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PUNK CRUSH Is Here to Save Our Souls

The recently upgraded band is reinventing their sound but keeping the vulnerability.

Photo of the band PUNK CRUSH
Photo credit: James Duran (@deathbyjames @beinabandordie on Instagram)

PUNK CRUSH is the queer rock n’ roll band that Los Angeles needs right now, and thank goodness they showed up in time. 

Technically, G (guitar, vocals) grew up downtown, Cindy (bass) hails from the Valley, and Virginia (drums) is from “south of Long Beach” AKA San Diego. But they have only emerged as PUNK CRUSH in its current form this year.

PUNK CRUSH had recently released their new single “BLACK OUT!” the same day they played their second-ever show together at Junior High on October 22, when I spoke with them. Cindy only joined the band recently, after their first EP was released. Ironically, “It is actually one of our oldest songs,” says Viriginia. “We’ve been playing ‘BLACK OUT!’ since we were a baby band.” She says the sound of the song has changed a lot, as has the sound of the band since increasing its size by 33%.

Their friend — Ann Molin, who made the video for “BLACK OUT!” — explains, “Before Cindy, it was incredible how much sound came from these two people when performing live. And particularly this song, G’s voice just sounded so raw. They had a show last week, I was like, that’s so cool, now there’s even more sound.”

Formerly known as Good Luck Club, the band formed after college at UCLA, where G and Virginia hosted a music radio show. Ann, who attended school with Virginia from kindergarten through 8th grade, lived with G and Virgina after college and witnessed the inception of the band in a bedroom — with a crucial Ikea loft metal bunk bed that they all are sure to mention.

“We used to practice in the bedroom,” says G. “I’m pretty sure our neighbor moved out because of that. Virginia set up a drum kit under the bed and my amp would be set to insane and we’d just practice and it would be insane.”

Ann remembers it more forgivingly. “They did a good job playing quietly, Virginia would tap lightly on the drums, the amp wouldn’t be plugged in. But the bed was a big part of the sound.”

Ann got involved with making videos after meeting G. “G started getting into making videos, so we started making videos together.” I asked Ann about her inspiration for the “BLACK OUT!” video. 

“My little sister is the one that’s in it, she’s a skater.” she says. “I love things that move fast, I love the shots in movies when a character is running that’s like the cathartic release of exercise, doing something when you feel you’re in a really shitty place.”

G also notes the cathartic themes of the song. “It was always a really fun song to play for a long time because it’s really emotional and really vulnerable and it’s really great to connect with an audience in that way. And then, when Cindy added her part it just filled up so beautifully, we were like, we had to record this.”

The tension in PUNK CRUSH’s music is at least partially attributable to the individual upbringings of the bandmembers. The band jokes on their Instagram page that their genre is “Catholic shamecore.” In fact, every member of the band was raised Catholic. “It seems like a joke,” says G, “until you listen to our song lyrics. They’re full of shame and fear and guilt. When you hear the lyrics, things start to click and make sense.”

But then again, maybe it’s also attributable to their songwriting process. “Our writing sessions are hilarious, says G. “Cindy now knows, but the way we used to make songs is we used to jam and find the nastiest thing and just do that.”

“Lean into the nasty,” agrees Cindy.

G continues, “When we’ve been recording we’d watch movies and listen to the soundtrack, V’s a really big soundtrack person. So we’d take bits from soundtracks. V would say, hey, this lick is from the Chicago soundtrack, and we’d be like, okay!”

She turns to Virginia. “Isn’t there some Phantom of the Opera in our songs?” Virginia nods, “There is some Phantom of the Opera in there.”

I ask them if they could soundtrack a movie or video game, which they would pick.

Virginia has a thoughtful answer. “The game Life is Strange. In the first release you play as a girl in a small arts high school in the Pacific Northwest, and you discover you have time powers. You can rewind if you make a decision you regret. You watch a close friend get murdered and then discover your powers. You try to prevent tragedies from happening, but she keeps being in danger. Along the way you discover it’s a relationship, so it’s very queer.”

She continues, “The current soundtrack is lush, a lot of acoustic guitar, very minimal, some singing in the back.” She wants to turn that on its head. “Life is Strange, but instead of being in the Pacific Northwest, they’re in the 70’s punk scene.”

Fortunately for all of us, PUNK CRUSH is currently working on an album (rejected title: Chicago, Part 2) that they hope to have wrapped up by the end of the year. On their Bandcamp, their current EP credits a tarot reader and anime recommendations. 

“We love to be silly,” says G. “To be in a band, it’s just about having fun. If it’s not fun, why do it?”

***

PUNK CRUSH is G Leonardo, Virginia Pettis, and Cindy Sukrattanawong. “BLACK OUT!” is now available on Bandcamp. Their next live performance is Saturday, November 13 at The Smell.

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