Ian Cruz openly shares past internal struggles and releases lingering frustrations on Easy Beach’s mighty self-titled debut album.
The frontman for the Detroit emo/punk-rock trio chronicles the challenges of working a tough job, preserving a relationship, and tackling guilt and self-doubt across nine raw tracks.
“Using the band as an escape or some form of therapy, I wrote a lot about what I was dealing with. But truthfully, I think it’s the only way I can write—being sad,” Cruz said.
“I can’t be creative when I’m happy. It kinda bums me out because all of our peers write these poppy, catchy tunes, and I write songs that might make people depressed. I wish I could write a catchy song.”
Despite Cruz’s reservations, Easy Beach indeed writes “catchy” tunes—ones that instantly grasp listeners’ hurtling emotions and translate their discouraging realities into cathartic tales of life, love and growth.
Cruz’s fierce vocals and crunchy electric guitars and Laginess’ fearless bass repeatedly elicit that response alongside Sean Tarolli’s thunderous drums. (Bassist Dave Laginess joined the band midway through the album’s recording process.)
While only 24 minutes long, Easy Beach packs a memorable punch with its emotionally charged lyrics and propulsive instrumentation. Released via We’re Trying Records, the album is an efficient, intense therapy session for anyone who needs immediate relief.
“I was talking to Sean and Dave yesterday about this, and even though we’re finally putting the record out, I think we’re all a little jaded. For Sean and me, we’ve been playing these songs since we announced the record two years ago,” Cruz said.
“I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve played ‘Selena Gomez’ or how many times we’ve recorded different versions of the album. It’s nice to get this thing out, but we’re definitely ready to get working on the next one.”
To learn more about Easy Beach’s creative journey, I recently spoke with Cruz about writing and recording the band’s debut album, exploring the album’s highly personal tracks, playing shows this summer and working on new material.
Writing and Recording Easy Beach
Q: How long did you spend writing and recording the nine tracks for your self-titled debut album? At what point did you and Sean [Tarolli] start recording those tracks with Patrick Sheufelt at I/O Detroit?
A: I wrote “Blurry” before starting the band, and I wrote “Sleep” before Sean joined the band. “Sleep” was written for my first drummer, Jay [Manders]. He was a hardcore kinda dude, and I wanted to write something he might like. “Catbath” had been around for a while, but didn’t click until Sean became a Beach boy.
“Selena Gomez” was the first song Sean, [former bassist] Bradley [Stone] and I hashed out together. Everything else kinda came quickly after that. By our third show, we were playing most of the songs that appear on the record. I think “Elliott Spliff” was the last one written, and we were playing it live this past summer.
We finished a small run of shows and had saved enough money to buy a set of microphones and a mixer. With these new tools, we started testing recording techniques, and I accumulated a few different drum tracks for each song. I started going through everything, adding guitars and bass parts and a few vocal parts, too.
Pat [Sheufelt] and I had talked about recording something together previously, so I sent him the stems for “Dual Jewel.” He sent back a finished master, and I was pretty psyched with what I heard. At this point, Sean and I weren’t sure we were going to keep doing the band, but we had these songs that needed to come out one way or another.
We got to work recording everything ourselves, and I would go to Pat’s with tracks to mix. We’d hang out in his basement studio and work until midnight. We tried our best with what we had to make the album sound as close to what we wanted it to sound like.
Q: What was it like to collaborate with Seaholm’s Pat Ray on “Selena Gomez?” How did Pat help take the album’s sound to the next level?
A: I’ve always wanted to get a feature on “Selena Gomez” to make it different than the version that has been out for two years. Pat Ray from Seaholm is a homie and was kind enough to lend his voice to the chorus. We’ve always looked up to the Seaholmies and what they were doing to stand out. They came out with us on our first tour and really made that run special.
Exploring Easy Beach’s Tracks
Q: You’ve included two instrumentals, “Demons” and “Coffee Break,” on the album. Why did you decide to include those two tracks? How do they help set the tone for the album?
A: “Demons” is actually an intro to “Catbath,” and we had a lot of talks about making that the first song on the album. Some people didn’t think it would be a good idea. It became its own song because I didn’t want to make people sit through a minute-and-a-half of an instrumental before the vocals kick in on “Catbath.” The original title is “Ian’s Demons,” and I wish we would have stuck with that name. It totally sets the tone for what the album is.
“Coffee Break” was written because one of my favorite albums of all time, Wavves x Cloud Nothings and [especially the track] “No Life for Me,” is filled with interlude tracks, and I wanted to do something like that. Sean has a side project called Swiss Rips, and we wanted to do something similar to the vibe he’s doing with that. The voicemail you hear on this track is a throwback to our first band, too. We used the voicemail on one of the old songs, and I thought it would be fun to bring it back for this record. It was just too weird to let it die with our old band.
Q: “Catbath” explores the experiences of being in a band and reevaluating your expectations of others. How did your past musical experiences inspire this track?
A: “Catbath” is the oldest song for the Beach. The chord progression was from a song called “Pre-Game Warm-Ups” by Penpals with the President, which Sean and I started in 2009. It never had lyrics and was about a minute long. When twinkly guitar riffs really started getting popular years later, I took “Pre-Game” and rewrote it.
When we were kids playing in Penpals, bands like Snowing and Algernon Cadwallader were fairly new. What they were doing musically seemed impossible to me at the time, and though it still seems impossible, I wanted to emulate what they were doing. Nowadays, the Midwest emo sound is everywhere. I haven’t heard a new band do it better than Alergnon or Snowing. I get bummed because sometimes it feels like we have to write those kinds of songs to get popular.
“Catbath” is a direct response to that thinking. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that it doesn’t matter if you’re following trends. Just write good songs: “Something everything / Always something.”
Q: “Elliott Spliff” highlights the physical and emotional challenges of being away from home and trying to balance chasing your dreams with caring for your family. How did writing this track provide you with new insights about your life?
A: I started writing this one before Bradley [Stone] left the band, but I didn’t know what it was about until after our first tour with Seaholm. I had a blast hanging out with my buds, playing music in new cities and making friends with so many awesome people.
The whole time, I was completely in my head worrying that I was being a selfish piece of shit because my partner was back at home with our newborn son. There were a lot of arguments during that time, and I had to really keep myself in check and not let the band become my entire personality.
Obviously, “Elliott Spliff” is a play on Elliott Smith, but I guess he’s an image of someone I saw myself becoming. A loser who takes themselves way too seriously. It eventually led to a breakup within the band, but thankfully it worked out.
Q: “Dual Jewel” addresses the grief that comes from losing a friend to addiction. How did writing this track help you process that grief?
A: I was a drug addict in my early 20s and have been off the hard stuff for nearly a decade. When I was going through sobriety, I watched the people closest to me continue to spiral out: my best friends and my mom. It was really difficult to be present while they wasted away, and every time they said they were going to get sober; they’d fall back down.
You can’t help an addict unless they want it themselves, and this song is my way of telling them that. I doubt those people have ever listened to this song, and I don’t really care if they do. It’s not for them; it was for me.
Playing Live Shows
Q: You just finished a Midwest run of shows and will play Pug Fest on July 8 at The Crofoot in Pontiac. What can audiences expect from your upcoming Pug Fest set? What other live shows do you have planned for this summer?
A: Last year, Pug Fest was called DIY Burning Man. When we played there about 200 people packed into the Pike Room and the experience was amazing. I blew into a saxophone on the outro to “Catbath” and wore shorts for the first time in public. Maybe I’ll do the same thing this year. I just hope people are as stoked to see us.
The remainder of the summer sees us playing with some new friends, including Kerosene Heights, Mt Worry, OK Cool and all the other bands at Pug Fest. I think we’re going to try to do one more tour before the year ends though.
Q: How has 2023 been so far? What’s been inspiring you lately?
A: Honestly, 2023 is shaping up to be one of the best years I can remember. Besides the band releasing the album and playing some killer live shows, I’ve been watching my son grow up, and I started working again. I think the last time we spoke I hadn’t become a dad yet, but it’s been amazing so far. Most of 2022 was spent being a stay-at-home dad, using my free time to book shows with The Pleasant Underground and running the door at The Loving Touch. I think it’s all been inspiring! Working in the music industry has really ignited a flame inside me.
Q: What’s up next for you and the band? Any plans to write new material or go back into the studio?
A: For now, we want to play some shows because we took eight months off from doing anything so we could finish the record. We have several ideas for new songs, and Dave [Laginess] just joined the band, and he has some songs, too. I’m actually excited to focus on playing guitar and letting someone else do the singing. We’ve been kicking around this idea for an EP for a while, and with all the recording equipment we bought, we hope to have something new out by winter.