One of the most enduring acts of the entire Darkwave subculture is the Florida based group The Crüxshadows. Originally formed in 1992, The Crüxshadows have consistently delivered their positive message through the portal of synth pop hooks and dark electronics to a massive international fan base of followers. From their self-released debut, the 1993 album Night Crawls In, right through to the present, The Crüxshadows have formulated their success out of old fashioned hard work. They have logged an impressive one thousand plus performances in over thirty countries via their many marathon-like tours.
With the release of the seminal Telemetry of a Fallen Angel (existing in a few incarnations prior to Dancing Ferret Discs’ version in 1997), The Crüxshadows enjoyed their first defining moment courtesy of the infinitely catchy dance floor anthem “Marilyn My Bitterness.” With additional strong releases including The Mystery of the Whisper (1999), Until the Voices Fade (1999) and Paradox Addendum (2000) backed by lengthy tours, The Crüxshadows were able to build a legion of diversified fans consisting of everything from jarheads to gamers to anime & role playing enthusiasts.
While the lineup has indeed changed over the years, one constant has remained the same; Rogue, the vocalist, leader and mastermind of The Crüxshadows has directed his troupe towards an unconventional and lofty goal. “I want to change the world with music, I want people to find hope within themselves. I want them to know that anything is possible if you believe and follow through. I think that music has the power to inspire and move people to do amazing things” he muses. He is not alone in his belief. Their fans seem to believe it too. The bands motto “live love be believe” is everywhere, and many of their supporters will tell you that the lyrics have changed their lives in some way. This isn’t exactly typical for a band most often identified as gothic or dark-wave. The Crüxshadows are not concerned. “Goth isn’t about being a stereotype” the front-man complains, “its about being who you want to be… about not running from yourself or your emotions.” The charismatic singer/songwriter/producer understands an audience and tends to deliver his dramatic croon right in their laps. Nothing they do is exactly new, but how they do it is completely unique. The lyrics are deep and meaningful, the stage show is dynamic and entertaining, and the music is hooky and inspired by pop. But pop it is not. It is a hybrid music that exists in a place just left of everyday, and just right of never-ever.
The band has maintained a surprising consistency despite the personnel turnovers that have plagued it in recent years. Jessica Lackey, a singer/dancer who married Rogue in 2007, and keyboardist Jen Jawidzik, who was once Rogue and Jessica’s roommate, have stuck with it for the better part of the last decade. “When we have to find someone new, I feel like sometimes they don’t understand all the hard work that was necessary for us to get to that point” Jessica states flatly, “It is not difficult to under-appreciate everything the band has accomplished, so people move on because they have not invested the same energy into the project.” While the shows and the music continues to get better, that magically ‘permanent’ combination of personalities has continued to elude them. The band has had a difficult time keeping guitar players and dancers in particular, but has seen turnover in almost every position. These days Crüxshadows has Rogue backed by a mostly female band of new wave latex clad gypsies, and boasts an original mix of violins, dancers, guitars, and electronics.Tight and well-practiced, the seven performers interact on stage with clockwork like precision. The audience is captivated. Some of them scream. Some of them sing along. A few others stare at the stage dumbfounded.
Although The Crüxshadows maintain a strong fan base in their native United States, their most perceptible success seems to be focused in Europe. It is not uncommon for the band to share stages with the likes of Ladytron, Prodigy, The Cure, or even Bjork. The 2002 Tears EP topped the Deutsche Alternative Charts for months, a practice that has continued with all subsequent releases soaring to the DAC’s Top 10. “I don’t think we’re actually more popular there (In Europe)” says Rogue, “It just seems like there is more access to our fans. What we do has more acceptance by the powers that be. In America it feels like all of our victories are covered up or are unacknowledged by the media.” 2002 also saw the release of their fifth full-length album Wishfire; a fan favorite that featured the Euro hit “Tears” and a number of other dark dance mainstays. Similarly the follow-up album Ethernaut (released in 2003) brought the band what has become one of its most notable tracks, the European club anthem entitled “Winterborn (This Sacrifice).”
Remixes and special versions of songs have kept there fans satiated when no new traditional album lay on the horizon. In 2004 Fortress In Flames was released featuring a cover by the popular American artist Chad Michael Ward. There The Crüxshadows’ material was remixed by peers like the Dutch legends Clan of Xymox and German industrial giants In Strict Confidence. Each year has seen some new disc from the band, and they come in a variety of formats. The year 2005 witnessed the release of their first DVD Shadowbox. The DVD is highlighted by a 2004 performance before a rabid crowd of 15,000 at the Wave-Gotik-Treffen in Leipzig Germany, where the ‘call and response’ raw energy the band delves out is served right back by an adoring audience.
In 2006 the band would seem to breakaway from their underground moniker. The addictive single “Sophia” impressively debuted on the Billboard Hot Dance Singles Sales Charts in September at position #1, replacing Beyoncé in the top spot while landing #7 on the Hot 100 Singles Sales Chart. “We couldn’t believe it, doors began to open. It was as if we couldn’t be ignored anymore, after a decade and a half we seemed to be getting some respect. The local news in Florida even put us on the nightly news to get our take on the whole thing”, the frontman recalls. The following year was pivotal for The Crüxshadows; in May the band successfully toured China performing at the Midi Open-Air Festival in Beijing, in the presence of many thousands of new fans. Later that year the band released the highly anticipated Dreamcypher album that contained yet another Billboard #1 Dance Single with the song “Birthday.” This time the band climbed into the #2 spot on the Hot 100 Singles Sales Chart. With Dreamcypher, The Crüxshadows melded their fondness for 1980s Synth Pop/New Romantic sounds with modern Euro dance nuances into perfection. Dreamcypher joins the aforementioned shimmering “Sophia” and “Birthday” with the guitar fronted “Defender” and the majestic sounding “Eye of the Storm.” The infectious disc would become The Crüxshadows’ best selling album to date both in the United States and abroad.
The following year witnessed another single marching up the Billboard charts. “Immortal” continued the bands musical string of hits, despite the loss of violinist Rachel McDonnell. David Wood and JoHanna Moresco stepped in as an electric violining duo who not only safe-guarded the signature instrument of the band, but expanded it by way of rich layering and counterpoint melodies impossible in previous years. 2008 also saw the collapse of the band’s label Dancing Ferret Discs, which undermined their ability to release a new full length album.
While The Crüxshadows spent most of 2009 touring in Europe, the band still managed to release yet another successful Billboard charting single in America. “Quicksilver” debuted just in time for their annual appearance at Atlanta’s famed Dragon*Con Convention before an impressive capacity crowd of several thousand of their most loyal fans. “I think the new single, and really the most recent releases in general, are our most polished and well written work” says Rogue, “but there are still those in the scene, and in the business in general, that just think the whole thing is just dumb luck.” Seemingly too pop for many critics and too underground for the industry, the band has apparently found the perfect balance for the people who matter the most to them; their fans.
The Crüxshadows have played by their own rules, and who is to say in a world of declining sales and illegal internet downloads that they haven’t gotten the balance right. Time will tell. For now, The Crüxshadows continue to defy as well as define the odds, and their dark yet positive machine continues to roll.