The San Jose, California indie rock-reggae quartet of Clev Stiles (lead vocals, electric guitar), Ben Dimmit (lead guitar, backing vocals), Shane Billings (drums) and Chris Reed (bass, keys, backing vocals) fervently abandons prolonged stress for instant bliss on their latest all-weather single.
“I was dealing with a major life impact when I was working on ‘Another Night.’ I felt stressed, anxious and uneasy not knowing what came next,” Stiles said. “I wanted the song to have the reverse effect … a sort of mood booster or escape to forget about [what] I was dealing with.”
Rolling waves of electric guitar, bass, keys and drums refresh Stiles as he sings, “We talk about / Running around all day / Swore to your father / Now I’m standing in the light / You know I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
“[It’s] an attempt to overturn any negative feelings of worry and stress to bring energy and happiness … an uplifting, feel-good summer song,” Stiles said.
“It’s sort of hard to not instantly get in a good mood after listening to it. The actual story is about me spending time with my girl in the city on the beach just escaping the stress and letting that love and company soak away the anxiety.”
Kruel Summer also escapes worries on the forthright breakup anthem, “Just Too Broken,” which dropped in May.
Soothing electric guitar and tranquil bass release the emotional floodgates as Stiles sings, “And if I didn’t know better I would love you / Be stitched up together like you want to / But that’s a little surreal to deal / I’m better off living off what I feel.”
“I feel like everyone in one time or another has felt ‘Just Too Broken.’ You’re just tired, exhausted and drained in trying to keep a relationship, connection or anything going … that feeling like you’re putting more effort into it than a significant other,” Stiles said.
“But it doesn’t necessarily need to be about a person or a relationship. It could be about anything you’re struggling with – a job, a habit or a personal roadblock. It’s that sense of giving up and trying to keep something going when it’s simply not working.”
Before the release of their latest singles, Kruel Summer faced the mounting challenges of pandemic life on their thoughtful 2021 album, Cuffin’ Season.
Its nine infectious tracks explore Stiles’ reflections on personal growth and the passage of time alongside reggae-inspired sensibilities and sunny pop instrumentation.
“I had a lot of time on my hands like most people, so I figured why not write a record during the time,” said Stiles, who penned the album’s tracks during summer 2020.
“Being locked down sucked … I missed family and friends and things I loved to do, and more importantly, playing shows. I felt trapped, stuck, ‘cuffed up’ even. That ‘cuffed’ up feeling was the worst for me.”
Cuffin’ Season also explores the casual relationships some people start during the fall and winter and the unexpected continuation of those “hook-ups” once COVID hit.
“‘Cuffin’ season’ usually begins in October and lasts until just after Valentine’s Day,” Stiles said. “It’s a temporary hook-up in which you hibernate with someone specific during the off-season and do shit like ‘Netflix and chill.’ When COVID hit, it felt like everyone was on some sort of extended ‘cuffin’ season.’”
One of the album’s most earwormy tracks, “Push Comes to Shove,” features a stellar collaboration with Colorado reggae artist Weege. It spotlights the lingering uncertainties in a turbulent relationship and uncovers the increasing importance of rectifying past mistakes.
Glistening keys and thumping drums surround Stiles as he sings, “So how we gonna get by it / You and I both know / It’s too late for you to keep quiet / Too late for me to go / I tried reading your mind / And I made it worse darling / You tried speaking your mind / But something still hurts.”
“Collaborating with Weege was amazing. He is one of my best friends, and we were next-door neighbors for years,” Stiles said.
“We had previously collaborated on our first album, Dayfading, for a track called ‘Light It Up.’ I am going to try and make sure we have Weege on every album release if possible. He’s family and so damn talented.”
The Boys of Kruel Summer
Stiles, Dimmit and Billings pooled their respective musical talents to form Kruel Summer in 2019. At the time, the band envisioned an upbeat, adventurous sound that captures the essence of summer all year long. The addition of Reed in 2021 further solidified that creative vision.
“Ben [Dimmit’s] buttery smooth guitar fits well over the basslines and under lead vocals. Chris [Reed’s] backup vocals and harmonizations tighten up choruses,” Billings said.
“My background in playing rock and hip-hop music fits well with the band’s multi-genre sound. Clev [Stiles’] songwriting abilities bring out the best in each member of the band, not to mention his stage presence.”
As the band’s newest member, Reed relishes playing bass after previously focusing on guitar and ukulele in the reggae-fusion band Sunny State.
“I’d never played bass before, but thought it would be a fun challenge,” he said. “I started jamming my brother’s upside-down, right-handed bass with Kruel Summer in October of 2021, added some keys and began singing backup.”
Reed and his Kruel Summer bandmates will share their catchy sound and growing catalog with live audiences on Sept. 30 at Murphy’s Irish Pub in Murphys, California and Oct. 1 at Drifters Marina & Grill in Copperopolis, California.
“We have a two-hour set planned. We played Murphy’s a few months back, and it was a blast,” Dimmit said. “We do have plans to perform new material … the newer track, ‘Just Too Broken,’ and if we can dial in ‘Another Night,’ then we’ll rock that, too.”
Outside of live shows, the band will release two to three new singles before dropping a new full-length album tentatively titled Kruel Intentions.
“We are halfway through the third album and just have a few more [tracks] to record,” Stiles said. “I am targeting to have everything done and released by June 2024.”
Friday, Sept. 30 | Doors 7 p.m. PT
Murphy’s Irish Pub, 415 Main St. in Murphys, California
Saturday, Oct. 1 | Doors 5 p.m. PT
Drifters Marina & Grill, 6603 Lake Tulloch Place in Copperoplis, California