Pill Crusher: Calgary’s own unapologetic ‘sludge pop’ band  

Story and photos by Aron Diaz

Formed in May 2015, Calgary’s Pill Crusher consists of lead singer/guitarist Mike Elliott, bassist Tyler Burton, and drummer Nick Baldock. Since their inception, Pill Crusher has had a constant live presence in the Calgary local scene, as well as surrounding cities such as Edmonton and Lethbridge.  

The band released their first EP, called Space Brainz, in the same year, followed by their full-length record, Cosmonauts, in 2017. Following these releases, in  July 2019, the group will release a split EP simply titled Splits with the Calgary local band GEOFF.

Raw, unapologetic, and completely genuine; listening to the distortion-filled songs of this “sludge pop” band is like a breath of fresh air. Pill Crusher’s sound reminded me so much of the 80’s and 90’s punk/grunge bands and a little bit more. 

“It’s like when you take a vacuum cleaner and drown it in a pool,” as the band describes it. 

The same thing can be said about their live performance, as a brash, off-the-wall sound will echo from the amplifiers. Their stage presence, graceless yet polished at the same time, is so inviting to anyone who has a fondness for loud music.

It’s hard to put them into one specific category or genre, though I believe they were never meant to be. They cited Dead Soft, Happy Diving, and Dinosaur Jr. as some of the band’s major influences. 

“We’ve taken notes from that kind of music. It’s blown out and grungy but still has that punk edge to it!”

With the exception of punk rock, each member’s musical preferences are so different from each other that they all bring a specific role to the band’s signature sound. 

“We’re all madly off in all directions with musical taste. We’re not just one thing,” Mike explains. 

Nick grew up listening to punk and metal and was heavily inspired by Travis Barker. Nowadays, he practically listens to anything and everything and it influences how he plays. There was even a time not too long ago that he listened to Toto’s “Africa” non-stop. 

“I can’t listen to music without focusing in on the drums and picking apart the song,” he says. 

“He’s a creator. That’s what Nick does. For work and for fun!” Mike shares.

Mike and Tyler, on the other hand, are on the same wavelength musically, with both being heavily into bands like Dinosaur Jr. and Jawbreaker.

Formerly called Spacebrainz, the band got their current name from looking through a Sears catalogue and reading about the pill crushers used for crushing medication – not usually the first thought that comes to mind for some.  

“People might think that we use drugs or something. We don’t!” 

They made Pill Crusher a name for this one “gross, visceral and grungy” song that they thought would be a perfect fit for it. After listening to it on Spotify, I can clearly see why; the song was such a trippy experience – albeit a very good one. I felt like I was experiencing vertigo. Ultimately, they decided to adapt the Pill Crusher name for their band and used their former name for the first EP.

The band formed in 2015 as a side project as each of the members had respective bands of their own. They wrote and recorded a bunch of songs, enough to release an EP, and it just snowballed from there. 

“We ended up playing a lot of shows,” says Mike. “People were responsive to what we were doing.”

Pill Crusher performed at this year’s Sled Island and will also be releasing new music soon!

After Sled Island, Pill Crusher has a couple of release shows for their split tape with the band GEOFF on the July 26 at The Palomino in Calgary and July 27 at The Smokehouse in Lethbridge.

They are also planning shows in BC, creating more material and hope to play more and more shows. I urge the local music aficionados to catch them whenever they’re at the Palomino or Tubby Dog and experience Pill Crusher’s off the rails live performance!

You can find Pill Crusher’s music on bandcamp and stay up to date with their upcoming shows and releases through their Facebook and Instagram