hayley cain

Interview with Hayley Cain, guitarist and front woman of Hayley and the Crushers

Divine Magazine
Divine Magazine
11 Min Read

One part pop, one part poison, all “poolside glitter punk,” CA-to-Detroit transplants Hayley and the Crushers offer up a tsunami of bold, bad girl power.

Anointed as “the naked embodiment of power pop punk” by New Wave icon Josie Cotton (who signed the band to her Kitten Robot Records in 2021), the Crushers have skipped the pupa stage in favor of a more dramatic comic book-style metamorphosis. Enter: Modern Adult Kicks (out 9/13/22), their most ambitious and self-possessed album to date.

HATC photo credit Thomas Ignatius
Photo Credit: Thomas Ignatius

Hayley and the Crushers are: Hayley Crusher Cain (vocals, guitar), Dr. Cain, ESQ (bass), and Action Ben Cabreana (drums).

How would you describe the music that you typically create?

The music I typically create has a few throughlines: It’s usually “fun,” something you can dance to. Even if it’s a heartbreak song, there is an earworm in there and a repeating chorus that hammers you hard on the head. There’s usually an element of silliness, sweetness, sarcasm or reading between the lines as well. I love Easter Eggs in songs! I draw on music from the 60s, 80s and 90s but always aim to put a fresh twist on it. I never want to be doing stuff that is a carbon copy of something already done. That, to me, is the worst sin an artist can inflict! The world needs everyone to show up and be who they truly are. It is a shame when people don’t trust their gut enough to go out there and do what they’re truly called to do.

What is your creative process like?

I carry a notebook, always. I got into bullet journaling about five years ago and now I am completely hooked. I use a Leuchtturm 1917 B5 notebook that has a table of contents. One of the first things I do when I start a new notebook is create a page for song ideas. This is a catch-all where all the song lyrics, titles and themes can go. From there, I like to hum melodies into the voice memo app of my phone. Once I get some time, I’ll sit down at the computer and a guitar plugged into Garageband. I will then work out a demo, usually with some placeholder robotic drums. Having the song ideas in my notebook readily accessible makes the whole process easy and fluid. Of course, there are times when a whole song just flows out of me. On my latest album, Modern Adult Kicks, that was the song “Lost Cause.” It came out in one fluid chunk! But those magic inspiration songs are extremely rare. They say inspiration is for amateurs and I tend to agree. You have to set yourself up for success and really work at it.


If you could change anything about the industry, what would it be?

I would make shows start earlier. I know that bars need folks to stay late so they purchase drinks and make money for the venue. But that said, if it was a perfect world and I called the shots, I wouldn’t have shows starting any later than 7p.m. Dare I say 6 pm for a four-band bill? I am not one to stay out till the wee hours of the night at a concert anymore. Sure, I used to close the bars down when I was in my 20s. But then again, I wasn’t creating much music during that time either (too hungover). If this makes me lame, so be it! If shows started earlier – say, the late afternoon – I would go to so many more shows! I’ve heard of people throwing breakfast shows and I just love this idea. The Crushers have played in libraries, coffee shops and even a skate park (in broad daylight)! Why should music be enjoyed purely after hours? I want to spend my days creating art and being productive and enjoying my waking life. Staying up too late really disrupts that! In fact, I hardly ever write anything the night after a late-night concert. I’m just too overstimulated. Sorry to make myself sound like an uncool old lady, but there it is.

What can we expect from you within the next 6 months? Any releases planned? Future gigs?

We’re embarking on a fall tour starting in late September that will take us throughout the Midwest and also to Southern California. Now that we live in Detroit, we plan to do a lot more shows in the region as well as finally play the east coast. We love hopping in the van and eating the regional food wherever we roam! We’re looking for folks who want to help us out on some east coast dates. Hit us up if you want to tell us where the best places are to get coney dogs, Italian beef, pizza, tacos, sandwiches, ice cream etc. We will gladly eat everything and anything, as long as it’s a time-honored local joint!


Have you written songs for any other artists?

No, but I’d very much like to. I’d also like to sing songs written by other artists specifically for me. This is an old school concept that never really went away in Nashville or pop music. Punk rockers rarely ever do this – or swap songs. I always wondered why. On a related note, I have a few collabs coming up soon that you’ll have to watch out for! One is a backing vocal track for Geoff Palmer’s Dee Dee Ramone Tribute and the other is a project that has allowed me to work with a former member of one of my favorite British street punk bands, Blitz! Unreal.

What draws you to your preferred genre?

Irreverence, not taking yourself too seriously and the idea of abandonment. Joy is about letting all the bullshit go and just feeling the moment. It is intimate and unrepeatable. Punk rock is all about this kind of chaos zen hybrid. It’s good for the soul and good for the mojo. I don’t want to play music that requires me to act deathly serious for any amount of time. I really can’t stomach any musician that takes themselves too seriously. Life is absurd and the idea of producing music is absurd. Embrace that absurdity or look like a douche…at least in my eyes.


What is the most useless talent you have?

I’m crazy with metaphors. I guess this isn’t truly useless in my line of work, but I am always coming up with new, wacky metaphors to describe people, places, things and situations – just in daily life. It sort of drives my husband crazy, but what can I say? They are usually accurate! Maybe I should start writing them down. Crap. Why haven’t I been writing them down??

Do you sing in the shower? What songs?

No, but I sing to my two dogs, Peanut Butter Cain and Peyton Manning. Dr. Cain ESQ and I are always making up new songs for the dogs. Sometimes the songs are about their adventures and other times they are completely nonsensical. One dog is made of ham and the other is made of roast beef, for instance.

If you were to write an autobiography, what would the title be?

“The Hayley Crusher story: How punk rock simultaneously destroyed and saved my life.”

If you could be a superhero, what would your superpower be and your superhero name?

Dr. Cain ESQ actually has a super villain name (it’s Dr. Cain ESQ and he named his comic book store Dr. Cain’s Comics for this reason). Me? I only have a wrestling name, but it’s still pretty bad ass: Hurricane Hayley Cain. I could come out to “Rock You Like a Hurricane.” I would probably be a face vs a heel, even though heels are way cooler. It’s hard for me to ever look cool, menacing or tough. Believe me, I tried in high school.

You are a new addition to a crayon box.  What colour would you be and why?

Neon orange! My hair is like a traffic cone, so this only seems appropriate. “Hot Cheeto Dust” would be a fitting name. Some of the Bangladeshi men in my neighborhood here in Detroit dye their white beards with henna, and the result is bright orange facial hair. Lately I have been feeling like I stand out a little bit less, which is funny considering I am probably the only orange-haired Californian Vintage Millennial in my entire neighborhood.

From the album Modern Adult Kicks. Order here https://kittenrobot.com/product/kicks-lp/


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