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Photography by Kevin Johnson

You need to hear crushed, the LA duo making lush 90s-inspired dream-pop

Ahead of the release of their debut EP extra life, the duo discuss inspirations, secret enemies and their worst nightmares

crushed, in all the best ways, sound like your favourite song from a mid-90’s coming-of-age movie – something that makes complete sense when lead singer Bre Morell explains the band’s initial inspirations. “We said we should make a band that sounds like Natalie Imbruglia’s ‘Torn’,” she says over Zoom. The band’s new EP extra life (out February 10) serves as a fitting tribute to some of the finest pop tunes of the 1990s: lead single and standout track “waterlily” merges a trip-hop drum loop, aqueous guitar lines reminiscent of the Cocteau Twins, and chord progressions straight out of Loveless by My Bloody Valentine. The rest of extra life showcases a knack for crafting transcendent, melancholy alt-pop layered against lush soundscapes. 

The duo came together in what turned out to be a “full circle moment”, according to vocalist Shaun Durkan. Having both been fans of each other’s work in previous bands [Soft Kill and Temple of Angels], Durkan got in touch with Morell to collaborate. “The thing that really stood out to me was her voice,” he tells Dazed. “I had a lot of song ideas, and things that I couldn't do with the other bands that I was in, so I reached out.” We caught up with the band to talk about their inspirations, secret enemies and favourite artists.

Hey! I thought extra life was so great – how did you guys find the process of writing and recording your debut EP?

Bre Morell: What’s funny about these songs is that when Shaun and I wrote and recorded most of them, we hadn’t even met in person before. It came together with him in Portland and me being in LA. We had already written a handful of songs before we even met, we were just literally just talking online. We were just sending stuff back and forth, which was new for both of us.

What inspired the album, outside of musical sources?

Shaun Durkan: There are a lot of samples on the EP – we both play a lot of video games and so that informed a lot of it. We were absolutely obsessed with playing Elden Ring at the time we were writing and recording this – we probably talked 90 per cent about Elden Ring and then 10 per cent about the music when we were making the EP.

Bre Morell: Stardew Valley is another game that we started talking about before we even started writing music, we both really love that game. We included samples from both of those games in the songs, too. 

How would you describe your sound?

Shaun Durkan: It’s hard to say because I think a lot of the music has this atmosphere that can be dark but romantic. It also has an optimistic and hopeful spirit to a lot of it.

Bre Morell: The meme Shaun made [see below] was perfect, that’s our answer. My two huge genres are Britpop and trip-hop. I feel like crushed intersects both things pretty well – it’s the lighter, fun poppier side of trip-hop like Sneaker Pimps, who I love a lot. I’ve always wanted to do a project like that, and I feel like we’re able to lean into that a bit here.

What adjective would you least like to be described as?

Bre Morell: The first thing that comes to my head is shoegaze. Also boring, I wouldn’t want to be called boring.

Shaun Durkan Retro.

Who is your nemesis?

Shaun Durkan: I can’t name them but I think I have one enemy; I made my first enemy this year. It’s an interesting and weird experience. Maybe I’ve been other people's enemies and I just didn’t know it, but this is a very almost comic book-level rival. I can’t reveal the name.

Bre Morell: It would be sick if we did – they know who they are. They’re definitely gonna see this and read it.

If you could only listen to one musician for the rest of your life who would it be?

Shaun Durkan: First thing that comes to mind is My Bloody Valentine or also Kevin Shields’ soundtrack work – basically anything that Kevin Shields makes. 

Bre Morell: The person who comes to mind for me is the person with the shortest discography: Jeff Buckley. I’ve pretty much been listening to Grace on repeat for 15 years. If I went for a longer discography, I feel almost the same way about Radiohead. If I wanted to be a little bit smarter, I might choose Radiohead but I could go either way. I could listen to Grace for the rest of my life and nothing else and I’d be perfectly happy.

What’s your weirdest internet obsession?

Bre Morell: I could just spend forever looking at stupid stuff on eBay that I’ll never buy, particularly Parappa the Rapper merchandise from the 90s that’s only available in Japan. I have a whole folder of saved shit that I’ll never buy, but I just enjoy looking at it.

Shaun Durkan: It’s usually just whatever video game I’m playing, I’m looking up whatever I can find about it on Reddit. 

You encounter a hostile alien race and sound is their only mechanism for communication. What song would you play to them to inspire them to spare you and the rest of the human race?

Bre Morell: I don’t want to seem like I’m trying to be weird, but Shaun can vouch because I make everyone listen to this shit: it’s the Bulgarian Women's State choir, the song is “Kalimankou Denkou”. It sounds like a good song to play for an alien. If you listen to it, I don’t know if you know it, but it’s such an incredibly beautiful song. Please listen to it, it’s so crazy. You'll understand when you hear it – you’ll be like yeah, aliens would probably dig this.

Shaun Durkan: Aliens would love “Barely Breathing” by Duncan Sheik, it would soothe them!

extra life is out February 10 

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