Cover Bands and Hiatuses: An Interview with Spiral Crush

Brothers Shaun and Scott Smail have had their fair share of joined musical endeavors, dating back to high school. With Scott on drums and Shaun on guitar, they’ve offered a sibling-duo package that have been featured in multiple Michigan-based bands. It’s their original band, Spiral Crush, that they keep coming back to, however.

The brothers originally started out as a cover band. As that grew into writing original content, it faded rather quickly as members went off to college, started jobs, etc. When they decided to reform, Spiral Crush was born. They wrote their own songs, recorded an album and made connections along the way. “We were proud of these songs; it was the first time we wrote songs where we didn’t hate them,” Shaun said.

Some of those connections that they made included Andy Patalan, who produced their first album. At the time, Patalan was a founding member of indie band Solid Frog. When they disbanded and formed Throttlebody, he and guitarist Kyle Neely recruited the brothers to join. This became the first hiatus for the Spiral Crush.

When Patalan and Neely left to play with rock band Sponge a few years later, the Smails were ready to take their knowledge from their years with Throttlebody and bring Spiral Crush out of hiatus. Their second album, Nothing to Lose, gave them the opportunity to promote the band by playing local shows for national acts and make music industry connections. In the process of doing that and trying to come up with money to promote their next album, they began playing more and more cover shows. “As time went on, I think we just wore ourselves out trying to ‘make it’ as an original band,” Shaun said. “We got burned out. We slowed down from playing completely but got tired of not playing so we slowly started booking cover shows to make extra money.”

Without really talking about it or planning it, Spiral Crush kept booking cover shows to the point where they put off writing new material and creating their next album. After almost three years, Scott was the first one to break. What started off as making extra money to record their next album because an almost-permanent routine. Once everyone was in agreement, it was back to original music and a third album: Electric Life, which was released earlier this year.

It took a few years for the band to realize that they had veered off the path of their long-term goals. Although they appreciated the popularity and paychecks that came with being a cover band, it was their own material that they found much more enjoyable.

Shaun’s advice to cover bands that may not want to get stuck in the cover band genre? “Make sure all the band members are on the same page,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with cover bands, it just wasn’t our goal or intention when we started. The thing for us was to accept the fact that it’s really hard to become successful as an original band. There are so many successful cover bands who make this a hobby or a full-time career, but if that’s not your intention as it wasn’t ours, then making sure everyone is on the same page is the most important.”