertising a solo performance he was giving. She went to the show, introduced herself and told him they were neighbors. “We became boyfriend and girlfriend for a couple of years. One day, we were at his dad’s house in Wisconsin and there was a drum kit in the basement. I sat down and played a sloppy Chuck Berry beat and we started jamming. I actually played a show with him later that night and, from then on, we played together. I bought a drum kit when we got back to New York and we jammed in our apartments.”
Eventually, the still unnamed duo started playing house parties. The reaction was so positive, they decided they were a band. “I’d never played before, but I think the ski training developed my body/brain connection,” she notes. “I love to dance, so drumming just seemed like a natural extension of my body’s rhythm. I don’t play anything fancy, just try to keep a steady groove.”
“I’ve always noticed women have better rhythm than men,” Hoier says, picking up the story. “I’m always inviting women to sit down at the drum kit. When I did that with Moselle, she set up a steady beat from the first time she played. We kept playing together for fun and both of us were surprised to see how fast she progressed. I told her to hit a ‘boom-chick’ rhythm on the snare and high hat, and those words unlocked something in her. She did it right away.”
Hoier grew up near the beaches of Los Angeles and picked up guitar when he was 11. “My dad is a songwriter and guitarist and ran his own studio in LA. He was in The Messengers, the first all-white band on Motown. They had a few hits in Japan and the Midwest, but he wasn’t in the music business anymore by the time I grew up.” Still, there were plenty of guitars and tape recorders around the house and once Hoier picked up the guitar, he never put it down. “I slowly started to understand the soul and feeling that went into writing songs. Listening to Lennon and Dylan made me want to write songs. I wanted to know what made them tick, what they’d listened to, so I went to the wells they drew from. Folk, old country music, blues, Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis, and ten years later, that’s still the music I’m listening to. I keep up with some of the stuff from today, but mostly I explore the roots of rock.”
Like Spiller, Hoier moved to New York to have a bigger life. “I showed up in Brooklyn with my guitar, a couple of harmonicas and some clothes. I wasn’t sure I was going to stay, but it was inspiring to meet so many musicians and creative people everywhere I went, so I stayed.” Hoier kept writing songs, not exactly knowing where it would lead him, until the fateful night he met Spiller. After their first impromptu gig, they realized they had something special and became inseparable. “We started from scratch, but the minute we began playing live, something happened. We loved performing and started touring almost immediately. We’ve been back and forth across the country a couple of times and played in 38 states so far.”
The duo was first known as Boom Chick, a reference to that initial rhythm Spiller played on her kit, and they quickly built up a strong fan base with their stripped-down brand of futuristic retro rock. Before the band was a year old, they went into the studio and cut Show Pony, an all-live EP that captured the band’s blistering on stage sound.
Then they discovered that there was another band already using the same name. “We’d used Boom Chick for two hard years of touring, so we had to re-brand and redo the t-shirts, posters and photos. Luckily, Moselle is a graphic designer, so it wasn’t that hard. When we went looking for another name, we found a website of 1920s slag and saw ‘crushed out.’ It has a lot of different meaning including breaking out of jail and splitting the scene when it gets too intense. It also implies love, surf and heaviness, so it’s a good fit.
The name change didn’t affect Crushed Out’s fierce work ethic. They continued their endless touring, wrote a batch of new songs and recorded Want To Give between gigs. “We did four songs on our home tape machine, then cut and mastered the other six in four days, between gigs. We had to work fast because of time and budgetary constraints.”
Hoier and Spiller write the songs together, letting them evolve naturally from their extended jam sessions. Hoier writes most of the lyrics, although Spiller contributes her suggestions as well and she takes sole credit and sings lead on the album closer, the gently acoustic Patsy Cline meets Velvet Underground lament “Country Star.” The rest of the album is a lot more electric and eclectic. “Firelight” is driven by Spiller’s modified Bo Diddley beat and Hoier’s droning fuzzy slide guitar and goes through several dynamic shifts before coming to a rowdy conclusion. “Push Down and Twist” is a thumping, upbeat ‘50s style rocker that deals with the effects of addiction on an addict’s friends and family. “Sharkbite” is a dark, metallic surf tune marked by rippling guitar and a tidal wave of percussion. “Temper Tantrum” is a frenetic blast of pop/punk and “Miss Mouse” is a spooky country blues with a howling, haunted vocal that’s halfway between a yodel and a moan of terror.
“We’re a live band,” Hoier concludes. “We get in the zone when we’re playing and paying attention to each other. We try to capture that energy in the studio. The only thing we think about is, does this sound like joyous high-energy rock’n’roll? The record is just a document of what you see when we’re performing live.”
Crushed Out hits the road again starting August 10. Tour dates here: http://www.crushedoutmusic.com/tour.html