Florida was once a state that had some cool indiepop bands. One of the first was Crush 22, who only released their songs in different compilations and only lately compiled on a 3″ CD here on Cloudberry. A great CD if I may say so. Their story after Crush 22 is much more known, as they became Brittle Stars and released one perfect album. But this time we are going to their early days, to their Crush 22 days! Thanks so much to Josh, Mario, Estelle and Roy! You can befriend them at their myspace too.
++ Thanks so much for being up for the interview, and for the little 3″CD we made a while back. I think the songs are fantastic, I think I’ve told you that before. But for those that never have heard Crush 22, and should buy the CD, what can they expect from it?
Joshua: Short and sweet indie pop songs.
++ Let’s do the biography part first, so how did you all meet? At University of Florida perhaps? Were you students there? And how did the band start?
Mario: I was a student there. Josh and Estelle too. Roy is from a nearby town. I don’t remember if he was a student there. I do remember being at a house show or party. I had been talking to Roy and Estelle. We somehow began talking about being in a band together. Josh overheard us and jumped right in. I WANNA PLAY DRUMS! I’LL PLAY THE DRUMS! That’s how I remember it. If it isn’t the way it started, then my brain needs some fixing.
Joshua: I believe we all met through Mario. I had had a musical crush on Mario since I first laid eyes on him. I had seen Estelle and Roy at shows but hadn’t really met them before Mario brought us all together. Estelle, Mario and I were students at UF but in completely different worlds on campus (because of differing majors).
++ What was that that inspired you to start the band? Was this your first time in a band?
Estelle: It was my first band ever.
Roy: it was also my first band. Actually I think it was the first time I really ever picked up the bass that was sitting in the corner of my room…
Mario: Why not. We all really liked pop music. We could.
Joshua: This wasn’t my first time in a band. I had been in four or five terrible bands by this point. I had never really played drums before this band though. I had moved to Gainesville for the D.i.Y. punk scene because I had booked a bunch of the bands in Daytona when I lived there. I’ve never aspired to make a living as a musician but I like to play music with my friends.
++ Why the name Crush 22?
Estelle: It’s a mashup of a catch 22 & crush… seemed relevant at the time.
Mario: Hmmm. We used to practice at the first Claire De Leon / Pop Shop store that Josh and Dan Sostrom ran. They shared it with some other vendor, and it was that other vendor’s space that we practiced in. I distinctly recall discussing Crush 22 as a band name there. That’s all I can remember.
Joshua: The name came from Estelle’s sister, Shena (she’s in Citra Super). Something about every crush being a “catch 22.” I remember I wanted to name it Brittle Stars but was vetoed.
++ How did you like Gainesville? Is there any advantage to be a band in a college town?
Estelle: Yeah, all your college friends combined make for a never-empty audience.
Roy: I have many fond memories of Gainesville- it’s a great town.
Mario: I liked Gainesville. Still do. I think Gainesville is too well known for being a punk rock town, though. It has been and still is a great indie-pop town. Easy place to start a band. Easy place to get a show. We played the famous Hardback Cafe.
Joshua: Gainesville was really supportive at that time. For a while we practiced at the Hardback Cafe (famous punk rock club) before Strikeforce Diablo, who were completely different than us but who I was into. But….we were just becoming musicians at that point and I think some of the bands thought of us as “amateurs” because we were amateurish. We made mistakes and wrote simple songs. We weren’t going to be Tortoise. A college town (like Gainesville) is a great place to start a band because it’s cheap to live and practice space is usually cheap. I’ve had band practice in my house for the sixteen years that I’ve lived here.
++ You only recorded 6 songs, but was that your whole set? Did you have any other songs? Perhaps a cover?
Estelle: 6? I thought it was 4. Or maybe 4 was the number of total shows we played.
Roy: no covers. there were a couple of songs that we played but never recorded- i’m not sure how many. i remember one specific song that mario sang and was really jangly.
Mario: We didn’t have much time to be a band. We broke up pretty quickly. I had some chords and melodies that I was about to introduce to the band, but nope. No covers either.
Joshua: We didn’t do any covers because I wasn’t a musician and couldn’t learn any other songs, I don’t think we even attempted a cover. We had maybe 10 songs but I’ve lost the practice tapes that had copies of the other songs. The song named “Anne Murray” was something that was recorded in the studio between other songs, so it really wasn’t a song. Estelle was working on it but neither Roy and I liked it and that’s why it was derisively called Anne Murray because we thought it was schmaltzy.
++ Actually, if you were to play a cover song, which one would you like to do?
Estelle: Meh, I’m not into covering songs.
Roy: I agree with estelle. but if i was really pressed, I’ve always been curious about covering either “Regress no way” or “We’re gonna fight” by 7 seconds.
Joshua: I remember at that time I was super into Northern Picture Library and would have loved to have done “Dear Faraway Friend” but we would have had to shorten it by 8 minutes or more…ha. “Wrapped Around” was covered by Vetran (Bren of Masters of the Hemisphere and Still Flyin’) for a Kindercore comp.
++ So who wrote the songs? How did the creative process work for you?
Estelle: Hmm… guys, do you remember? Pure jamming I think: maybe we started with a guitar jingle or a base note, drums came in, I’d start a keyboard line, then I’d add some vocal melodies and lyrics using teenage-love-like poems I was writing about boys at the time.
Roy: yeah- the songs all came together in practice. everybody contributed.
Mario: I remember us being pretty collaborative. We jammed.
Joshua: I remember that somebody would come up with a melody or something and we’d start fooling around with it until it became a song. I have this theory that if you don’t write a song at the first practice the band is going to fail. We wrote “If it wasn’t for this,” at our first practice.
++ You played 4 or 5 gigs only. Who did you play with? And is there any anecdotes you could share from them?
Roy: wow. this is really hard to remember… I think I still have a flier from when we played with Lenola at the hardback (i think that was our first show?). I also remember that we played with Masters of the Hemisphere and Neutral Milk Hotel at the Tallahassee Popfest. or at least i think we played with them.
Mario: I know our final show was at the Florida Pop Fest in Tallahassee. I forget exactly who was on the bill the night we played, but Neutral Milk Hotel, Of Montreal and the Mountain Goats played the fest too. That was an awesome festival!
Joshua: That was thirteen years ago. I don’t remember any of the shows being particularly memorable except for the Florida Pop Fest. I remember when we played the Florida Pop Fest we stayed at the same place as John from the Mountain Goats and he made some really terrible home made bread that everyone pretended like they liked. He also took a three hour bath and no one could use the bathroom as there was only one bathroom and we had to go down the street to use the bathroom. He shushed us while he was watching the “Pam and Tommy Lee” tape that was in the apartment, which I found hilarious.
++ Tell me a bit about Florida Popfest 1998, how was it? Who played? Who organized it?
Mario: I believe the Florida Pop Fest was organized by the Underwood Brothers, Mike Wilkerson, Larry Bonk and others. Someone correct me if any of that is wrong. It was a BLAST! Also, for Crush 22, it was kinda emotional. It was our last show and it felt terrible to have it end.
Joshua: If I remember correctly I believe it was thrown by some of the guys who would make up Plastic Mastery (Nick Underwood, Lawrence Bonk) and their friends. Information on who played it is located here: http://www.kickbrightzine.com/shows/FLPopfest/ . As you can see we played with Neutral Milk Hotel, who I wasn’t really into at the time but love now. I was one of the organizers for PopMayhem! and we wanted to make it the same spirit of the Florida Pop Fest (ie, awesome pop music, cheap and in Florida). I remember I had a great time, Dan (from Brittle Stars) and I had a mail order at that time and we sold so much music at the fest that we put out a compilation LP with the proceeds.
++ So when and why did you call it a day?
Joshua: It’s funny, because I didn’t learn the reasons for the break up until years later. I just know that when we went into the studio to record in January 1998 there were weird inter-personal issues that were going on behind the scenes. We tried to see if we could work it out by adding another member but that only lasted a few practices and then we decided we’d play the pop fest as our last show. I think the band existed for the perfect length of time though. We didn’t stay together long enough to get stale.
++ What would you say were the main differences between Crush 22 and Brittle Stars?
Estelle: The guitarist & the bass player. Also, I think BS was our “more mature” band. We had grown up ever so slightly from Crush 22 (just slightly though).
Mario: One wildly huge difference is that I wasn’t much of a guitarist. I tried my hardest just to be melodic within means. I was confident enough on keyboard. Still, by nature, it was always simple. I sang back-up. So, boy vocals. Josh always said the band was fragile. I think he got it right. The Brittle Stars made some proper sounding recordings. The musicianship was a notch above. Crush 22 didn’t come close to that. We were 4 people learning how to make a simple song. No next level.
Joshua: It was a different band? Seriously, Steve Clay (from Brittle Stars) is probably the most brilliant musician I’ve ever met and his guitar playing (and Dan is secretly a great musician too) make the band a different beast. Estelle and I were definitely more sure of our selves and confident in Brittle Stars than Crush 22. Crush 22 to me has got a different kind of charm and innocence, especially when Mario sings.
++ But also many of you went to form other bands that are much more known like Mahoganny, Human Television, Elephant Parade, Nervous Systems, and more. But how important was Crush 22 for you? What were your highlights of being in this band?
Estelle: Crush 22 formed some of the best times of my life. Music (creating it, listening to it, dancing to it) always played a huge part in my life and when Josh came to me and asked me if I wanted to play in a band, it was the beginning of an amazing and fun creative adventure for me. Highlights? Playing the Tallahassee Pop Fest! Jeez, you’ve got me feeling all nostalgic now.
Roy: i went on to be in many bands, most notably Brasilia and mahogany. and while Crush 22 wasn’t the most prolific band, it was very important to me. it’s where I learned how to play an instrument and write songs within a band context. i learned how personalities work within the creative process. it was the first time I’d ever played a show and recorded. Crush 22 was full of many firsts for me.
Mario: Crush 22 was my first band in a personal sense. I had been playing with my brother a bunch, but I got to reach out to others for the first time musically. It was really exciting. It was different. I met some other really great bands because of it. I remember riding my bike and coming up with my back-up lyrics. Sitting on top of the jungle gym while we took a break from recording. I didn’t know of another band in Gainesville that played in our style. I thought we were pretty unique.
Joshua: Crush 22 was incredibly important to me because I was in the midst of the breakup of my marriage and it was an outlet for me. I can still remember the first practice in the back of a vintage shop called “the Pop Shop.” Hearing Mario, Roy and Estelle write such great songs and getting to be a part of it was amazing to me. It’s funny, the practices are more memorable to me then the shows were.
++ What are you up to now? Any new musical adventures of yours that we should be looking forward in the near future?
Estelle: We just released Elephant Parade’s 2nd album. We (my husband and I) created and recorded the songs while living abroad in Israel. Those years were an interesting, strange & well, difficult time for me. The album is appropriately called, “Home.” (We’re back in Brooklyn now.)
Roy: I’m currently doing a project called Ice Orgy. it’s kinda cold ambient drone with beats. there’s and LP coming out soon. I’m also playing in an unnamed gothy/deathrock band… nothing very poppy to look forward to…
Mario: My first ever Slavagoh 7″ disc on Needless Records will be out soon. I helped Elephant Parade out recently. I played drums on one of their new songs. Grand Opening. It’s on their new album. I even added a melodic keyboard line during the chorus. I play drums for Ape School from time to time. I’m also trying to put together a proper live band version for Slavagoh.
Joshua: I’ve been in the indie rock band Nervous Systems with my friends (and wife) for six years now. We’ve recorded an album and are about to release a 7”.
++ And tell me something about you that not many know? Any secret hobbies perhaps? Guilty pleasures? 🙂
Roy: maybe not a secret, but i’m really into printing… I’m a letterpress printer by trade. it’s funny how things can become an obsession (it includes printing, typography, design) . I’m also into cycling and sports like football and basketball. i never thought I’d be into sports…
Joshua: I’ve played on No Idea F.C. (sponsored by No Idea Records) for 11 years. I like to work out with friends, play video games, and hang out with my wife. I’m boring and old.
++ Let’s wrap it here! anything else you’d like to add?
Mario: You got me all thinking about Crush 22 again. Maybe I’ll listen to those recordings tonight.
Crush 22 – These Feelings