Real-life couple Jen Deale and Chris Spicer have been playing music together for over a decade, releasing three EPs as Camp Crush and raising two children through it all. But this year, as it did for so many musicians, presented some of the most intense challenges they’ve seen yet; time they’d booked in the studio last March quickly shifted to a home-recording process with producer Rian Lewis as the pandemic tightened its grip on Portland, where the band is based. But with a newfound appreciation for everything we took for granted before the virus the hit, Deale and Spicer penned a track called “Fangirl” – a sweeping tribute to their music industry cohorts. “You keep shining/Like the diamond that we know you are/And I’ll keep chasing you like I am your own shooting star,” Deale promises. “I’ve got a lot of heart, and it beats for you.”
The rousing track is rooted in buoyant ’80s new wave, Deale’s vocals (and white-blonde locks) bringing to mind Debbie Harry or Gwen Stefani. Bright synths, bouncy bass and staccato percussion add to the nostalgic, fun vibe that begs listeners to dance along; though Deale and Spicer had intended the track to show their own appreciation of other artists, it quickly became a tribute to their fans as well, and an important reminder to let loose and find some happiness in otherwise dark times.
Taking a cue from the same do-it-yourself spirit in which the song was recorded, Camp Crush styled the music video for “Fangirl” it as though it were a Zoom call, with the camera switching between the band, their fans, their friends, and fellow musicians, dancing in choreographed unison. Some names even appear first on the call before their respective webcam loads, a strange greeting we’ve all become well-acquainted with.
“Every time we listened to this song, our family would just get down and start dancing and our kids would start exchanging moves,” Deale says. They developed some choreography for the video but ultimately wanted to include others as well, in a move that’s become indicative of the time we now live in and how our methods of communication and togetherness have changed. “We told people to bring their kids, pets, all of that – we wanted to see elements of the life we are all leading now,” she adds. “When you’re in your Zoom calls, sometimes you’re holding your baby or your cat walks across your screen. We wanted to capture some of those weird moments.”
Deale and Spicer are particularly attuned to weird moments and unbridled nostalgia; they officially met when Spicer became the drummer in one of Deale’s previous bands, but quickly realized they’d known each other as kids. “We grew up around each other but didn’t really meet until much later in life,” Deale explains. “We looked back and realized we went to the same summer camp. He was like, ‘Did you sing in the talent show?’ and I said, ‘Of course I sang in the talent show!’ and he was like, ‘You were Blonde Jenny! I had the biggest crush on you!’ So the name of the band had to be Camp Crush, like your summer camp crush.”
The duo have released three EPs under the moniker since 2018 (She’s Got It, Run, and Feel Something) all the while developing their brand as band (if somewhat reluctantly). “You have to create this presence from your creative endeavors and it’s a lot of pressure, especially as a woman, to be beautiful, sexy and mysterious while also having a little bit of a chip on your shoulder. There’s a lot that the world asks from you in this industry,” Deale says. But, as the couple watched their children grow, it became increasingly important to stay true to their own style. “Having played music my whole life, I feel like I’ve had all these periods where… you sort of find yourself following trends. When you’re raising girls, you’re raising women; it’s so important that they have that strong example,” she says. “It’s pushed me to fight past anything that scares me – if it scares me I gotta try it. It makes me look at my choices and decisions from a different angle – I say, that’s not the message that you want to send, that’s not what you tell your kids.”
To that end, Camp Crush have used their platform to take on weighty topics: their 2018 single “November Skin” leans into the pair’s rock influences while interrogating “women in rock” stereotypes; “Vicious Life” processes the deep political divisions in the U.S. after the 2016 election.
“Fangirl” isn’t quite so serious, but it does subvert the idea that fandom is obsessive, negative, or vapid (particularly when it comes from young women) by reframing it as authentic connection, support, and encouragement. “I wanted to write something to just flip that on its head that’s fun, uplifting and that people can dance to,” Deale says.
Whether their confidence is drawn from fan support or their own values, Deale and Spicer have opened the doors for their experimental yet nostalgic sound to span decades by simply embracing a wide range of genres. “This band has always leaned into making the things that we’re excited about,” Deale says. “I think it’s because of this Camp Crush is a genuine reflection of who we are.”