Crushed Out On Analog Mixing and Learning From Fellow Musicians on the Road
Three years ago, Frank Hoier and Moselle Spiller probably didn’t picture themselves here: 1,200 miles from home, killing time between tour stops in a Kansas City bowling alley. The duo, known today as rock outfit Crushed Out, began as so many musical projects do: two friends sharing a mutual love of music (in this case, early rock and roll) jamming for nothing more than the fun of it. Yet it’s progressed in a way that many projects don’t, spawning four national tours, a well-received 2010 EP and now a debut full-length, Want To Give (released November 6th via the band’s own Cool Clear Water imprint). What’s made it work? Making sure it never felt like work in the first place. We recently sat down with Hoier to discuss…
How did you guys get started playing together?
Moselle and I met each other when we lived in the same building in Brooklyn, and we just started jamming together on a mutual love of early rock and roll, the kind of more joyous, dancey side – anything with high energy. We got going so quickly because it was just based on fun. We had no idea we were actually starting a band. We just loved to play Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry and Carl Perkins songs and came together to play a more early rock and roll vibe that we didn’t see happening in Brooklyn. We started booking our own tours and now it has become our lives within two years.
What were some of the advantages of the band starting that way, as informal jam sessions?
There was absolutely no pressure on us. We’re self-taught and learn things off of records and play whatever we’re inspired by. If one day we’re inspired by something, we write it that way. We had the joy of the possibility of being creative, and wondering what it would sound like if we did our version of a rock duo and we were put in a Brooklyn loft party and wanted to get the whole room worked up and dancing. How would we do that? And that’s how the band started. We played this one party with some friends, opening for some more serious bands. It was probably 70-100 kids and it was just amazing – they were going wild. We thought ‘Wow, that’s fun.’ And so that has fueled the fire ever since.
What’s the thesis statement for the new record, Want To Give?
The biggest thing we’re excited about it is that it’s still kind of a live record. We don’t have a budget to spend two or three weeks in the studio. We had just a few days. So it’s really just an augmented live take, which we dig, because we want to be the side of rock and roll that is more direct and focused on the energy. We’re proud of this record because of all the different genres we’re able to branch into. There’s a spooky murder ballad, there’s a droning, slide guitar song with almost a Cuban Bo Diddley rhythm, and then we do explosive Little Richard sort of tunes, and some surf/rockabilly/punk. We actually close the album with an early country song. We’re a band that’s never going to have a ‘genre.’ We want to go from ’50s to ’70s to ’90s to whatever and let ourselves be influenced by any kind of thing that has contributed to American rock and roll.
What’s your typical writing process, if there is such a thing, and how has it evolved with this latest batch of songs?
Most of our songs are written by us picking up our instruments and just making stuff on the spot, and then saying, ‘Wait, what was that right there?’
We have a tape recorder and record hundreds of small ideas as we go. These ideas grow together from us playing in the moment. But really, every process for us is just embracing that it’s going to be a different process. We feed off of each other’s energy and try to get ideas together.
Bands often have differing views of writing while on the road. Some say it’s impossible, some seem to prefer it. What’s your experience been with that?
I would definitely agree that most of the time it’s very hard to write on tour. You tend to write some words down on tour, but to actually work out songs is so hard just because you don’t have the time. But it’s funny; one of our favorite songs was made on tour [‘Temper Tantrum’ from Want To Give]. We liked it so much that we would just start inserting it into the set, even though I didn’t really have lyrics, so I would just sort of mumble things [laughs]. We just started jamming on tour and developing it on stage, which is, for some people, an absolute nightmare. But we just went for it and let it unfold. I’m sure a few times it was terrible [laughs], but I think it [ultimately] turned out great.
A lot of the songs on the album seem to certainly be inspired by your travels, correct?
Some of the songs [are] probably subconscious responses to the emotional climate of America. Driving around and meeting so many people, all of that finds its way in [to the songs]. Mixed with the media and political billboards and bumper stickers, all that stuff has an influence.
A lot of your growth has been very DIY – how about the actual recording process for the album?
Three or four of the songs I recorded myself. When I have to be the engineer, it’s a little tougher, I guess. The other six songs were done on a three-day stretch at The Bunker studio in Brooklyn, which is a great analog studio. We had to record and mix in three days, so we just [focused] on the energy we wanted.
We got to mix them analog, which we loved because that’s the era and the sound we really dig and pull from. We were able to hammer out an energetic take, maybe double up the guitars here and there. It is very much a live record.
Put us on the road with you guys. What do you do to unwind and stay sane day-to-day?
We really enjoy, whenever we can, finding the nearest state park and just getting out into nature. We take it easy on the alcohol, eat healthy and find nature when we can. And then going bowling on the days off [laughs]. That kind of thing.
You’ve been fortunate to tour with some great acts thus far, and a lot of young bands probably don’t realize how much they can be picking up from tour mates. Do you go out of your way to learn stuff from bands you tour with?
You pick up so much steam and wonderful energy from watching someone else and what they do. Maybe you’re in a rut and want to give a little more and you don’t know how to do that, and you’ll see someone do it and it inspires you. People like The David Mayfield Parade, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, they have absurdly wonderful live shows. You share a bill with people and you really work each other up. It’s like a big dialogue, sharing your strengths and differences with each other. You’re bound to pick up something based on the dialogue of those people who are inspiring you.
One thing that’s always changing with every record release is the environment into which it’s being released. People can argue about the value of recorded music as much as they want, but tell me what’s still special to you about the live show – something that’s much harder to de-value than a record.
The live energy to me will always be more valuable than the CD. We’ve grown as a live band, and it wouldn’t be possible without the people in [any] room. When you’re touring in the middle of nowhere, the people are it. [Crowd energy] is essential to the style of music we play. We could never just play our kind of rock and roll in a studio and expect it to be anywhere near how it is on stage. We love meeting people and receiving great energy back from great crowds.
One evening of music and its effect on you could change your life forever. That can happen with recordings, too, but it’s different in the live setting. You can see an amazing show that you weren’t prepared for and you’re never the same.
photos by Griffin Davis