CRUZH: The New Melodic Rock Sensation
CRUZH: The New Melodic Rock Sensation
Cruzh from Sweden is certainly the new melodic rock sensation, and their just released album Tropical Thunder on Frontiers Music is destined to enrapture music fans all around the world. Jam packed with a cavalcade of melodies, hooks, and catchy songs that will spin in your head for ages, Tropical Thunder features instant classics such as We Go Together, Turn Back Time, New York Nights and the dynamic title tracks.
Highwire Daze recently interviewed bassist Dennis Butabi Borg to find out more about the timeless reveries found within Tropical Thunder, future plans for the mighty Cruzh, his other work within the ranks of East Temple Avenue and The Darren Phillips Project, and a whole lot more! Read on…
First of all, is there any overall story or concept behind the album title Tropical Thunder?
There’s not a serious back meaning, but there’s a fun story about it – because our guitar player Anton – he came up with the groove and guitar riff quite a while actually – but we never really tied it together with a track. But the guitar riff had been with us for a while. When we were in Wales in 2018, we played Hard Rock Hell Festival and we were riding from Manchester airport towards Wales – which was in the Western part of the United Kingdom. I was driving the car and Anton the guitarist – he was riding shotgun. And it started with a conversation about war movies from the guys in the back – our drummer Matt Silver – he has these Matt Silver games he comes up with when he’s been drinking – he asks, “what’s your favorite…” and it can be whatever. This time he zeroed in on old war movies, and the other guys had the obvious choices of Apocalypse Now and Full Metal Jacket and all that stuff. And I was kind of stressed out driving on the wrong side of the car and on the wrong side of the road, so I really wasn’t in the mood for his stupid drinking games.
And when I got the question, I was like, “I don’t give a shit! Uh, Tropical Thunder – you know, the war parody movie with Ben Stiller and Jack Black.” And I was just throwing it out because, “Leave me alone, ya know?” And then me and Anton we were “Tropical Thunder? That actually sounds cool. We should write a song with that title.” And then he was strumming his hands towards Alex and making a drumbeat and we came up with this “Thunder! Thunder!” It all kind of developed from that in the car. Then we realized that the whole groove and the tempo to the song fitted perfectly with the guitar riff that we had for a while. So, we merged it together and Walla! – the song was born like that!
You have a new vocalist, Alex Waghorn. What is his background and how did he wind up in the band?
We didn’t know about him or his previous bands or projects at all before we met him. But we know now that he has been in a rock band called Reach which were located up in Stockholm – the rest of us are from the Southern part of Sweden, so it’s like 60 miles between us. We didn’t know about him, but the same day that we went viral and public looking for a new singer – he actually answered us and replied to that the very same day. He sent us some music videos and some tracks from his old band Reach. There were 15 guys who sent in their stuff and wanted to join the band, but he was our absolutely number one pick because we instantly liked his whole charisma – his look – his voice fitted perfectly into our new music. And from that it went kind of fast, because we had an audition – he come down from Stockholm like 1-2 weeks later – and we knew he was the right guy from the start. So, to answer your questions accurately, his history is from the band Reach and some cover bands from Stockholm – so that’s where he comes from.
Let’s talk about the song We Go Together – terrific song and wonderful video too! Who were the kids in We Go Together and tell me a little about that song?
We can start from the song because it all comes put from that. I’m the songwriter of this track, and it’s one of the first ones we wrote prior to the second album. It’s pretty much 100 percent based on my own childhood, growing up in the Southern Swedish suburb. The feeling I wanted to fetch is the feeling you could only have really as a teenager or a kid when you were on leave for the summer, and you were hanging out with your best friends the whole days. It seemed like the summer days were endless and the summer nights you were living the best parts of your life. And all these adventures and endeavors you would go on with your best friends. So that was kind of the mood and the setting we wanted to have. The chorus goes “We all go down to the river by night” – that’s totally taken from where I come from – we had a lake here but that didn’t fit in with the tempo of the song “to go down to the lake at night” – so I had to change that to river to make the beats right. That’s kind of the framework of the song.
And when it came to producing the video, we wanted a video to match that whole feeling – the feeling of invincibility as a kid. And of course, we wanted to ride on the whole retro wave started by Stranger Things and glimpsing back to old 80’s movies like The Goonies and Stand By Me and that whole genre. That was what we wanted to get a piece of – so to speak. And the settings and the surroundings in the video is actually from my hometown village when I was a kid. So, we all brought it back to the crime scene and used the same lake and the same farm roads that I bicycled myself when I was a kid.
And the kids – that’s actually a fun story – because the little blond guy with the Misfits beanie is my son who’s playing me and the drummer’s kid is his son and the other two are their best friends, so it couldn’t be better actually. It was an easy cast and they really delivered. I was pleasantly surprised because you never know – they’re kids, and they aren’t trained actors or anything. It was a gamble, but we wanted the authenticity. It was important to have kids from the same area who lived the same life as we did when we were young.
Let talk about the closing track NRJC acoustic. Tell me about the track and about playing acoustic.
NRJC as you probably understand – it stands for No Rush Just Cruzh – and that’s kind of a chant we use live. When we end our sets the singer, he screams “No Rush” and the crowd answers “Just Cruzh!” And that’s something we wanted to do a little bit more of, because obviously it doesn’t mean anything – but it means everything at the same time. So, it’s kind of our “Geronimo!” you know. And for the track, when we wrote that one, we wanted to have a song which works perfectly fine around a campfire, but it can also be played downscale live in the vein of Patience by Guns N’ Roses or Laugh And A Half by D.A.D. or something like that. I wrote that one also, and it was written on acoustic guitar. We just kept it very simple and added some bongo drums and some shakers and my bass comes in at the end. We still wanted to have that low fi feeling – that it could be played on one guitar if we want to, but it could also be played on the stage. And the lyrics – it’s kind of like an anti-ballad – anti-love story. It’s pretty much nonsense. I’m very influenced by Paul Stanley when I’m writing my lyrics – sometimes it doesn’t mean anything – it’s just words that sound cool – and this is the proof of that.
Has this lineup of Cruzh played live yet or do you plan to do so?
We definitely plan to do so. We have some stuff in the pipeline which isn’t official. And we do not want jinx stuff here, so we won’t go public with any of our bookings until we know they can be arranged. Every day now, there’s still festivals postponing and cancelling. So, we have to ride out the storm a little bit more before we announce anything. But we haven’t played any official gigs at all yet because of Covid simply.
Are you still working with East Temple Avenue and what was it like doing that album?
We’re definitely working with East Temple Avenue. For most of us, it’s a side project to our other bands and commitments. Darren Phillips from Australia – he’s the driven force in the band and his main priority – but the other guys have other bands as well. We’re working on new material, and we have some singles coming out this year. So, it’s definitely alive. And about recording it – for me it wasn’t much different from recording the Cruzh album. The biggest difference was probably that recording the Tropical Thunder album we really recorded 12 tracks in a row so it was a giant project to complete. The East Temple Avenue album was spread over 15 months so I could do one track when I had the time and when I had a feeling. I didn’t have that kind of time pressure when it came to East Temple Avenue as I had with the Cruzh album. When we started working on the East Temple Avenue album, we didn’t have distribution or a record deal, so we could do it when we wanted to simply.
You’ve also worked with Darren Phillips on the Darren Phillips Project, and one of the songs on his Volume 2 album also featured Cruzh vocalist Alex Waghorn I believe…
Absolutely! By My Side – a cool, laid-back Bon Jovi-esque track.
Tell me about that track and what it was like working with your new singer on the Darren Phillips Project?
I was the first in the band to work with Darren on the first album (Volume One). And then on this album Volume Two, both the guitar player Aton plays on one track and our singer Alex sings on two tracks, I think. Darren is a very cool and relatable guy. He kind of asked me “Do you know any guys who would like to play on this and who would you recommend for this track?” So, when I heard this song By My Side – I hadn’t written this track at all – I just play on it. And I instantly thought this is a track in the veins of Blaze Of Glory and Young Guns music from the Bon Jovi soundtrack. So, I thought let’s give Alex a try, and we can try him out before we go into the studio with Cruzh and warm him up a little bit. So that’s kind of how it went down. I think it’s probably my favorite track of Volume Two. It also has Mikael Skafar playing drums on it as well – he plays in a Swedish AOR band called Arkado – he’s my stepdad. I brought him in as well, so it was kind of a cool thing to do with my friends and family – that very track.
What do you hope the rest of 2021 and 2022 bring for you and for Cruzh?
I have high hopes for this album, and I really hope that it will be pleasantly reviewed from the whole rock community. We haven’t played since 2018. We really can’t wait to get out and play. We really want to play this whole bunch of new material we have; I really hope we can do something live this year, but my biggest hopes are from Spring 2022 forward that we could do some really good supporting of the new material. That’s my hope.
Do you have any messages for Cruzh fans here in the States?
I know we have a lot of support in the States – we can see that from the statistics our record label sends us, and we could see where our most frequent listeners are. Actually nowadays, the United States comes second after Sweden, so I know we have a lot of people who like what we do. I’m a big fan of your country, and I’m really looking forward to come over sometime – and hope that it can be very soon as well.
Alex Waghorn: lead & backing vocals
Anton Joensson: lead & rhythm guitars, acoustic guitars, backing vocals
Dennis Butabi Borg: bass, backing vocals
Matt Silver: drums & percussion, backing vocals
(Interview by Ken Morton)
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