Before he started calling himself Frankie Sunswept, Franklin Hoier and his wife Moselle Spiller appeared unassuming enough to be your next-door neighbors. Just another married couple ready to share their eclectic record collection over a fondue dinner.
The inauspicious start to their lives took place on opposite sides of the country. Perhaps destined to be drawn together like a metal to a magnet, though, they eventually formed Crushed Out, a dashing duo (Sunswept, left, and Spiller) with the tools to transport you to another time, another place.
How is that possible? Crushed Out's original surf punk-folk-grunge rock songs are homemade, hardscrabble twists on experiencing the American dream, whether that involves doing the frug during a Beach Blanket Bingo bonfire party on the West Coast or slam dancing your guts out inside New York's CBGB.
Sunswept is a self-taught guitarist born and raised in Los Angeles who moved to New York City in 2004 before he met his future wife in 2009 in a Bushwick, Brooklyn apartment building. Spiller is a visual and graphic designer who grew up in New Hampshire, was influenced by her artistic lineage, attended Parsons School of Design in NYC and quickly learned how to play drums. Not long after that initial get-together, they were playing rock 'n' roll and making an EP (2010's Show Pony).
Just like any typically ambitious millennial couple hoping to make an honest living and a few records -- including 2012's Want to Give and 2014's Teeth -- in the most creative way possible. Or is there more to their extraordinary story?
Could they be ... aliens?
Mull over that question while watching the video of Crushed Out's "Rolling in the Moonshine" that premieres exclusively today (Dec. 8) at The Huffington Post. Then learn more about the hopes and dreams of the talented twosome in a quick email interview in which they discuss the dreamy song and the video that's simultaneously cool, kitschy, groovy and full of freaky fun.
"Rolling in the Moonshine" is one of 10 tunes from Alien Ocean, a swingingly superb full-length album -- one of my favorites of the year -- that was released on Sept. 30 via Cool Clear Water Records, Crushed Out's own indie imprint.
"I really personally enjoy the lyric, 'I know they will never understand.' That is a perspective that has taken me years to arrive to," Sunswept said when asked how the words from "Rolling in the Moonshine" serve Crushed Out's approach to life. "The song is concerning our experiences and feelings as independent artists crossing these giant divides, living on the road, and sharing our art. These epic lonesome spaces between us and the next show, state, coast, experience, connection.
"Over these years of touring and searching, our relationship has been strengthened by these crazy experiences that only her and I truly know about. 'Rolling in the Moonshine' is going with your own flow as rebellion. To just let go of expectations and go your own way. Kind of an alien surf R&B / Bonnie and Clyde / Thelma & Louise vibe. A new groove for us that was very enjoyable to flesh out."
The DIY aspect of everything they do, from writing, playing and singing their own songs, producing and recording (Sunswept) and creating artwork (Spiller) for the album to self-production of the videos that includes styling and designing costumes is an artistic expression that seems otherworldly, particularly when it's done so well. Sunswept not only is the lead vocalist on the album, but in addition to guitars, he also plays bass, organ, synth, lap steel and keyboards.
The fact that they plan to make -- on their own -- videos for all 10 of Alien Ocean's songs -- and are halfway there -- while touring the country throughout the fall is an incredible accomplishment for two inventive folks who also run a small kombucha company and recording studio in New Hampshire, where they currently reside.
"We are not in the video making business; we focus first on writing songs and performing them," said Spiller, who will work night-and-day for about a week making a costume before the couple spend an afternoon shooting on location, then edit in their spare time. "Video making is an extension of sharing our personal vision and world to go along with our songs. ... Music making is our passion first, so we pour the majority of our time and resources into it. We take up to a year to write and record a full album, whereas a video can be done in under a month."
In the future, Crushed Out promise a sequel to the video that premiered today and ends with "To Be Continued." But don't be frightened for Sunswept and Spiller, who "will immediately begin writing new songs this month" and make a few more videos before embarking on a European tour in 2017 while trying to squeeze in a few U.S. dates and discovering music from other artists to release on their Cool Clear Water Records label.
"Alien Ocean is more a state of mind," Spiller said. "We use aliens as a metaphor for emotions and feelings of alienation or just being different. Our aliens are very loving. They don't really have any intentions other than to be rad and inspire others to live true to themselves."
Added Sunswept: "The Alien Ocean is to look upon something that was always so familiar, suddenly seeing an entirely new perspective. It's exciting and scary but you are looking around and nothing seems the same. So you embrace this new perspective and cherish and celebrate your fellow aliens."
Isn't that what all extraterrestrials would have you believe?
More with Crushed Out's Frankie Sunswept and Moselle Spiller
What is each of your musical backgrounds? When did you begin playing and how much training did you have?
Frankie Sunswept: "I learned to play guitar by ear from playing along with punk rock and classic rock records. Led Zeppelin, Minor Threat, Misfits, Nirvana, and eventually Beatles. The Beatles sparked my interest to sing more and eventually write songs, which led to a deep interest in folk music, blues, and early rock 'n' roll. Moselle has picked up the drums very quickly, all from us playing and writing together. We are maybe a bit more like artists that play music rather than trained musicians; I consider our music folk music in many aspects."
What made you decide to start Crushed Out and were you married before or after you became a musical duo? How has the personal partnership affected the professional partnership?
Frankie Sunswept: "We were a couple first. Discovering that we could play together felt like this incredible gift we were given out of nowhere. That is why our music can sound so manic and joyous at times. The duo is interesting because I feel like it's the direct collision of two energies, whereas a band can seem like a loop of energy being exchanged. The two-piece is exciting in that way, and us being so close we have a unique communication."
The drummer/guitarist combination is an interesting dynamic and other duos have had varying levels of success with it. How do you feel that dynamic has worked for you? What thoughts have you had about adding other bandmates, either full time or as touring members?
Frankie Sunswept: "In all honesty, I think that being a duo has been more difficult for us than a help. We were compared heavily to the White Stripes and even Black Keys in our early years. Sometimes I wonder if that caused people to quickly write us off. The main thing holding us back from expanding the band is financial. We can tour and release our own records if we keep costs down. I'd like to have standup bass, saxophone, and lap/pedal steel in our touring band. We never chose to be a duo, we worked with what was possible to make our music and move forward. In the future, I will be looking to expand our touring band for the first time, which is very exciting."
By the way, where did you find the alien outfits for the video? And will the story really be continued? (SPOILER ALERT)
Moselle Spiller: "The alien outfits are handmade by me using papier mache, spandex, rubber, and glitter. The story will indeed be continued. The final shot where we find the message in a bottle is from footage we shot about a year ago for another video yet to be edited. From our ideas going right now, it's looking like the characters of Frankie and I will attempt to cross the Alien Ocean to save the aliens."
Publicity photo courtesy of the band.