SLO Life Feature: Now Hear This
By: Dawn Janke
As the guitarist and frontwoman of local band Hayley and the Crushers, Hayley “Crusher” Cain has been likened to “a demonic Go-Go,” and she couldn’t be happier about the reference.
"Rarely are women allowed to be both sweet and self-empowered on stage," she says. "I want to crush that idea."
Cain’s earliest musical memory is of putting on her mom's copy of The Go-Go’s Beauty and the Beat at eight years old and bopping around their Hermosa Beach apartment like a crazy person. Cain says with her music she wants to spread that subversive energy: “I want people to sweat and dance and meet each other and start things together. I want to see people collide—that is where the magic is.”
Hayley Cain credits her husband, Reid “Dr. Crusher” Cain, owner of Dr. Cain’s Comics and Games in downtown San Luis Obispo, with encouraging her to create her own magic. Upon his urging, in 2012 she started Swap! Zine, a local, do-it-yourself magazine, to which she invited contributors to swap stories, songs, poems, and pictures about the SLO scene. “From that moment, my entire life changed,” she says. Since then, the Cains have collaborated on a number of projects and have shared the stage under many names, including Magazine Dirty and Tarweed Two and the Two-Time Boys. Hayley Cain says that music is the lifeblood of their relationship. “I want to follow in the footsteps of bands like X and The Cramps, who use that energy, that tension, that passion, to create weird art.”
Hayley Cain’s recent art is in part influenced by her late teen years in LA, which she describes as dark and destructive, a self-professed “wild time” which coincided with an obsession with Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique. When she relocated back to the Central Coast in 2009, Cain says she found a safe space where she could tackle her struggles, which included depression and anxiety. She explains, “When I was surrounded by chaos and my life was chaos, I couldn’t step away from it enough to understand. SLO was a safe harbor where I could weave troubles into creativity."
One listen to Hayley and the Crushers reveals that she indeed has woven a creative web together with her husband on bass and local drummer Gabriel "Crusher" Olivarria keeping the beat. The band is a “melding of sweet and sour,” explains Hayley Cain, “bolstered by the bold, metal influence of Olivarria.” The Cains first saw Olivarria perform with Wolfcross, and they loved the fact that he was theatrical and really had fun with drumming. Reid Cain is proud to state the he recruited Olivarria for the band. According to Hayley Cain, the band’s sound is what it is because of Olivarria’s technical skills: “He's able to create a rock solid rhythm, but he also coaxes out a swing to the music that's so danceable.”
The Ramones, The Runaways, pop music of the 1960s, and wild surf punk of the 1980s like Agent Orange influence the band’s sound. Reid Cain says, “We have a unique combination of a metal dude, a punk girl, and a country guy. Put it all together, and it is not just one thing.” Hayley Cain adds, “We have respect for the melody and the classic hooks, but we’re putting them in a blender with studs and leather and fuzzed out bass.”
The frontwoman describes their debut full-length album, Jewel Case, as “one part punk rock empowerment anthem; one part insecure, tear-streaked teenage diary entry; and one part jangly, garage rock party.” Randall Sena at Certain Sparks Studio in Lompoc recorded and mixed the album and Patrick Hayes at Cock’s Lodge Studio in San Luis Obispo played a role in the initial recording process. Sena has worked with local bands like Pancho and the Wizards and Magazine Dirty, and Reid Cain points out, “A large part of our sound comes from Sena's finesse.”
The band first worked with Sena and Certain Sparks in 2015 when they recorded their EP Gidget’s Revenge with Max Triplett from local band King Walrus, who stepped in to help with drums. Released in March 2016, the EP pays a nod to the 1960s TV icon Gidget. Hayley Cain explains, “I felt like Gidget deserved a bit of redemption. She's always falling on her face or wiping out on her surfboard.” She continues, "The EP was recorded with more or less ‘live’ setup, which gave it a gritty urgency.” For Jewel Case, the band wanted to go a tad more polished pop. “We incorporated Glockenspiel, chimes, and mesmerizing backing vocals into the new album. It's punk rock with a bow on top,” says Cain.
Jewel Case is being released on Portland label Lost State Records, which was born in SLO and is still committed to showcasing up and coming bands from the Central Coast. Founder Trey Hanawalt does so mainly on cassette tape, which is by all accounts de rigueur. Olivarria, who works at Boo Boo Records, agrees: “There’s definitely a resurgence in cassette tapes. It’s a really inexpensive way for small bands to get their music out.” In addition to the cassettes, the album will be available on CD, via handmade "8-tracks" and digitally on October 8, in line with worldwide Cassette Store Day. An all-ages show at SLO Brew will follow on Sunday, October 9 with other local acts sharing in the celebration.
Hayley and the Crushers cover the Go-Go's song “This Town” on Jewel Case as a tribute to the kind of pop punk excitement that doesn't fade with age. Its lyrics, too, seem to celebrate the trio's ownership of SLO. “This town is our town,” the demonic Go-Go sings, and in the softest way she adds, “We play for the wallflower, the awkward teenager, the weirdo. We say, 'You don't need to wait for someone to turn on the spotlight.'"
Adds Olivarria, "You've got to bring your own lightbulb to the party."