Majesty Crush are reclaiming their spot in shoegaze’s history books

“No.1 Fan” was released in 1993, the year after Nirvana had put out Nevermind and inadvertently created a frenzy of music industry attention on the alt rock scene. Bands were stumbling into major label deals and Majesty Crush were no different. They signed with Elektra subsidiary Dali/Chameleon, making them labelmates with Lucinda Williams and Josh Homme’s early band Kyuss. They entered the studio to record Love 15, graduating from working with local hardcore producers to playing instruments last used by the Doobie Brothers. The record includes great songs like the soaring anthem “Cicciolina” and “Penny For Love,” a jangly pop song written after Stroughter was locked up for two nights having been falsely accused of an armed robbery. There was an energy to the time that, they recall, felt momentous.

The band were faced with disaster, though, when just one month after they released Love 15, they were informed that Dali/Chameleon was being dissolved by its parent company and they were, effectively, homeless. Negotiations to have Moby remix a song on the album were abruptly dropped.

Majesty Crush were dented by the setback but refused to be defeated. They continued touring and released the Sans Muscles EP in 1994, though even that title suggested the end was in sight. “Muscles” was Echlin’s nickname for Stroughter, a weightlifter in his spare time, who had quit the band shortly before it was released. The EP feels like a curtain coming down on a childhood dream that briefly flirted with being something spectacular. “If JFA Were Still Together” stands out not just for its liquid bassline and jet engine level levels of noise, but also Stroughter lamenting, “They used to have a cause, them against whoever.” Thirty years on it feels like a bittersweet acknowledgement of defeat.

One of the long-term effects of being dropped, Nails says, was Stroughter adopting an “ultra-aggressive desire to be a rockstar.” Having felt that Majesty Crush had done everything right, just to become collateral damage in a corporate restructure, he doubled down on his swaggering, riotous side. “It hurt him to the core,” he says of a friend he watched drift out of his life as he chased some form of redemption.

Stroughter followed many paths post-Majesty Crush; he worked as a presenter for MTV, moved to Los Angeles, recorded solo material as P.S. I Love You, and would flip vintage cars at auction when money was low. His ability to access medication during such periods of economic instability made for a precarious situation and, tragically, Stroughter was shot and killed by police in 2017. The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office investigation into his death revealed he was shot by police after threatening officers with an ax. The judge concluded that the multiple officers who detained their firearms used reasonable force in self-defense. Stroughter was 50.

The remaining members of Majesty Crush hope that the release of Butterflies Don’t Go Away will revive the stories their beloved former bandmate wrote and the unique world he ushered people into with his music. They speak of a frontman who lived to be heard and who would be reveling in the newfound focus on the band from a new generation of fans discovering them online. They remember endless laughter in the early days of the band and the beacon of creativity they lost when he passed. The story of Majesty Crush and Stroughter are both ones of lost potential and moments of pure devastation. With the re-issue of the music they made together, Nails, Echlin, and Segal hope they can at least give one side the ending it deserves.

“We all thought we were a pretty good band back in the day,” Nails says modestly. “We had a break that didn’t end up well but I knew we had music that needed to be heard. We were just on the precipice of that happening and then it got taken away. Vindication sounds way too negative, but this moment feels deserved.”


Leave a Comment