Justin W. Price, AKA PDXKaraokeGuy, is a freelance writer, blogger, and award-nominated author based out of Juneau, Alaska.
Retro is back in style and, for folks in my generation, retro means the 1980’s. Keyboard oriented synth rock is making a comeback and, while many bands are employing this nostalgia (Passion Pit comes to mind), few are doing it with the gusto and vocal prowess of Portland, Oregon’s Camp Crush.
This melodious duo, in true Portland fashion, uses their wall of sound pop to bend the rules ever so slightly and make the sound their own while paying homage to their musical heroes: The Cure, Blondie, and Depeche Mode. Combining vintage danceable new-wave pop and contemporary indie rock, you can also add bands like the aforementioned Passion Pit, Walk the Moon, and Tennis to their favorable aural comps.
Jen Deale, lead singer and songwriter, says, “The music we’re finding really inspiring these days are from our musical roots. Influences like Echo and the Bunnymen, the Cure, and Blondie are coming through loud and strong in our set... and we want to follow that inspiration.”
Emerging from the ashes of their more straightforward rock act Santiam, Camp Crush was birthed in mid-2017 and hit the ground running, releasing three singles, including Take Me Back, a rejoinder to the current state of American politics. Deale says. “After the election, I realized how thick my bubble was and it felt like the bubble popped overnight. This song was an emotive response to that and it was also a call to action to myself, to remember that every single one of us can make a difference right where we are.”
But, not to worry. Whereas some politically themed songs and bands can divide people who may hold different (or even indifferent) views, Camp Crush yearns to bring folks together with fun dance-pop centered on love and acceptance. In the end, Camp Crush is about the music.
Set to release a new EP, She’s Got it, on May 18th of this year, Camp Crush is currently busy touring the Pacific Northwest between recording sessions and production duties. Amidst this busy-ness, Vocalist and primary songwriter, Jen Deale, sat down with me and answered a few questions.
JP: Can you give my readers a little background on Camp Crush? How and when did it form? Have there been changes in lineup and/or sound?
JD: Chris and I have been making music together for ten years in some form or another. We’ve had a blues band, made singer-songwriter pop, and were in an Americana/folk trio for a few years. And all of that led us to last year, where we switched our focus to Camp Crush, a synth anthemic pop band. We had our first show as Camp Crush in June of 2017, when we released our single, Take Me Back.
JP: What is the current lineup for Camp Crush?
JD: The band has and always will be Chris and me (Jen) as the core. We tour as duos and play most of our gigs that way too. But, for bigger shows, we bring in Benjy Rickard on bass and we also have a guitar player, horns players and auxiliary synth that we bring in from time to time!
JP: What is the goal and aim of the current Kickstarter and how is it going?
JD: We are preparing to put out a new EP in May called She’s Got It. People don’t necessarily understand the many costs that go into putting out a new record and it goes far beyond the recording and audio engineering required to get the songs down. We’ve already paid for 75% of the record to be completed and the Kickstarter is helping us pay for the final costs for printing & packaging and publicity for the album! We just hit our goal late last week, yay! We do have some exciting stretch goals and are less than $200 away from hitting our first one.
JP: Where do you see Camp Crush over the next decade?
JD: The ultimate goal is that through playing live music and putting out more and more records, we can little by little build up the following for our music to give us a bigger stage to connect with people. We love playing music and we love the people we meet along the way. In ten years, I hope that Chris and I are still living the magically wondrous lives we have now, working tireless hours following our passion and spending time with our family, but by then, we’ll be doing that for a broader audience. Music, family and connection - it all comes down to that.
JP: What are some of your musical and lyrical inspirations? Does Camp Crush have a specific message or underlying theme to their lyrics?
JD: Both Chris and I have a shared love for the Psychedelic Furs, The Cure, Blondie, Echo and the Bunnymen, a lot of the new wave music that came out in the late 80s. We both are writers and love how that era music has both complex melodic elements and lyrics that are poetic and deep. I hope you can hear a lot of those influences in our music.
Since I write most of the lyrics to our song, I think there are consistent themes of feminism in our songs. While some may think that our music can come across political, I think mostly, we want to unite people, to help people understand each other’s perspectives and to wrap that up in a sparkly synth and drum heavy bow.
JP: What is the songwriting process like for Camp Crush? Is there a primary songwriter or is it a collaborative effort?
JD: I write the base of all of our songs and Chris steps in as the song’s producer. He has an uncanny ability to hear the base of a song and hear where the movements should be, how things should progress. It’s a great partnership. And since we’re so close, there’s never a fear of rejection. I know Chris is my biggest fan and likewise. It gives us a really great space with each other to create.
JP: Which dance move are you the most skilled at?
JD: Well, at one point I had Paula Abdul’s Get Up and Dance “dance tutorial” VHS - so, anything in her repertoire I’d say is my strong suit. Chris is more original - he has his own signature moves. He requires a lot of space on the dance floor tho, as most 6’6” dancers do.
JP: Camp Crush is a Portland band, both in sound and in aesthetic. What are some of your favorite spots in Portland?
JD: Ooh, let me count the ways I love you, Portland. Sushi? Zenbu Lounge. “Dive” Bar? Kay’s Bar. Ramen? Noraneko. Place to see live music: EVERYWHERE! This city is full of amazing music. The list could go on and on. I’m so happy to live in such a town that’s such an incubator for creativity, whether its through art, food, wine and beer, or hand-crafted goods.
JP: How often do you guys perform?
JD: We perform about 8-12 times a month on average, having about 1-3 shows in the city a month, 1 show regionally and the rest in the greater Portland metro. We try as much as we can to foster all ages and free shows where we can, because we need more opportunities for the youth of Portland to see and hear live music!
JP: Do you have any advice to young musicians out there—and specifically to young women—about how to handle yourself in the industry?
- There will always be critics who will tell you what they don’t like about your music. Ignore them and keep making art that is intrinsically you, because when you make art that is true to yourself, you make the world better. Only you can decide if the art that you’re making is worthwhile and good, so trust yourself.
- The talent you have today is not a ceiling. You can practice and grow your entire career.
- The more you play, the better you get. Don’t let your instrument get dusty.
- There are no winners or losers in music. There IS community & camaraderie. Trade competition for collaboration and watch the doors open up for your art and you as a person.
JP: What is your favorite food?
JD: Avocado, duh.
JP: I’m a big fan of facial hair, but what do you think of Chris’ mustache?
JD: It’s so Hall and Oates, and I love Hall and Oates. But also, he’s a handsome man. What can’t he pull off?
JP: Why should people devote their time to listening to your music and going to your shows when there are so many options available?
JD: I’m not sure I would say we are more different or more special than any other band. I think our music is compelling, but I think a lot of music is compelling. Mostly, the message I want to convey is to go listen to local music, go see local music, support local music, even if its not us. People want to have live music in their cities, they want their cities to be fun and artistic. But in order for that to happen, every band needs their city to show up for them, to come to shows, to download songs, to buy their albums and merch. So, support local music wherever you are! Find the kind that suits you and become a patron of the arts - you’ll love your city even more! And if you find Camp Crush compelling too, great! It fills my heart to the brim when people can connect with a thing we lovingly crafted and vulnerably put out into the world.
JP: Where can folks purchase your music and keep up to date on upcoming shows and events?
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JP: Is there anything else you would like to add?
JD: It’s just amazing to be able to create this music with your best friend and partner. I know how lucky I am to have that and I hope our love for each other and what we do comes through in the music we’re putting out there. Cheers!