RSVP HERE: Hayley and The Crushers livestream via T1 Fest + More!

If you can picture Joan Jett fronting The Ramones while drinking a cola-flavored Slurpee at a record shop you’ll have an idea what to expect from Hayley and The Crushers. The power-pop surf-punk trio hail from San Louis Obispo, California and are fronted by Haley “Crusher” Cain alongside her bassist/husband Dr. Cain “Crusher” Cain and drummer Dougie Tangent. Their music is the perfect soundtrack for the intro credits of an early ’00s teen movie that takes place in the ’50s. This year they released their third record Vintage Millennial and a 7″ single titled “Jacaranda.” In 2019 they played 100+ shows touring cross-country while living exclusively out of their van. They put on an energetic live show; and you can watch them live on Saturday October 24th via the T1 Fest- a benefit for JDRF, who fund research and advocate for people suffering from Type 1 Diabetes.

We chatted with Hayley “Crusher” Cain about the making of their most recent record, what their band’s tiki drink would be, and her podcast Sparkle and Destroy.

AF: How was the process of writing and recording your third record?

HCC: Making our new album Vintage Millennial was kind of a blur. We were touring and playing live a bunch in 2019, so the songs came pretty quickly and with a lot of urgency. Our home drummer here in San Luis Obispo, Benjamin Cabreana, is very high energy and eager to learn new songs, so we just kept feeding the beast till we had a whole set finished. I wrote “Gabbie is a Domme,” about an old friend who had become a dominatrix, in one sitting, without a ton of drama or overthinking. I remember being surprised by that, and knowing in my head that there would be glockenspiel. It was almost creepy how quickly some songs came to be, just me and the guitar. There’s something really freeing about knowing you have to get a record done quickly, between tour dates or a deadline you’ve set yourself. You just make decisions. Ideas that might have languished for years, rotting in my notebook (“I Don’t Wanna be like Johnny Ramone” and “Shoulda Been Shangela,” which was about a drag queen that the band loved on Ru Paul’s Drag Race) just kind of leapt off the page and into life. For that reason, I think this album is a real time capsule of our lives at the moment, right now. Then there are songs like “Kiss Me so I Can,” which my husband/bass player, Dr. Cain, and I wrote together. It was a little labored but in a good way. We were tasked with making a groovy sort of Crushers-style love song that still felt universal. We wrote it in real-time as we faced the reality of what constant van-living and ambition was doing to our relationship. I think anyone can relate to the idea of never feeling like you have enough time for your loved one (even if you live in a van/apartment/house with them), or feeling split between two lives and desires. Honestly, it felt quite exposing, but like a natural next step. “Poison Box” was also a collaboration between us – I was in Berlin for the holidays with my sister, and I was inspired by the GDR museum, which showed life in Germany before the Berlin Wall fell. My husband sent me a few guitar riffs over voice memo one night and I wrote the song at my sister’s Berlin apartment after a night of drinking. Everything felt urgent and crazy in 2019. We also tried to write a bit more for production than on Cool/Lame, which is basically a representation of what we do live. We tried to keep spots open for organ, additional drums, claps, and general weirdness, which I think add a lot to our sound, and we’d like to keep that going. Dr. Cain’s sly surf song “Forever Grom” is one of my favorite tunes on the album, even if it truly is a quick interlude and just a total wild card. Fun fact: all the waves and seagulls you hear on that track were created by either Dr. Cain’s amazing vocal abilities or a steel tube being rubbed against the nether regions of my Gretsch guitar. I feel really lucky we were able to do vinyl in 2020, despite all the issues happening in the record pressing world and the wider world in general. Travis Woods from Eccentric Pop Records believed in Vintage Millennial, even if it might be the weirdest album on his label to date. All you need is one person to believe in you and you just decide it’s a good idea. That’s a little known secret of the business!

AF: What are jacarandas, and what do they mean to you?

HCC: Wikipedia says: “Jacaranda mimosifolia is a sub-tropical tree native to south-central South America that has been widely planted elsewhere because of its attractive and long-lasting pale indigo flowers.” I can confirm this is true! In my town of San Luis Obispo, California, these purple trees start blooming in May and continue through the summer. In the summer, everything is brown (burnt by literal wildfires) or just dried by the sun, so these insane purple trees really stand out. I wrote the song as I was longing for the road. We spent 100 days on the road in 2019 with two Midwest Tours and a few West Coast tours and I started writing this song between dates, when we had come home briefly to tie up loose ends. Dr. Cain was selling his comic book shop of nine years and I had quit a column I had written for the local alt weekly for about five years. The color of the trees inspired me and I loved the idea of a song that’s a wake up call. Maybe I just hadn’t been home in a while, so the trees seemed even more technicolor than usual. I felt like they were a cosmic sign, that they were speaking to me and letting me know it was okay to get the hell out. Of course, now I am back at home and have had to completely eat every single word of that song. It’s been humbling. I am grateful to live where I do and to have my friends and family and dogs here.

AF: How has quarantine affected your creative process/routine?

HCC: I just feel like I am always working at 30%. The battery in my soul is low. I don’t have the boundless energy to write demos and I certainly don’t have that urgent feeling that comes with preparing for/booking the next tour. I feel sort of like I am swimming through peanut butter. I continue to write my song ideas down in my notebook, but they take longer to come together. Band practice has helped. Making demos has helped. But everything is slower, less fluid, clunky. That’s got to be part of the underlying and ongoing trauma of 2020. I am not into “victim mentality” at all, but we need to realize we are all in a slowly boiling pot and that is going to have real consequences on our mental health over time. Someone said this recently and it really stuck with me: “It’s like we’re all in a fire. And it’s slow burning. And it’s invisible.” This is stress, anxiety and depression compounded and stretched out like we’ve never seen before. All I know is I am writing down the freaky stuff that I have seen during COVID (a guy wearing a gas mask at the grocery store; a lonely hopscotch created in chalk by kids on my street surrounded by positive affirmations) and I know it will all go into a song, a book or something. Dr. Cain has been surfing a lot, Ben has been skating, and I have been doing yoga in my backyard. You have to find something that completely takes your mind off the election, the state of our country, COVID. You just have to.

AF: If Hayley and the Crushers were a tiki drink, what would it be?

HCC: A super sweet, surprisingly strong Madonna Rum Punch from Madonna Inn, the late ’50s pink palace of a hotel located down the street from my house! It has multiple rums, a maraschino cherry, an orange slice and a cute little skewer.

AF: If you were to do a Halloween-themed cover, what would it be? 

HCC: Our song “Neurotica” is about a teen witch, so that is as spooky as we have gotten! The only horror movie I can really watch without peeing my pants is Gremlins, and I’m pretty sure that’s actually a Christmas movie and a teen comedy and not at all supposed to be scary. But it is! It’s so scary. An instrumental surf punk version of the Gremlins theme song would actually be pretty frightening (on many levels). 

AF: Have you had any paranormal experiences?

HCC: As for paranormal experiences, I wish I could say I have had some. I always wanted to see an alien or communicate with a forlorn ghost in a Victorian nightgown. Maybe it’s because I grew up with atheists, but boring old science has literally ruined my sense of otherworldly fun. Kim Wilde, who we cover on Vintage Millennial with our song “Water on Glass” is always talking about aliens and stuff. Her latest album is called Here Come the Aliens. It’s funny when you Google someone you admire from the ’80s and you realize that they now go on talk shows recounting their paranormal experiences. I’m jealous, really. I can only hope to be that eccentric one day.

AF: Tell us a little about your podcast Sparkle and Destroy. Who would be your dream guest? 

HCC: It’s like an audio zine, and it’s not supposed to be fancy by any means. It’s half interview and half just me rambling about art and my life. I worked as a journalist for about 10 years and I loved the experience of being able to walk right up to someone you found interesting or cool. It’s powerful stuff, to be able to interview them and just pick their brains (as you know). I also had a real paper zine for a few years, which was super fun if not insanely time consuming. When I quit all that so I could focus more on music, I really craved being an interviewer again. I was meeting all these rad women on the road or elsewhere. A sound woman here, a guitarist there. So now I have my own excuse to walk up to some stranger and say, “Can I interview you?” Funny that people will usually say yes. I couldn’t believe that Alice Bag said yes. My dream guest, Josie Cotton, has already been on the show. Guess I should pack it up and go home!

AF: When it is safe to have shows and tours again, are there any structural changes you would like to see in how they are run and in the music scene as a whole? 

HCC: Considering we book all own tours, make all our own fliers, chase down all our own press, send out all our own advances, and promote all our own shows on our own dime—sure. I’d love to see a return of dedicated, professional venue bookers in the United States who are paid well enough to help with some of this crucial work. I find myself doing the job of the venue when it comes to promotion and even organizing what times the bands will play, because more often than not, you don’t even get an email confirming the gig. We create and print fliers and literally send the paper versions to venues, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but think about doing that for every show on tour. Then there is contacting local press/radio etc. We buy our own ads to promote the shows we play, even as we are spending a lot of money to travel across the country to be there. This work helps all the bands on the bill and the venue, not just us. Of course, some venues do have good promotion, but, in general, I think the money isn’t there anymore. These jobs are just going away or not paying well enough to attract the right people. I know they used to exist, because older music people tell me about those glory days when a venue would actually tell the local paper about a show. Of course, papers are going away too. Venues are closing down left and right during COVID so I feel bad saying anything critical. They will be so weak and needing of support when and if they reopen that all I can hope for is an open door and a few drink tickets.

AF: What are your plans for the rest of 2020 and beyond?

HCC: We have a new album we are working on! Stay tuned. It should come out next year if all goes to plan. We are also doing a live stream on Saturday Oct. 24. T1 Fest supports funding and research for folks suffering from Type 1 Diabetes, which is a big issue for our former drummer, who had to quit the band due to medical reasons.

We have a new single coming out this winter that I think will surprise and delight y’all. The song is about one of my first punk loves, Black Flag. I used to sit in the barn and play Black Flag and Ramones songs over and over, trying to sing as snotty as possible. Now I am ancient, in my 30s, and still feel that sense of excitement about punk. It’s an homage of sorts! We’ve been filming a music video for the song and I have to say it’s pretty silly. It has been a morale boost for sure. There will be a new shirt and cassette associated with the new single, so watch for that. We are supposed to head to Europe in summer 2021, but we will see if that happens. Our band has already voted by mail and we encourage everyone to do so! We thank our Crushers worldwide for all the love and support during these “uncertain times.”

RSVP HERE for Hayley and The Crushers via T1 Fest 2020 with Dan Vapid of Dan Vapid & The Cheats and The Methadones, Jen Pop and Poli Van Dam of The Bombpops, The Radio Buzzkills, Death and Memphis, The Usuals, Capgun Heroes, and The Lettermans on Saturday 10/24 6pm ET.

More great livestreams this week…

10/23 PUP via NoonChorus. $13, 9pm ET RSVP HERE

10/23 Jason Isbell, The Killers, Stevie Nicks, Kurt Vile and more via SiriusXM (Tom Petty Birthday Bash). 4:30pm ET RSVP HERE

10/23 Teenage Halloween via The New Colossus Festival YouTube (live from Rockaway Beach). 9pm ET RSVP HERE

10/24 Chance The Rapper, Questlove, Shaquille O’Neal, LL COOL J and more via Facebook (Black Entrepreneurs Day). 7pm ET RSVP HERE

10/24 Billie Eilish via The Internet. 6pm ET RSVP HERE

10/25 Angel Olsen, Bright Eyes, Brittany Howard, Eyes Blood, Mac DeMarco & more via Lively (Village of Love for Planned Parenthood). 9pm ET RSVP HERE

10/26 Thick, Haybaby, Brain Don, Niteowl, Adrian Is Hungry via Venue Pilot (live from Our Wicked Lady). $5, 7pm ET RSVP HERE

10/27 Native Sun, Pure Adult via Venue Pilot (live from The Broadway). $5, 7pm ET RSVP HERE

AF 2019 IN REVIEW: Our Favorite Albums & Singles of The Year

Lizzo press photo by Luke Gilford, courtesy of Atlantic Records.

Every year I keep a running list of new album releases. The idea is that I’ll have new stuff on my radar, along with a go-to playlist if I’m feeling adventurous (or bored) and want to hear something new. This year that list grew to nearly 9,000 songs, and I’m still adding stuff I missed from this year to it. When it came time to make my year-end list, I had some ideas about what would be on it, but I decided to do something more immersive than I’d done years prior (basically narrowing my list down to ten albums). This year, I decided to rank every record I listened to that came out in 2019, resulting in a list of more than 200 albums. That’s a lot, certainly. It’s my job, of course, to listen to music. But what was more mind-boggling was that, when I made a separate list of albums I hadn’t had a chance to listen to or simply didn’t stick in my mind, it was more than double that number. Y’all, a lot of music came out in 2019. And a lot of it was really, really good.

I think our list at Audiofemme is unique in that it gives each of our regular writers (and some of our contributors) complete ownership over their favorites, and that makes our list unusually eclectic. That’s especially true this year; last year’s lists featured a lot of love for Mitski and Janelle Monae, while this year’s lists were so disparate there’s very little crossover from list to list. So while it’s hard to choose one overarching narrative around who slayed hardest this year – Sharon Van Etten and Angel Olsen releasing the best albums of their careers, Big Thief releasing two amazing records, Jamila Woods and FKA Twigs going big on concept albums – I think we all know that person was Lizzo.


  • Marianne White (Executive Director)

    Top 5 Albums:
    1) Jamila Woods – LEGACY! LEGACY!
    2) Big Thief – Two Hands
    3) Boy Harsher – Careful
    4) FKA Twigs – Magdalene
    5) Cate le Bon – Reward

  • Lindsey Rhoades (Editor-in-Chief)

    Top 10 Albums:
    2) Hand Habits – placeholder
    3) Crumb – Jinx
    4) Pottery – No. 1
    5) Orville Peck – Pony
    6) Cate le Bon – Reward
    7) Kim Gordon – No Home Record
    8) Sharon Van Etten – Remind Me Tomorrow
    9) Black Belt Eagle Scout – At the Party With My Brown Friends
    10) Big Thief – Two Hands
    Top 10 Singles:
    1) Sharon Van Etten – “Jupiter 4”
    2) SOAK – “Valentine Shmalentine”
    3) Jonny Kosmo – “Strawberry Vision”
    4) Mineral – “Your Body Is the World”
    5) Drahla – “Stimulus for Living”
    6) Mattiel – “Keep the Change”
    7) Girlpool – “Minute in Your Mind”
    8) Charlotte Adigéry – “Paténipat”
    9) Weyes Blood – “Andromeda”
    10) Palehound – “Killer”

  • Mandy Brownholtz (Marketing Director)

    Top 5 Albums (in no particular order):
    Summer Walker – Over It
    Jamila Woods – LEGACY! LEGACY!
    Angel Olsen – All Mirrors
    Mannequin Pussy – Patience
    Raveena – Lucid
    Top 3 Singles:
    Summer Walker – “Anna Mae”
    Solange – “Binz”
    Jamila Woods – “ZORA”


  • Alexa Peters (Playing Seattle)

    Top 5 Albums:
    1) Guayaba – Fantasmagoria
    2) Ings – Lullaby Rock
    3) The Black Tones – Cobain & Cornbread
    4) Lemolo – Swansea
    5) Stephanie Anne Johnson – Take This Love
    Top 5 Singles:
    1) Lizzo – “Juice”
    2) Karma Rivera – “Do More Say Less”
    2) Heather Thomas Band – “When I Was Young”
    3) Stephanie Anne Johnson – “Never No More”
    4) Sarah Potenza – “I Work For Me”
    5) Ariana Grande – “Thank U, Next”

  • Sophia Vaccaro (Playing the Bay)

    Top 5 Albums:
    1) Charly Bliss – Young Enough
    2) PUP – Morbid Stuff
    3) Kim Petras – TURN OFF THE LIGHT
    4) Microwave – Death is a Warm Blanket
    5) Caroline Polachek – Pang
    Top 3 Singles:
    1) Jess Day – “Rabbit Hole”
    2) Ashnikko – “Hi, It’s Me”
    3) Saweetie – “My Type”

  • Cillea Houghton (Playing Nashville)

    Top 5 Albums:
    1) Yola – Walk Through Fire
    2) Louis York – American Griots
    3) The Highwomen – The Highwomen
    4) Sara Potenza – Road to Rome
    5) Rising Appalachia – Leylines
    Top 3 Singles:
    1) Kacey Musgraves – “Rainbow”
    2) Louis York – “Don’t You Forget”
    3) The Highwomen – “Crowded Table”

  • Luci Turner (Playing Atlanta)

    Top 5 Albums:
    1) The Raconteurs – Help Us Stranger
    2) Harry Styles – Fine Line
    3) Brittany Howard – Jaime
    4) MARINA – Love + Fear
    5) Death Mama – High Strangeness
    Top 3 Singles:
    1) Sam Burchfield – “Blue Ridge June”
    2) Pip the Pansy – “Siren Song”
    3) 5 Seconds of Summer – “Teeth”

  • Victoria Moorwood (Playing Cincy)

    Top 5 Albums:
    1) YBN Cordae – The Lost Boy
    2) Wale – Wow… That’s Crazy
    3) Roddy Ricch – Please Excuse Me For Being Antisocial
    4) DaBaby – KIRK
    5) NF – The Search
    Top 3 Singles:
    1) DaBaby – “Intro”
    2) Polo G – “Pop Out”
    3) Lil Baby – “Yes Indeed” (feat. Drake)

  • Amanda Silberling (Playing Philly)

    Top 5 Albums:
    1) Palehound – Black Friday
    2) Great Grandpa – Four of Arrows
    3) Charly Bliss – Young Enough
    4) T-Rextasy – Prehysteria
    5) Leggy – Let Me Know Your Moon
    Top 3 Singles:
    1) Mannequin Pussy – “Drunk II”
    2) Charly Bliss – “Chatroom”
    3) (Sandy) Alex G – “Southern Sky”

  • Tarra Thiessen (Check the Spreadsheet)

    Top 5 Albums:
    1) Karen O & Danger Mouse – Lux Prima
    2) FEELS – Post Earth
    3) Francie Moon – All the Same
    4) Lizzo – Cuz I Love You
    5) Crumb – Jinx
    Top 3 Singles:
    1) Dehd – “Lucky”
    2) Bodega – “Shiny New Model”
    3) Y La Bamba – “Entre Los Dos”

  • Natalie Kirch (Pet Politics)

    Top 5 Albums (in Chronological Order):
    1) JANITOR — She Hates The Hits
    2) Haybaby — They Get There
    3) Holy Tunics — Hit Parade Lemonade Supersonic Spree
    4) Bethlehem Steel — Bethlehem Steel
    5) Francie Moon – All The Same
    6) SUO – Dancing Spots and Dungeons
    Top 5 Singles (in Chronological Order):
    1) Big Bliss – “Contact”
    2) Gesserit – “Silence”
    3) Vanessa Silberman – “I Got A Reason”
    4) New Myths – “Living Doll”
    5) Miss Eaves – “Swipe Left Up”


  • Liz Ohanesian

    Top 5 Albums:
    1) Hot Chip – A Bath Full of Ecstasy
    2) (tie) Chelsea Wolfe – Birth of Violence // K Á R Y Y N – The Quanta Series
    3) !!! – Wallop
    4) Yacht – Chain Tripping
    5) Chromatics – Closer to Grey
    Top 3 Singles:
    1) Billie Eilish – “Bad Guy”
    2) Roisin Murphy – “Narcissus”
    3) Boy Harsher – “Come Closer”

  • Lydia Sviatoslavsky

    Top 5 Albums:
    1)  Xiu Xiu – Girl With a Basket of Fruit
    2) slowthai – Nothing Great About Britain
    3) Boy Harsher – Careful
    4) Thee Oh Sees – Face Stabber
    5) Sylvia Black – Twilight Animals
    Top 3 Singles:
    1) Squarepusher – “Vortrack – Fracture Remix”
    2) Coyu & Moby – “I May Be Dead, But One Day The World Will Be Beautiful Again”
    3) Cocorosie – “Smash My Head”

  • Tamara Mesko

    Top 5 Albums:
    1) Bad Books — III
    2) Pedro The Lion — Phoenix
    3) Laura Stevenson — The Big Freeze
    4) An Horse — Modern Air
    5) Black Belt Eagle Scout — At the Party With My Brown Friends
    Top 3 Singles:
    1) Kevin Devine – “Only Yourself”
    2) Rain Phoenix feat. Michael Stipe – “Time is the Killer”
    3) Sigrid – “Strangers”

  • Erin Rose O’Brien

    Top 5 Albums:
    1) Stef Chura — Midnight
    2) Angel Olsen — All Mirrors
    3) Lisa Prank — Perfect Love Song
    4) Carly Rae Jepsen — Dedicated
    5) Cheekface — Therapy Island
    Top 3 Singles:
    1) Caroline Polachek — “So Hot You’re Hurting My Feelings”
    2) Priests — “Jesus’ Son”
    3) Lana Del Ray — “The Greatest”

  • Katie Wojciechowski

    Top 5 Albums:
    1) The Highwomen — The Highwomen
    2) Better Oblivion Community Center — Better Oblivion Community Center
    3) Various Artists — Tiny Changes: A Celebration of Frightened Rabbit’s ‘The Midnight Organ Fight’
    4) Vampire Weekend — Father of the Bride
    5) J.S. Ondara — Tales of America
    Top 3 Singles:
    1) MUNA — “Good News (Ya-Ya Song)”
    2) Lizzie No — “Narcissus”
    3) Noah Gundersen — “Lose You”

  • Micco Caporale

    Top 5 Albums:
    1) Orville Peck — Pony
    2) Boy Harsher — Careful
    3) Lingua Ignota — Caligula
    4) Heterofobia — Queremos Ver El Mundo Arder
    5) Knife Wife — Family Party
    Top 3 Singles:
    1) Dorian Electra – “Flamboyant”
    2) Orville Peck – “Dead of Night”
    3) Solange — “Binz”

  • Jason Scott

    Top 5 Albums:
    1) Allison Moorer — Blood
    2) Gabriella Rose — Lost in Translation EP
    3) Emily Scott Robinson — Traveling Mercies
    4) Girl Wilde — Probably Crying EP
    5) BHuman — BMovie
    Top 3 Singles:
    1) Dua Lipa – “Don’t Start Now”
    2) The Highwomen – “Redesigning Women”
    3) Katy Perry — “Never Really Over”

  • Ysabella Monton

    Top 5 Albums:
    1) King Princess – Cheap Queen
    2) Carly Rae Jepsen – Dedicated
    3) Tyler, the Creator – IGOR
    4) Kim Petras – Clarity
    5) Charli XCX – Charli
    Top 3 Singles:
    1) King Princess – “Hit the Back”
    2) FKA Twigs – “holy terrain”
    3) Charli XCX – “Gone” feat. Christine and the Queens

  • Holly Henschen

    Top 5 Albums:
    1) Marielle Allschwang & the Visitations – Precession of a Day: The World of Mary Nohl
    2) Angel Olsen – All Mirrors
    3) Sudan Archives – Athena
    4) Karen O & Danger Mouse – Lux Prima
    5) Sigur Rós – Sigur Rós Presents Liminal Sleep
    Top 3 Singles:
    1) King Princess – “Hit the Back”
    2) Sleater-Kinney – “Hurry on Home”
    3) Lizzo – “Tempo”

  • Erin Lyndal Martin

    Top 5 Albums:
    1) Jenny Hval – The Practice of Love
    2) Mariee Sioux – Grief in Exile
    3) Carolina Eyck – Elegies for Theremin & Voice
    4) Julia Kent – Temporal
    5) Rhiannon Giddens – There is No Other (with Francesco Turrisi)

  • Rebecca Kunin

    Top 5 Albums (in no particular order):
    Mal Blum – Pity Boy
    Jamila Woods – LEGACY! LEGACY!
    Durand Jones and the Indications – American Love Call
    Tony Molina – Songs from San Mateo County
    Carly Rae Jepsen – Dedicated
    Top 3 Singles:
    Brittany Howard – “Stay High”
    Angel Olsen – “New Love Cassette”
    Jacky Boy – “Get Along”

PET POLITICS: Haybaby’s Leslie Hong Befriends Felines & Fishes

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Leslie Hong and her cat Miho. All photos courtesy Leslie Hong.

As an animal lover and musician myself, I wondered whether there was a connection between art (specifically in the music realm) and animals. I wanted to know how pets affect individual artists, and whether love for animals plays any role in bringing bandmates together. Mostly, I just wanted an excuse to talk to people about their fur babies as I hold my own so near and dear to my heart and they are on my mind constantly throughout the day. The last Monday of every month, Pet Politics (named after a Silver Jews song that’s probably not about actual pets) will showcase a different musician and their animal muse.

For my first installment, decided to hit up Leslie Hong, whose bands Haybaby (that’s “Hay” baby, not “hey” baby – so we are talking “hay” as in a horse’s meal) and Granny have made her a staple in the Brooklyn scene. Now she performs solo under the moniker Grandma. Despite her recent departure to Richmond, VA, Leslie continues to gain fans and make waves here in Brooklyn, periodically traveling back to play shows and visit friends. Of course, I am a huge fan of Leslie’s eclectic, dynamic, and catchy tune and know her to be an affectionate pet mom on a personal level. The apartment she once lived in with Haybaby bassist Sam Yield has even been dubbed The Cat Farm.

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Miho, Lucy, and Leslie’s feet in Richmond, VA

NK: How long have you been playing music and how did you start? What was your first instrument?

LH: *Classic Asian parent move* – my parents wanted me to have discipline from the regimented learning of an instrument from an early age and we were privileged enough to afford it because I am the solo fruit of their loins. I started playing piano when I was six and I liked my teacher a lot. She was old and white and soft and she smelled nice. I can’t remember why but I switched to violin when I was eight, then later viola in middle school orchestra when we had ten violinists and no violists. My viola teacher was a sad young woman who looked like she cried a lot and was super distressed by the way I’d clearly never practice so I started hating lessons/listening to The Ramones. Meanwhile a hot media tech in middle school told me and some friends that we should start a band so I wrote my parents a standard five-paragraph essay on why they should allow me to get a drum kit and they found it so convincing that they let me get the cheapest trash drum kit and from then I was done with Suzuki. I taught myself guitar when my dad lost half the index finger on his left hand in a car accident the next year because he had just bought this gorgeous classical acoustic that was just sitting in the closet.

NK: You grew up in Maryland; can you tell me a little about what that was like? What was your earliest exposure to animals?

LH: The part of Maryland I’m from rests on the northwest corner of DC, so it wasn’t rural in any way. Sprawling suburbs and strip malls like most of America, but more densely populated, still close-ish to nature where there were enough streams to catch guppies with your hands and man-made lakes to spot turtles. My parents were Jehovah’s Witnesses and would take me door-to-door with them. When I was three, a bulldog latched onto my heel and would not let go, so I was wary of dogs until I started touring and getting to meet dogs more intimately.

NK: Who was your first family pet?

LH: Pearl, the hermit crab. I had maybe three consecutively named Pearl but they all died in a few months. Turns out hermit crabs need heat and we were keeping them in a drafty basement!

NK: Who was the first pet you cared for on your own?

LH: Pearl, the hermit crab, when I was six. My mom wouldn’t let me have pets unless I took care of them. I also had many hamsters, a couple guinea pigs, and a rabbit over time. 

NK: Do you have a favorite type of animal?

LH: I just recently moved to a new city where I don’t know anyone so I’ve been spending so much time with my cats and they make me feel #blessed every day. Cats are so cool. When you’ve won one’s affection/company, you know you’re worth their time, because they’re mostly fine hanging out on their own.

NK: What was it like moving to Brooklyn from a more rural area?

LH: I moved to Brooklyn from El Paso, Texas and it was a huge change. Super invigorating, everything I had dreamed of. Disgusting, grimy, human. Rats the size of cats. I was mostly just excited to be independent.

NK: How did you meet your current bandmates? How did Haybaby form?

LH: In 2010 (maybe?) I was playing drums in my buddy Zach’s band and Sam came to a show because he had met Zach at another show. There was one song where we switched instruments and I sang like a baby and Sam came up to me after wanting to start a band called Precious Metal where I’d sing like a baby to metal (obvs). It never happened, but eventually the three of us started playing together as Haybaby. Zach left a few years ago to focus on his current band, The Adventures of the Silver Spaceman. After suffering almost a year with an unreformable narcissist/misogynist bro on drums who would be late to practice because he was working out and would aggressively hit on every woman at every show we played (I’m so sorry every lady who came to a show during this time), we axed the guy. Jeremy knew we were looking for a new drummer and asked to play with us and we said yes please because we knew he was so talented but please but don’t be a perv. And true to his word, he hasn’t been.

NK: What has the transition from a Brooklyn resident to a Richmond, VA resident been like? Does everything feel the same or totally different when you come back to play shows?

LH: It hasn’t been easy. I had thought I was ready to move because New York is both exhilarating and intensely draining, but I find that I miss Brooklyn so much. I miss stimulus. I miss bodegas. I miss the music community that I’m lucky enough to be part of. I miss my friends, and running into people I know on the street. But on the flip side, I love the open sky, paying a third of my rent for three times the space, having a studio in my apartment, standing in the river ten minutes from my place checking out fish, and hearing crickets. I also know there’s a strong progressive music and arts scene here, I just need to find it!

I’ve lived in Brooklyn my entire adult life. You have to be a specific kind of crazy to live and want to live in New York and I’d been there and worked in food service long enough to think I had everybody pegged at first glance. One thing I enjoy a lot about New Yorkers is that we’re all some kind of neurotic. You make a joke in a bar about wanting to die/needing a vacation/general depression and everyone’s like ‘hear hear.’ A lot of people I’ve met in Richmond seem pretty normal and well-adjusted and it’s difficult for me to connect because they actually seem happy. Part of me wonders if it’s because they’re not faced with the abrasiveness of others on a daily basis like the cat-callers, man-spreaders, and open racist comments of just getting to work in Brooklyn. Here, that hate is more insidious and it’s been shocking to see all these Confederate flags and Trump stickers and have to check myself from snapping at men when they call me sweetie or darling. It continues to be a culture shock. When I go back to Brooklyn now I’m more acutely aware of the things I liked about it, and I revel in its familiarity.

NK: You are currently a pet owner. Can you introduce your pets? What are their names, ages, temperament, animal kingdom residence, and how did they come to be under your care?

LH: I have two cats, one betta fish, two cory catfish, and two big snails. Miho is the oldest – she is a 12-year-old grey tabby cat with green eyes. I lived in El Paso when I was in high school and this little girl had rescued this tiiiiny kitten from being eaten in Juarez by its cat mom to bring her over the border to my mom. She has always been a princess and snuggle monster but is easily spooked and easily irritated if you pet her wrong and likes to rip cardboard and eat cheese. Lucy, my 8-year-old cross-eyed cream tabby, attacks Miho all the time. She is a bodega kitty who we brought home also as a tiny kitten around Christmas shooting green snot and crusty-faced and is a total badass. She digs in the trash, fights neighborhood kitties, eats pizza crust, and will play attack anything that moves. She also sits on my tummy all the time and it is the greatest. Baby Bo is my betta who I got as a baby from Petco earlier this year when I found out my dad had cancer. His mouth was too small to eat the betta pellets so I painstakingly hatched brine shrimp and pipetted them to him and I found it to be really helpful to have an environment where I am fully god at a time where I felt like I had no control over my life. He seemed bored so I got more tank friends (Mom, Spud, Timmy, Tommy) who are largely personality-less and enjoy dividing their time between frantically searching for food and sleeping on the bottom of the tank.

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Leslie’s fish family.

NK: How are your fur babies adjusting to the new environment?

LH: Lucy hyperventilated and meowed her head off for an hour during the drive down until I gave her some Popeye’s. It was tough at first because she is such a city kitty and seems weirdly scared of open space (though she had no problem terrorizing the cats in our blocked-in backyard in Brooklyn) but now she seems to like hanging around the house. We have a lot of sun and two decks for them to go out on and lots of bugs to catch and it finally seems like they have more space to be largely at peace with each other. They’ve territorially divided out parts of the house but now they sniff each others’ faces sometimes. Miho, though previously a solid scaredy homebody, has been enjoying forays into the yard and flirting with George Lopez, the tom next door.

NK: I recall a heartbreaking Haybaby song [/fusion_builder_column][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][“Edelweiss”] about a certain furry friend you lost a few years back. Would you mind talking about that song and your experience writing it?

LH: I actually think about this song and am periodically embarrassed because it’s so dramatic. I was sitting in my trash backyard in Brooklyn one day (which you can see in the album art of Sleepy Kids) and this comically adorable white rabbit with a fluffy mane hopped up and started sniffing my leg. He would always visit when people were outside and though we brought him in the house during Hurricane Sandy, it was obvious that he was a fully autonomous bunny who didn’t take any crap from anyone. A real Bushwick badass. To me, he became a symbol of New York tough. Then one winter there was an icy sleet that turned into rain and lasted for two days and he never came back. When I started singing the words that eventually became the lyrics they were a placeholder, but it turned out I was able to put a lot of feeling into the words because the song stopped being so much about the death of the rabbit but about the death of a friend you took for granted and realized retrospectively that you could have been better to.

NK: Are there any other songs that you have written that were inspired by animals?

LH: I went through a period in college where I was writing a lot of open chord pop ditties about my cats and fictional dogs because I was flirting with the thought of becoming a writer of childrens’ music. It could still happen one day.

NK: I know you are currently a Cat Mom. Would you consider yourself more of a “cat person” than a “dog person”?

LH: I’ve dogsat a few times and found that I am overwhelmed by the amount of attention they require. It stresses me out when they mope because you’re not petting them enough and it makes me feel inadequate. I feel like I’d make an okay dog mom because my spouse would make an excellent dog dad but overall I think I’d make a way better dog aunt. The entire history of dog breeding/domestication makes me really uncomfortable and sad. That said, I’d really like a smiley Pomerian. Its name would be Paul Meranian.

“Lucy” Lucifer Hong in Richmond, VA

NK: Do you think animal ownership has any bearing on the bond between you and your Haybaby bassist Sam Yield or your former Granny drummer Mattie Siegal, as both are cat parents as well?

LH: 100% totally verifiable facts shows that people who like animals are 100% of the time nicer, more patient, more capable of empathy, and less likely to be homicidal psychopaths. I don’t want to open the can of worms about cat people vs. dog people but in addition to my brief psychoanalysis of people in Richmond vs. people in Brooklyn earlier, I’ll say that people in Richmond tend to have dogs, where people in Brooklyn have cats.

NK: Do you feel that your pets provide you with emotional support?

LH: Absolutely. My cats are my favorite.

NK: How does this translate into your art?

LH: Well my music might be more interesting if I didn’t have cats because I’d probably be a lot more lonely and sad. Sometimes I find it difficult to motivate myself to be productive at home because I would so much rather lay around with them than do anything else.

Leslie lounging with Miho and Lucy at her home in Richmond, VA

PREVIEW: Audiofemme Anniversary Bash w/ Haybaby, Wooing, & Parrot Dream

On Sunday, August 20th, Audiofemme takes over Brooklyn Night Bazaar in honor of our fourth year on the interwebs! Since our inception, part of the blog’s mission has been to showcase not only the writing of female-identified journalists, but also some of Brooklyn’s best emerging bands. One of our favorite ways to do that is to throw a big ol’ party with a killer line-up, and we’re super excited about the three bands playing our anniversary shindig. Read on (and take a listen!) for more info on Haybaby, Wooing, and Parrot Dream below, and if you’re able to make it to Greenpoint on Sunday, be sure to say hi to your hosts. We can’t wait to see you there!

Make sure to arrive early for Parrot Dream, whose delicate tropicalia melds the indie sensibilities of Brooklyn, which they now call home, with their origins in Santiago, Chile. Cristina Appel and Gonzalo Guerrero have been at the group’s core since the release of their debut EP Set Sail Someday, with a rotating cast fleshing out live performances and latest single “Jungle.” They’ve just finished mixing their long-awaited full-length debut, so don’t miss their sneak-preview set.

Though she’s just twenty-three, Rachel Trachtenburg has probably been in way more bands than you. By the time she was six, she was performing in an eponymous family act with her mother and father. Next came Supercute!, an indie pop duo with Julia Cumming (now of Sunflower Bean fame), as well as a brief stint with The Prettiots. But it’s her current project, alt-rock trio Wooing, that has totally, well, wooed us. Their latest EP, Daydream Time Machine, sounds exactly as its title would suggest – it’s a woozy, slightly nostalgic head trip with psychedelic pop flourishes. Check out their set, and you’ll be sure to fall in love, too.

Last November, we swooned over “Yours,” Haybaby‘s scathing send-up of rape culture. Vocalist Leslie Hong deadpans exhausted acquiescence to male entitlement, but an explosion of turbulent grunge rock reveals her true rage against being seen as an object. As a stand-alone single, “Yours” bodes well for the impending full-length follow-up to Haybaby’s 2015 debut Sleepy Kids, though no official date has been set for the album’s release. Suffice to say there will be plenty of new scorchers alongside fan favorites during the band’s headlining set.

Audiofemme’s Anniversary Showcase starts at 8pm and will be 10$ at the door, but you can snag tickets here just in case.

NEWS ROUNDUP: Beyonce, Angel Olsen, and Anohni


  • Beyonce Teams Up With The Dixie Chicks

    The country group and pop star performed “Daddy Lessons” at the Country Music Awards with a full band in an impressive performance, but one that didn’t come without controversy: The CMA was accused of removing any mentions of the performance from its social media, some racist country fans left a bunch of unsavory comments regarding Beyonce’s anti-police associations from Lemonade, and people are still mad at the Dixie Chicks for insulting George Bush in 2003. Whatever, guys.

  • Anohni’s “Hopelessness” Gets Visuals

    “How did I become a virus?” The surreal video, which accompanies the title track of Ahnohni’s May 2016 album,  features a businesswoman walking through dream-like scenes where she confronts her connection to and impact on nature. Eventually, she retreats to the safety of technology.

  • Angel Olsen Performed With The Raincoats

    Clad in matching striped shirts, this collaboration celebrated Rough Trade’s 40th anniversary at Islington Assembly Hall in London. Check out their performance of “High And Wild.”

  • Haybaby Release Video For “Yours”

    Released yesterday via Tiny Engines, the video is an unsettling up-close shot of singer Leslie Hong as she struggles to find her own space in a room full of strangers, flinching at their touch. The song itself is blistering and raw, a must-listen. Check it out on Bandcamp, where you can name your price for the single.

AudioFemme’s Guide To Northside Festival 2016


It’s that time of year again- Northside Festival is back in Brooklyn, and while you’ve probably heard about high profile artists like Conor Oberst and Brian Wilson playing in McCarren park, or Deradoorian covering Black Sabbath at Rough Trade, here’s ten other shows you shouldn’t miss.


  • Cloud Becomes Your Hand @ AVIV

    Cloud Becomes Your Hand makes slightly weird, unapologetically different music that sounds like it came from a different world. Or, if you go by the band’s own description, “a renaissance faire acid trip underwater in grandma’s winnebago.” Stream their latest release, Rest In Fleas, here.

  • Very Fresh @ Bar Matchless

    Cindy Lou Gooden fronts the Brooklyn band Very Fresh, which plays 90’s inspired alternative rock. It’s a little reminiscent of Speedy Ortiz, but with a lo-fi twist.


  • Yonatan Gat @ Baby’s All Right

    This amazing guitarist brings the energy of punk rock to improvisational music, creating a seamless blend of genres and moods that vary from jazzy to psychedelic within seconds. Check out Director here.

  • PWR BTTM @ The Lyft Stage (Williamsburg Walks, 4pm)

    This free event takes place on Bedford Avenue and N. 5th Street and on Saturday will feature acts Petal, Benny Sings, Pity Sex- and of course PWR BTTM, who needs no introduction; their glittery reputation precedes them wherever they go.

  • Yowler – National Sawdust

    From Ohio, Yowler creates pop music that recalls the hazy aftermath of a dream you can’t quite remember- meaning, it’s really pretty, ok? Catch them at the stunning new venue National Sawdust.


  • Haybaby @ Aviv (3pm)

    Sometimes the only way to talk about a band is to quote directly from their bio: “Haybaby is a band of total babes that play honey-ass heartbreak crooning sometimes screamy sludgy pop & slop rock that will make you have some feelings.” If that’s not enough, check out “Joke/Rope.”

  • Bambara @ Palisades

    This Brooklyn rock band plays tunes that are dark and sinister, yet somehow irresistible as well. Catch them at Palisades before they leave for a mini tour of the Northeast.