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Puma Blue is the alias of producer, songwriter & vocalist, Jacob Allen. Since the release of debut EP Swum Baby in 2017, he’s quietly amassed a global cult-following, counting artists including BTS, The Marias and Charlotte Day Wilson as fans and picking up support from media heavyweights The Guardian, Dazed, i-D and the Fader and DJ’s at BBC Radio 1, 1Xtra, 6Music and KCRW along the way. He has sold out headline performances in Los Angeles, New York, London, Paris, Seoul and Tokyo as well as producing and co-writing for artists including Biig Piig and Lava La Rue. His debut album In Praise of Shadows, described by NME as “a brief moment of relief for those lost in the darkness – ****”, was released February 5th 2021 via Blue Flowers/PIAS.
We exist in our own world and we’re trying to create a wave.” That’s how vocalist Adam Kain describes Cruza. He’s joined on the band’s quest by guitarist Charity Joy Brown and multi-instrumentalist AJ Roth as they channel influences from the rock and R&B worlds into a series of dreamy and unique transmissions. Mixing heavy basslines and melodic guitar loops inspired by artists like Unknown Mortal Orchestra and King Krule with the soulful vocals befitting your favourite late-night playlist, Cruza exist in a liminal space. Neither alt kids nor R&B stars, they cherry pick from the past and present to create an atmospheric lane all of their own.
“Our world is laid back,” AJ says, explaining the Cruza universe. “Charity matches our energy and we co-exist really well, that comes across in the music.” Call it a mood or a vibe but the fact remains, Cruza’s music comes through at a different frequency. Undeniably mellow but always captivating, there’s a smoothness to their music that belies lyrical themes many can relate to: Stress, depression, trauma, and uncertainty. Cruza document their own young adult experiences, bottling the often painful transition from adolescence into maturity with an unflinching eye for detail.
This ability to be vulnerable in front of one another comes from the band’s tight bond. Adam and AJ grew up together in North Alabama, with Adam moving shortly after his family were forced to evacuate New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. They were inseparable during their school years, sharing many formative experiences together. “We were skateboarding and wearing skinny jeans back at a time when it was not popular for people who looked like us,” Adam explains. “We were always in a middle space so it’s kind of funny that our music falls into that hybrid place. We’re unique in a lot of ways.” It was inevitable, then, that when AJ began making beats he would share them with Adam to sing over. Now based in Orlando, the pair continued to make music together as a duo but expanded into a trio when they were joined by Charity, who they met via Instagram. AJ puts it best when he says “The coolest thing you can do is be in a band.” Many DMs later she arranged to travel from her home in San Diego to record with the guys. Just a little over a year since they formed in the middle of a global pandemic , Cruza are still waiting to play their first live show.
“The stuff we make together is so effortless,” Charity says when talking about her assimilation into the group. Her riffs and loops, loose yet addictive, bounce off the heavy 808s and stitch a thread of melancholy throughout Cruza’s music. She started playing instruments as a kid in church before picking up a guitar during a fateful visit to a local music store. Growing up as one of the few Black kids in her suburban neighborhood, she shares that same misfit feeling with Adam and AJ with all three agreeing that they feel “like we were destined to be together.”
Not long after forming in 2020 Cruza released Cult Research. The seven-song project is the perfect introduction to the band’s hazy worldview. It’s space music beamed directly to earth and captured by three best friends existing to share the vibe with a whole new world. Their songs, built from a place of knowing what you want from life if not exactly how to get there, flow effortlessly. There’s variety in the mix too, moving from the light and airy Plastic World to Painkillers and its grunge aesthetic as the journey progresses. “We wanted to put something out to establish the Cruza vibe,” Adam says. “We have our own sound, and it’s still developing, but that was the first time opening the door to it.
Next up is a new EP, due later in 2021, that captures the mission of “trying to navigate the music world and not give too much of yourself away,” in Charity’s words. Picking up on the theme of being an adult and feeling young at the same time, while also trying to figure out where your life is heading, Cruza remain as unmoored as ever. Indeed, the lead single from the project, dives into romantic themes with Adam exploring his feelings for a friend and feeling conflicted. Elsewhere, meanwhile, the uneasy vibe of the music reflects a social and political climate that is providing a generation of young people with a set of challenges unlike any in history.
They may be still in the early stages as a band, but Cruza don’t lack ambition or self-belief. “We can do this. For real,” Charity likes to say. It’s a sentiment AJ echoes, adding simply: “We want this project to be a loud statement that says “We’re here and we’re ready for this.” As one world crashes and burns, the invitation to Cruza’s alternate reality is a tantalising offer.
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