Crush (c) Johanna Dorner
Crush (c) Johanna Dorner

With “Sundown” the band CRUSH from Graz has released a mini-album on NUMAVI RECORDS. The sun goes down, hope rises – melancholy disappears between synthesizer walls made of cotton candy and an ode to the Beatles. TINA LESSIAK, KATRIN and VERENA BORECKY as well as CHRISTIAN “CIS” LACH and JAKOB PUTTINGER aren’t dreaming of the past, they’re simply playing the dreamiest dream-pop between Bregenz and Neusiedl. The eighties are still a theme. Shoulder pads anyway. In an interview with Christoph Benkeser, CRUSH tell us in which musical living room they found themselves, why they apologize to K-Pop fans and what enthusiasm the Helene Fischer Show arouses.

In 2018 your debut album “Sugarcoat” was released by Numavi Records. Now you have released something like a mini-EP with “Sundown”. A transition item?

Tina Lessiak: The musical practice and development of Crush called for different formats. Our release “Damaged Goods” of 2016 was the attempt to record our first songs. We laid the foundation for our sound and tried out how we wanted to sound off stage. During this recording we learned how to go on – and put the findings into practice for our next EP “No easy way”. At that time we had enough songs for a long-player, but decided to continue experimenting with sounds before recording a debut album. When we went into the studio for “Sugarcoat” in 2018, we were really well-rehearsed and had gathered enough experience as a band to present our sound as a whole. In the meantime, we were constantly working on new songs and recording tons of demos. But like for “Sugarcoat” we wanted to take as much time for the album as it takes to develop it as a whole. So “Sundown” is not that much a transition, but a further stage in our band development process.

“Sundown” has a bit of a shutdown about it too. It’s getting dark, the sun goes down – but in your sound it rises again?

Tina Lessiak: Funnily enough the album review of UNTER.TON stated that the line “Keep on waiting” of the title song “Sundown” fitted the current situation perfectly. The association with a shutdown is obvious and quite funny, but it has nothing to do with the current situation. I often have to stop in the evening when the sun goes down. It creates a strange melancholy. That’s a good emotion for songwriting. In the song “Sundown” the sunset has an ambiguous meaning. On the one hand there’s the feeling of surrender after the emotional confusion of the previous songs – to realize that something is just coming to an end that you’re still holding on to. At the same time the sunset is a turning point towards something new, with hope included as well. At the end of the song there’s a change of perspective – my personal favorite part of the whole mini-album. In the background you can hear “I’m ready to take a chance”. And then there’s the cry of liberation at the end.


Crush has been around since 2016. What led to the foundation of the band back then?

Crush (c) Johanna Dorner
Crush (c) Johanna Dorner

Verena Borecky: The legend says that Cis and Flo [Kolar, note] had the idea for a pop band. I played violin in a band with Cis for many years before. Cis knew that I used to play bass, but he never heard me on bass at then. So often people ask themselves why so few women play in bands or why there are so many bands with not one single woman. I think you just have to ask them if they want to play in a band when you have the idea to start a new band.

Katrin Borecky: We already knew each other before Crush because we regularly spent our evenings at the Sub, where everybody – except me – had already played with their previous bands. Verena, Cis and our then drummer Flo talked about their plans to play in a pop band. Verena asked me later if I would like to do that too. She practically reserved the synthesizer spot for me.

Tina Lessiak: I was just sitting in the car when Cis sent me the instrumental demos. I felt honored to have been chosen from among the whole Graz music scene. When I heard who else would be in there, I was even more excited.

Christian Lach: The Sub is like our musical living room. Before Crush was founded, I mixed a lot of concerts there as a sound engineer and mainly supervised loud bands. That’s one of the reasons why I got a bit tired of aggressive music. To confirm the legend: when Flo asked me to start a pop band with him that was a no-brainer for me.

The band name can be interpreted on several levels. “Crush” in the sense of crushing. “Crush” as being in love. Or even the manic synthesis of both approaches: crushing through love. What‘s the story behind the name?

Katrin Borecky: We all agreed on the band name. It had to be short and concise, some words were thrown into the room and with “Crush” everybody said: “That fits!” In retrospect we sometimes think about whether it would have been wiser to give us a name that wasn’t used so often. But “Crush” convinced us so much that we agreed on it without googling it.

Verena Borecky: Maybe we are all the greatest wrestling fans of all time. Who knows?

Tina Lessiak: As so often in life, the simplest answer is often the right one.

Christian Lach: The real sufferers of our omission are K-Pop fans who are disappointed to discover in front of the location that it’s not their Korean superstar Crush who will be performing. Sorry for that!


How did you grow up musically?

Katrin Borecky: Verena and I grew up in a musical household. There was almost everything from classical music to pop to brass music. As daughters of a music teacher, classical education was a must. I enjoyed it very much and felt at home in music school. Through Verena’s extensive musical interest and knowledge I also came into contact with bands off the mainstream at an early age. Nevertheless, I haven’t been spared the hard way of listening to much-heard bands, for which one could be ashamed in retrospect, perhaps. At the age of 12 I only listened to Indie, but I made up for the Paramore phase at 17 – and took it up again with “After Laughter”.

Tina Lessiak: I grew up in a non-musical family. My earliest musical memory is singing “Muss i denn zum Städtele hinaus” with my grandma. That was beautiful. Even though it took a long time until I understood that the song is not called “Musident zum Städtele hinaus”. I believed that a “Musident” was something like a musician. Anyway, as a child I learned to play – that was obligatory – the recorder, later I learned the guitar for two years and I also sang in the school choir for a short time. Not a nice memory! I remember one day when I had to sing a line alone and was laughed at because I didn’t hit the high note. Later I overcame this experience and sang a lot, took singing lessons, played some drums, got an electric guitar and tried to write songs when I was 14 years old. I had a Kelly Family phase in my childhood and later I also thought Eminem was brilliant. At some point I got punk CDs from my older brother. Later I discovered my parents’ Pink Floyd, The Who and Creedence Clearwater Revival records and listened to music almost exclusively from the 60s and 70s. Led Zeppelin, Neil Young and The Clash were my favorites at that time. But besides that I always had a great preference for sentimental, slow music from e.g. Nick Drake. I also found Damien Rice was great. As a teenager I always wanted to make punk music, but never did, because I could and wanted to express myself better through “beautiful” singing. To be honest, I was also a bit intimidated and didn’t dare.

Verena Borecky: I started taking violin lessons at the age of six and later went to the music department in high school. When I was 15, I dreamed of playing in a band and I first learned to play guitar for a year and then bass. When I was 18 I realized that Cis was looking for a violinist or a squeezebox player for his acoustic project. I got in touch with him – and a band was born. I didn’t touch the bass for many years. But at the moment I enjoy playing the bass so much that I only take the violin out of its case for the occasional birthday serenade.

Christian Lach: Punk is and remains my biggest influence. I started playing in punk bands at the age of 14 and over the years I have of course left only a few embarrassing trends untouched. That time we spent with bands mainly in squatted houses, AZs and punk pubs, has had an influence on me musically nevertheless. A bit of a raunchy sound is always welcome.

Raunchy is a good cue. With “Twist and Shout” you did not cover a Beatles number, but wrote your own song. How did the Fab Four reference come about?

Katrin Borecky: Probably there would be many bands that we think are great and whom we could dedicate an ode to. The Beatles stand out because they are hard to compare with other bands in terms of diversity – no matter if you like them for their pop, rock or punk sounds.

Tina Lessiak: Cis sometimes asks me to put words or phrases into lyrics that he likes. When he asked me to use “discreetly” a “twist and shout” I probably exaggerated and put it into the chorus. But it fit – besides it’s fun to sing it. So I make it my goal to put a Beatles reference on every record. Let’s see if that works.

Christian Lach: That’s an interesting method to move away from your comfort zone. Youth from Killing Joke and Paul McCartney have used similar methods for their joint project The Fireman to elicit each other’s creativity. Everything is just stolen!

Not stolen at all is the video for your song. It was shot in front of the state hospital in Oberwart – a remnant of the 1970s. How does Burgenland concrete brutalism fit your synthesizer sound?

Verena Borecky: Cis had the idea for the shooting to be done in front of brutalistic buildings in Oberwart. He found out that there was an exhibition about the Easter church in Oberwart by Domenig and Huth in the OHO [Open House Oberwart, note]. The exhibition also dealt with the hype that brutalist buildings have experienced in recent years. It was important to us to bring in sceneries that we find aesthetically interesting. Brutalism in itself is an exciting style, and many buildings also have a social claim. I’m a fan of Domenig and Huth anyway, they have created interesting buildings. Besides, “Twist and Shout” is the wildest number on the mini-album. Gabriel Hyden did a good job of translating this into pictures, as always. The piece starts gently, but builds up – the cuts in the video become faster, the perspectives more distant, the camera work more hectic. It’s a classic performance video.

Katrin Borecky: In addition, Verena, Cis and I were born at the state hospital in Oberwart. If that’s not reason enough for the choice of the scenery!


To stick with the isms: Minimalism in your sound won’t work anymore, you said in an interview with FM4. The guitars and synthesizers pile up, a sound wall is created. Where does this urge for the maximum come from?

Tina Lessiak: It works like this: We record a demo. Everything is still manageable. At some point you have the song well in your ear for you to hear additional sounds and melodies. Then you think: A second voice would be good here and there too. And step by step it goes on like this.

Christian Lach: Minimalism has been on our to-do list for quite some time. I envy bands and musicians who can make a lot out of very little. But: We give the songs time to grow. When they have grown, it often feels wrong to deny them their size again. I rather shy away from confrontation, maybe that’s why I’m touching our matured arrangements with velvet gloves only.

Nevertheless your sound is not overloaded, but – on the contrary and in a simple dream-pop manner – very dreamy. How do you manage to do that?

Tina Lessiak: I think there’s a kind of punk minimalism in it.

Christian Lach: Punk always resonates within it, but in terms of sound aesthetics, sound walls à la Phil Spector or Kevin Shields productions are more likely to influence the sound of Crush recordings. George Harrison‘s “All Things Must Pass” is for me one of the best sounding albums ever. The sound is not defined, but I love that dreamy sound when the sound layers collide.

Allow me to make a little excursion into another world: What do you think of Schlager music?

Cover “Sundown”
Cover “Sundown”

Katrin Borecky: Tricky question! Until the absolute crackdown with Andreas Gabalier last year, the Helene Fischer Show was pretty high on my list. Apart from some rock and Italian pop numbers, the music is rather hard to stand, the show around it is more important. Because honestly: Helene Fischer can simply do everything. For this she’s inspiring to me.

Tina Lessiak: [laughs] Which Schlager music do you exactly mean? It can be a lot of different things. The 60’s Schlager is truly cool! The dog of Baskerville by Cindy & Bert is brilliant. It’s a Black Sabbath cover, but it shows how close Schlager and Rock are. I also like to show my openness for trash, Eurodance and Schlager with my band project Circle A.

Verena Borecky: Schlager music absolutely has its horrible sides, but from the 60s and 80s there are entertaining things that belong to that kind of music. Two DJs from Graz, who perform as Melodien für Millionen, are showing this with a lot of success.

Christian Lach: Schlager music is absolutely underestimated. I wouldn’t call myself a Schlager expert, but last year I fell into the music of Yéyé [French, Spanish and Portuguese Schlager/pop, note]. Especially in the 60s, the transition between rock’n’roll and Schlager was floating. I especially fell in love with the sounds of Clothilde. All lovers of sublimely written and arranged pop songs are recommended to listen to her album “French Swinging Mademoiselle”.

I’m also asking because the title-giving piece “Sundown” strums its way between Musikantenstadl and Arenabeisl – hands towards the sky, shaking back to the 80s with shoulder pads. Where does this style mix come from?

Tina Lessiak: I really didn’t notice that. And it wasn’t planned for by me either. Maybe the Abba socialization broke through there.

Verena Borecky: With shoulder pads and the 80s you’re not wrong with your associations, but I can’t hear the Musikantenstadl. The hands can also reach for the sky in the indie disco. What goes on nowadays as Schlager music sounds clearly different. Our goal is to write a good pop song. Pop is of course a big field, but it’s still a few blocks of houses away from Musikantenstadl.

Christian Lach: Schlager… there are such and such. You suck up everything you hear – if you’re going to have to deal with Fehlfarben and Abba, so be it. You have to be able to live with the fact that your musical self-perception sometimes doesn’t match the perception of others, but you can get through that somehow.

Crush (c) Johanna Dorner
Crush (c) Johanna Dorner

Speaking of the perception of others: The cover of “Sundown” by Ivana Radmanovac is a true beauty, a kind of Rohrschach test in signal colours. What interpretation do you arrive at?

Katrin Borecky: We chose Ivana because we like the work she shares on Instagram. She got the demos of the mini-album, but was completely free in her action. If you take a closer look at the artworks we used, you can see a pattern despite their differences. That wasn’t planned at all, but goes back to our friend Martin Kollmann. He supported us in the beginning with his graphical talent and started with the basic colors red and blue. Since then, pink resp. red and blue can be found in all the artworks without us ever having commissioned this.

Tina Lessiak: What I like very much about the cover is that you can see it in different ways. But I prefer to keep my interpretation to myself.


Tina, Katrin and Verena, one last important topic: In 2017 you published a zine about sexism in the music scene. What has changed since its publication?

Katrin Borecky: The topic will never be done with. We had a lot of common experiences in music life then and we talked a lot about it. From there we decided to write a zine. By involving musician friends we were able to treat the topic from many different angles. It did us good to write it down, put it in order and share it with our audience. The zine was very well received. Good conversations arose from it. Nevertheless, the terrible experiences that we unfortunately make far too often when playing live are not becoming less. But through the zine we manage to better deal with and digest the experiences. After all, these experiences aren’t happening in an isolated way, but are the foundation of a system. Hello patriarchy!

Tina Lessiak: We’re always having the urge to make a new issue, because the topic is still going on and is still on our minds. Furthermore, sexism will accompany us in the music scene as well for a long time. That’s why a large solidarity is important. To support each other, and to learn from each other and not go completely crazy with all the things that are happening around us. Both the collective zine and many other initiatives and actions that are taking place in the music scene are bolstering me up. I have the feeling that feminism has been discussed much more often over the last 15 years and that it no longer is a topic from which you as a musician want to distance yourself.

Verena Borecky: What our stance is when we are requested because we have women in the band is something that keeps our minds busy ever so often. Of course, every band wants to be booked primarily because people like the music. But: If we cancel, there might not be a single woman on stage that evening. It already happened that we didn’t want to play a concert for different reasons and were put under pressure by the organizer. He said it was our fault if there were no women on stage at his festival. For me as a white hetero cis-woman, a lot has nevertheless changed for the better over the last ten years. I no longer feel like an alien when I show up at a location or festival as a musician. This may also be due to the fact that we have created an environment of label – a kiss to Numavi Records – organizers, journalists and musician friends who actively contribute to a solidary, feminist music scene. It is now important to make this scene much, much more accessible for PoCs and musicians who are queer or trans.

Many thanks for the interview!

Christoph Benkeser

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Translated from the German Original by Julian Schoenfeld