In this interview, we talk with Abbie of Nyack-based band Cryspot! We discuss star signs, color schemes, influences from Phoebe Bridgers to Midwest emo, and the effect of Britney Spears on unlearning internalized misogyny– alongside many other exciting topics!
What’s your star sign, and do you feel that it represents you as an artist? Why or why not?
I love that question, thank you! So, I’m a Pisces, and I was in denial of it for awhile, because people have always been like, “You’re so soft and sensitive,” and I’m like, “No I’m not!.” But it definitely has affected the way I write. I’ve been told I say and write things that people would never want to say publicly. There’s definitely an exhibitionist factor, like emotionally.
Judging from your Instagram, it seems like Cryspot’s team colors are blue and yellow. What about these colors speaks to you?
I’m a huge fan of the Hipness Purgatory movement, it’s like art spanning from the 2000s to 2010 for indie music. You can see it in the Bright Eyes album cover, Postal Service album covers, Neutral Milk Hotel. And I think that there’s something about the way that blue and yellow have always gone together in that movement that I loved a lot. And also it’s very…I have a thing about complimentary colors, color palettes. My mom’s an interior designer, so I love that stuff. And I’ve always found that the colors that I liked on me weren’t the colors that I liked outside of me. So I used to not like yellow at all, but I have blue eyes so I had to compliment them a lot, and I was like, “Oh, this is why.” Because things go together outside of the context, like in general.
There’s that, and then I think also blue is the color of sadness, and yellow is usually associated with happiness. So I like the contrast. I see it in other places too, more and more. My friend Bartees Strange released this song called “Weights,” and he did the same color thing for his, like the lyric video, which I love. I like seeing it more, because it’s like, “Oh, I’m on the right track, okay.”
In reference to the band’s name, what is your go-to cry spot?
I live in this little town between Nyack and Piermont in New York, and there’s this tiny beach that is right on the Hudson River. That is a go-to cry spot for me. It’s also, I was there doing my cry thing, and a friend of mine from high school appeared out of nowhere. And I was like, “Why are you here?” and she was like, “I go here to cry.” And actually I’ve asked a lot of people in my area, and all of the queer alt girls go there to cry.
So, y’all were part of a “Free Britney” compilation album for the Mission Music Foundation based in Los Angeles, California entitled “Oops, I Made a Free Britney Comp.” Can you share a little more about this project and your role in its creation?
It’s really funny, because doing that cover almost broke up the band for some reason. But it’s funny now, it’s fine. We all thought we were better at production than we were. If you ever try to cover a Britney Spears song, you will find out how good of a producer you are, and it can make or break your psyche a little bit. My role for that one was a lot of the instrumentals, and the lead vocals. Our bassist, Cori, did a lot of the really great whistle tones that you hear. That’s Cori, she’s classically trained, so she really gets that. I picked the song because a friend of mine that I was on a tour with… I used to be not that into women music, which is a terrible thing to say. But I think that being open about recovering from internalized misogyny was very important. My friend was like, “I wanna cover Britney Spears on my tour!” and it was “Lucky,” and I was like “Oh!”. It started to really break me out of my pretentious, survival instinct mode. And when I saw that comp was a thing, I asked to be on it, because I really wanted to cover the song “Lucky.” Because it felt really therapeutic and full circle to me, to kind of almost start the process of writing a lot of things in my life. I only was like that because people told me I couldn’t do it, and I started projecting. And now that I’m not, I’m like, “This is all great.” Lucky is so personal, for so many people. I think I even noticed internalized misogyny in my songwriting, too, which was crazy. Once I stopped writing music with the intention of being ingested by an intended audience of male manipulator music, I started writing not love songs, and songs based around the Bechdel test. Totally without knowing what the Bechdel test was, I was just like, I have to write music about things that are important to me, not things that are important to me to be perceived as.
In addition to Britney Spears, your social media mentions other influences like Taking Back Sunday and Phoebe Bridgers. Tell us a little more about some of your musical influences, or non-musical ones, too.
For musical influences, I would say half of my family is from New Orleans, so I have this kind of love for jazz and blues. Unfortunately, I have PTSD, and I don’t remember names of artists or some things that are from a part of my life that I’m blocking out. But I remember if I hear it, which is crazy. But I know that I also later on ended up doing a blues and rock camp by this guy who plays in Zydecko bands on the weekends. I ended up just learning mostly blues and some classic rock, always stuff that was inspired by Delta blues. I think that influences a lot about how I write.
And then stylistically, my friend and I were talking about this last night. She was like, “Your music is very highbrow junkie.” I’m a recovering addict. So it’s very highbrow references, and doing the dirtiest, grimiest stuff in my past. For the upcoming album, it sounds like a Pierce the Veil fan album. So you know, Warped Tour, the 2010s era of Warped Tour is really influential to me. I really love punk, like Dead Kennedys and so on. Recently, I’ve really been influenced by a lot of my friends. I already mentioned Bartees. He’s had a huge impact on me, because he was one of the first people that kind of saw through me making inauthentic music, not in a mean way, but he knew there was more to me than writing songs about a really shitty boyfriend. And his original music, that’s actually not online anymore, was so chilling that I was like, “I have to stop doing this, because I want to make people to have goosebumps the way he made me feel that way.” I really hope they’re put online again someday.
And my friend Alanna, I don’t know if you’ve heard of Foxy Dads, but they do the sweetest vocal delivery ever. So smooth, chirpy in a way. But in a good way, I could listen to it forever. And they’re the one that introduced me to “Lucky,” that was the tour I was on. And they combine it with radically honest lyrics, that are just so captivating because you have no idea what they’re gonna say next in the best way. They’re so witty, I love them. That’s a lot of my influences. I am pretty influenced by Midwest emo era stuff, which I’m a little ashamed to say. We all have our vices. Stuff like Snowing. Also John Gaum’s “A Sky With No Stars” changed my life, because—he was the lead singer of Snowing, and went on to make solo music. Anyway, “A Sky With No Stars” is this amazing album about grief and about recovering from grief and dealing with echoes of generational trauma. That’s an album that influenced me a lot.
And AJJ. AJJ and Johnny Hobo and the Freight Trains influenced me a lot too, I think. That’s when I realized there was so much more to music than polished, aiming to be in Hot Topic music. That’s when I started going more grassroots. Also Natural Born Kissers is a band I just played with, and we’re lowkey stealing their drummer from time to time. And the venue, I love the venue, but they had to fill an hour set, and they only had half of that material. They absolutely destroyed that set, I would have never known they had to learn so many things and do so many things. My friend Jane Leigh is also amazing. I’m rambling, sorry.
Your Bandcamp describes “Welcome To” as a fusion of “classic traits of old school punk, rock, and emo with the new age of radical vulnerability and topped off with some classic queer & Jewish references as a wink and a nod towards the communities they call home.” Could you tell us more about how this EP serves as an introduction to who you are?
We recorded our full length, and there were just a few things that came up. Things that were no one’s fault but just happen when people get busy. And we kind of realized that I suffer emotionally when we don’t release things for a long time. And I also felt that because I was kind of at the point where I decided to record an entire EP, I was like, “You know, I feel like there’s not a proper introduction to the full-length.” There’s a lot of things that I’ve matured through that I almost wanted to get out there first as an introduction. Making that, I wanted to kind of add some of the songs that I knew I wouldn’t release for years after the full-length came out, because it just doesn’t make sense in terms of order and content matter.
I’ve planned the next five releases already. They’re all written and ready to be recorded and stuff. Two of the songs are kind of almost like this departure but goodbye from Space Cadet, my old high school band that’s technically active. It’s not over, but we just know we aren’t going to have time to do anything for a really long time. So two of those songs are this bittersweet, “If we never are gonna have time to do it again, we might as well do it now.” So two of those songs, “Warm Warmer” and “Purpose Mining,” are almost Space Cadet songs, but not. And then “Sword Cuts Both Ways” was intended to be the maturity piece, where I wanted to just do something that I was extremely proud of, which I think I accomplished with that song. I’m really happy with it.
And our producer, Max Rouch, who’s in Like Effect, they’re great also, we recorded it at Domestic Bliss Recording Studio. Recording that was nuts because our guitarist bailed on the session at one A.M. before we were gonna go in to record it, and it was a very stressful day. We were leaving a show, I was honestly trashed, and I got a message and he was like, “I decided to propose to my partner tomorrow, so I can’t come record with you guys.” And I was not in a position to be like, “Don’t do that.” But I was very confused why we had it planned for a few weeks and that was just on the table all of the sudden. But I was like, “It’s fine, I’ll figure it out.” So I actually improvised most of that song when I was in the studio recording it. I had it written, but a lot of the extra stuff. It kind of became my favorite one anyway, which was great. And “Miserable Cunts” is kind of like, I used to do a lot of folk punk. I used to, I have two Bandcamp accounts full of solo music. And it’s supposed to be the AJJ song I always wanted to make but never had the freedom to. That was kind of the intro, because it encapsulated all of the things I wanted to accomplish in introducing myself. I mean ourselves. It’s hard because when I’m writing everything, I’m like, “myself.” But it’s not. It’s me and Cori.
The term “Purpose Mining” really stuck out to me in your EP. Can you tell us more about what this phrase means?
Oh thanks! First of all, I really appreciate it. “Purpose Mining” is something that I created for myself because I’ve been in a lot of therapy, and a lot of times you hear things like “Look on the bright side,” “silver lining,” stuff like that. It always struck me as really condescending and patronizing. I kind of needed to reclaim positivity for myself, because I had so many people in my life forcing me to be positive in a way that didn’t feel accessible to me. Purpose Mining is my own way of… it’s not looking on the bright side, it’s acknowledging and processing the things that are currently happening, and then trying to figure out what you can make of it, as opposed to one or the other. I know I do say “on the bright side,” but it’s because I put a lot of inside jokes in my songs. That’s kind of the intention of it.
Abbie, you’ve documented some of your writing process on YouTube, which was really interesting to watch. You mentioned how you often use different artists that you admire as “jumping off points” to start writing, in addition to using imitation as a learning tool. I’ve seen some people online get into debates about music that they claimed is being “ripped off”, while others stand by music being a continuous influence and play on what already exists. Do you have any opinions to offer around this topic?
Oh, I love this. Okay, so I have a lot of feelings about this. I’ve said a lot of things in the past that I don’t even think I really agree with anymore, because I’ve gotten heated or because I realized that something was hitting a nerve that I wasn’t aware existed. But I think personally that inherently everything is derivative. Especially if you think about where music comes from, because I use a lot of blues as reference. You have to acknowledge that most popular music, if not all, is ripped off of oppressed people. People of color and queer people get a lot of music stolen from them.
I feel like I would be a hypocrite at this point, being at the level of awareness that I am, that anything is okay or not okay, because there’s so many specific things that go into it. It’s not okay that things get ripped off from oppressed people, which is really fucked up, but I think where music is now, everything is so referential and almost stuck in your head. There’s a whole thing where with TikTok, you don’t know what you’re ingesting, you can hear a clip of a song and not even realize later what you’re humming is from that song. I think there’s a lot of people that rip off things to a degree that I find offensive. I’ll be listening to the radio, and I’ll hear something new and I’ll be like, “This is this song,” and start singing whatever song that’s been written over it.
But I also think one thing that’s really interesting that I kind of didn’t think about too much is that there’s a whole art of sampling, and I think that sampling I’m really cool with. I’m 100% about sampling. As long as you give credit to whoever you’re sampling from, it’s fine. I think that referencing people in a wink and a nod kind of way, like having a line from an artist that you really like that fits in the context, and responding to it in your own way, I think that’s really beautiful, and I think that chord structures, there’s only so many possibilities. What can you really do with reinventing the wheel without making a whole new instrument?
I think it’s really interesting because a lot of people who really get tight about stuff like that aren’t really familiar with country or folk music. That genre, everyone is using the same progression, styling, adding onto it, everyone’s covering each other. I think that music, people not being properly compensated for their art is why it’s so tense now, when it used to not be so tense. I think that if people were properly credited and communicated better with the people they were interested in using work from, that would solve a lot of problems. But that being said, most artists are completely inaccessible. So it’s almost like things are so big now there’s no communication that takes place.
In the same video, you cite music and writing as emotional growth, also using the term “emotion nutting”. How has writing allowed you to grow and change as a person?
I think writing for me is the only, I won’t say only, it’s my most effective way of reflecting on myself and my actions, and I also have such a huge library now that if I do something and I’m not sure about it, I can probably find something I’ve written about someone else doing it to me. I think that writing until I have a breakthrough has really fixed a lot of my issues in my life, especially surrounding how I interact with others, just because when you have PTSD—and I specifically have C-PTSD, so it’s a little bit different in the way that it doesn’t get just triggered by specific things, but it can. But it kind of affects the entirety of your everyday life, in little ways that you can’t figure out for years. But I figured out that if I can write, because the way that talking and writing are different parts of your brain, and when you’re writing things down it actually can help draw things out of you that you didn’t know were there. So I’ll be writing and all of the sudden unlock a memory, or unlock some clarity about a situation. I had that recently where, sometimes you can feel blocked memories and you know that they’re there and you know that you need to work through them to get past a certain emotional point, but you can’t remember them. And I started writing, and I ended up writing an EPs worth of songs. I blacked out, and I came to, and they were just there. And that’s how I found out that I have childhood trauma, but it’s fine. I think that writing is the best way for pulling the truth out of me, I guess.
Do you always write with the intention of getting a song out of it, or do you sometimes write for the sake of writing?
I used to try to force myself to write, but I think I have modes now. If I’m collaborating with someone, I can come up with things on the spot and it’s not an issue. When I’m by myself, I tend to only write when I need to. But I end up needing to write at least once a day because I have too much in my brain. It mostly comes to me, because I hear things in my head, and I’m like, “Oh I have to write it,” and it just goes from there.
What are some of your upcoming plans?
Peachy! Currently we have a show coming up in Brooklyn with Black Hippie, they’re amazing, with American Poetry Society also. That’s gonna be a crazy show. Outside of that, we have the final process of the masters for the full length almost done, and then we’re gonna release it before the end of the year. At least the end of December. That’s extremely exciting, because I can’t wait. It’ll be the best thing I’ve ever released, which I’m very excited about. We have that, and we’re going to be going back into the studio in January, actually. We’re kind of going in a really chaotic direction. We’re making a Jewish folk EP, which is going to be very chaotic. It’s gonna be punk, and then we have potentially a pop thing, potentially in the works. I want to make the saddest music and the funnest music. Besides that, I don’t think we have too much. I want to try to maintain the YouTube channel, but I had a bunch of stuff come up. You know. Just gigs and the album and a bunch more things probably by the summer.