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Meet Crush Fund, your new fixation

crush fund
Malena Lloyd
Arroyo Seco PR

The Brooklyn-based "fake punk girl band" headlines MACROCK in Harrisonburg on Friday, April 5.

Crush Fund makes music on their own terms. Steeped in classical training and literary influences, members Wendy Kya, Nora Knox and July Brown craft genre-defying punk that gives voice to the politics of gender, selfhood and desire.

This week, they’re set to headline the Harrisonburg DIY music festival MACROCK — and release their sophomore EP, New Fixation. I caught up with them to learn more about the show, the new release, and the expansive possibilities of karaoke.

Annie Parnell: Crush Fund is one of the headlining acts at MACROCK this year, which will be held in Harrisonburg. What can listeners expect to hear?

July Brown: We have a set that we've been working on over the past few months — a mix of stuff we've already released on our first couple singles, stuff that's coming out on our EP on the 4th, as well as stuff that won't be heard in a recorded fashion for quite some time. We're gonna go hard! We're gonna break some bones! We're gonna go crazy.

Wendy Kya: We also have a special treat with our friends —

JB: Fellow headliners, fellow New York babies, AFK!

WK: — A band we went to college with. We have a little special surprise for attendees of MACROCK with the both of us. It’s going to be a fun night.

You mentioned the EP — it’s called New Fixation, and it's out on Thursday. Where does that title come from?

Nora Knox: The title comes from lyrics in one of the songs: “Unwanted Attention.” Having a new fixation is something that could be really exciting, like a new interest or someone you're really into, or it can be really not exciting if you are the subject of that new fixation, which is what the song is about.

We wanted to do both sides, with the EP and the song really coming from being looked at, sexualized in a way that you're not comfortable with at all, and the powerful emotions that come with that.

WK: This is a little bit of an older song, too, originally written back in 2019. We ended up using that lyric bit as the EP title because we're kind of a cheeky band that likes little double meanings. Like, “here’s EP two, we are going to be your new fixation!” But also, in the context of the song: "what does it mean to be hyper-fixated on by someone, and to receive all this unwanted attention from them?"

The single we just put out at the end of February, “What Would You Do,” which closes out the EP, is a postmortem. It’s questioning: “Okay, now imagine if you were us, or what if we were you, how would you handle this?”

More on the exciting and positive side of new fixations — do you have any current fixations that you want to share?

WK: I'm currently fixated on hardcore music. There's a lot of really cool stuff happening in hardcore nowadays; it's really exciting to watch. I've always been a fan of heavier music and alternative music, but it's only been in the last two years I've gotten into hardcore proper. I think it's a very exciting space to be watching in the alternative music world, and it's cool that we have just the tiniest bit of our toes dipped into it.

JB: This is a very common experience for me in the winter, either having no fixations or the fully destructive kind. I feel like this winter, I've been very much lacking a thing, and now we're days away from tour and I'm like, “alright, this is everything! This is my life! We're gonna tour, it's gonna be great.”

NK: For the last year, basically, I've been going to karaoke all the time. I've gone with my partner a lot, and it's been a lot of fun. I’ve found it’s a new, great way to experience and enjoy music, and making music to a certain extent, without diving into the emotions of making music in Crush Fund. You just get to sing songs you love.

There's a lot that I, as far as discovering myself, figured out through performances and through early musical performances. I think I could have done just the same amount of gender exploration if those were karaoke explorations — being up there, you just get to channel something more internal. There is a sense of playfulness, and you get to try stuff. These girls are laughing at me for saying this, but I think it's true!

JB: No, I love the idea of gender exploration via karaoke, and I already know what songs I did in karaoke that helped crack my egg. And, unfortunately, it's Cabaret.

There's this description that I've seen you all use for the band, “fake punk girl band.” Can you tell me more about what that means to you?

WK: This ties right into what we were saying with “Unwanted Attention” — one of those cheeky double-meaning phrases we like to throw around a lot.

When me and Nora got this project started, it was just the two of us for the first six months of writing and practicing. And at a certain point, I came to the realization that “Wow, when we get on stage to perform, whatever we do, no matter what we do, the first thing anyone is going to see in their mind is these are trans women on stage.” Before we play a single note, before we say a single word, they're gonna see a couple of trans people, specifically some trans women who — you know, I'm just gonna say it, we don't put a lot of effort into passing. We are just ourselves.

The punk scene has always been very inclusive. But there's always been people who will put some negativity — or be harsh towards — the more feminine people in the punk scene. And also, just knowing our kind of music — we play punk music, but it's not the typical punk. It doesn't fit in with the DB punks, or the hardcore punks, really. So, we just take it with a cheeky smile of who we are. It's almost a rework of what someone's gonna say: “Oh, these are fake women, trans women aren’t real women,” taking away that power from them, right there with our bio.

JB: The implication is that you would switch the nouns, right, and say, “fake girl punk band.” Like, it works either way! We’re Crush Fund!

WK: I had a conversation with my dad, over a decade ago at this point, but he was telling me about the first time he ever saw David Bowie. It was at a bar, there was a music video playing. He's bopping along at first, and he turns and sees the video and is like, “wow, oh, my god, isn't that guy gay?” And some random guy, also sitting in the bar near my dad, turns to him and is like, “Yeah, but the music's good. So who cares?” And then he became a fan of David Bowie!

NK: It opens that crack of understanding; that relatability and empathy.

WK: In this new wave of queer rights movements and need to fight for them, being a band of visibly trans women and having people like it, you know, I just think about all the people like my dad, who will say “well, the music's good. So what do I have against them?”

I want to touch on the music backgrounds of the band, and the background of the band itself. How does that inform each of your approaches to Crush Fund?

WK: I've had a very silly path to music. I think I'm a great example of, “if you practice, you can get somewhere,” because I have had to grind a lot to figure out how to even express my ideas. And that is still something I struggle with a lot.

Most of the times I'm bringing in songs, they are half completed riffs that I can't play in time or consistently. These two lovely girls are like, “no Kya, that bar’s in 4/4. No Kya, did you mean to play that in 6/8 or 6/4?”

NK: Oh, but does she have the vision!

JB: We get there.

WK: And that's kind of why I studied composition instead of performance. Because I'd been playing upright bass for over 10 years by the time I went into college, but I was like, “You know what, I don't think I have it in me to be a performer like that extent. So how can I learn to interpret the vision?”

Crush Fund has been fun because there's a push and pull — Nora is a very “live performance” person. And because of my composition background, I'm very hooked on “what is the composition?” And so now we have this very fulfilling dynamic, where it’s like, “what can we do live, versus what can I come up with in the composition or production-wise?”

Now that we're finding a nice flow for the band, I'm about to get to spread my wings a bit more with that. So I'm really excited.

NK: I got to play instruments through high school and played guitar for a long time, and still do. I picked up drums in college. But I studied literature, which definitely has applied to my lyric writing. “Tender is the Night,” that's a John Keats line reference. That whole song started — thank you to July for letting me borrow the book — from a Sappho quote. While Kaya was doing composition in college, I was doing deep analysis of poems, and then we meet in the middle to make punk music.

JB: I catch up with a decade plus of learning and playing sitar and being in various high school rock bands. I played a lot of folk guitar and studied contemporary classical and avant-garde music in college. That basically lets me show up to Crush Fund practice and be like, “we're doing what? It’s in what time signature? Five? Yeah, let's go.”

WK: I do think our diverse and not-similar backgrounds is why we are similar. Us coming together definitely forms a greater whole.

NK: That's part of what I think makes us special. Even though I'm a songwriter, I'm really drawn to bands because of the musical dynamic between performers. We come from different places, and it can be really challenging, but that has really exciting results.

WK: The new EP is coming out on the 4th, and I'm so excited for it. We are already actively demoing out our next batch of songs, so we can spend some good time with them and bring some really cool stuff in the future. So now's a good time to start following us, because we hope to surprise people and bring more people into the party!

Crush Fund will be headlining MACROCK in Harrisonburg on Friday, April 5. Their EP ‘New Fixation’ is out Thursday, April 4.

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