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A ’90s pop star with Lush, Miki Berenyi tells her own story ahead of LA show

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Miki Berenyi says that she’s not a writer. But the former singer and guitarist of Lush, whose memoir “Fingers Crossed: How Music Saved Me From Success” is out now, did keep diaries.

“I was a bit obsessive about writing in them,” the British musician says on a recent video call. Berenyi doesn’t recommend re-reading one’s teenage diaries and laughs as she recalls her own. “Slightly short on actual, factual content, a lot of it,” she says. “It’s all about my headspace.”

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But thanks to those diaries, as well as letters and annotated photos, Berenyi was able to recount her story from a tumultuous childhood, through her rebellious teen years into her young adult life as a musician who toured with bands like Pulp, Ministry and Flaming Lips.

“One of the hardest things is actually getting the chronology right,” says Berenyi of writing a memoir. “It’s really difficult to remember what happened first and in what order and to really pinpoint what age you were even at certain things.”

Born to a Hungarian journalist and Japanese actress, Berenyi was raised in London, where she lived primarily with her father and grandmother after her mother moved to Los Angeles. In “Fingers Crossed,” she writes about the upheaval in her early life and the abuse she remembers receiving from her grandmother. She also recalls trips to 1980s-era Los Angeles and bonding with friends in London through music. It’s with one of these friends, Emma Anderson, that Berenyi first starts a zine and then a band, Lush.

“I was looking at the cause and effect to some degree,” says Berenyi, which made nailing down the chronology important to the narrative. “It’s quite important to place those things in the right order because it makes sense of, ‘OK, so that happened first and that probably made me feel like this and that’s why I behaved [as I did].’”

Lush hit their stride as the ‘80s turned into the ‘90s with a string of singles for the influential record label 4AD, but the critical reception to their music was mixed. In the U.S., they gained a cult following and flirted with wider recognition in the alternative music world through a slot on the 1992 Lollapalooza tour.

The band broke up in 1996 after drummer Chris Acland died by suicide. Berenyi took a long sabbatical post-Lush and found work as an editor.

Berenyi admits that her editor brain kicked in as she wrote “Fingers Crossed.” She cut an estimated 50,000 words from the original draft on her own, but says she was glad to have someone else edit the book. “I wasn’t going to be that subeditor who kicks off when someone else edits their work,” she says. “I was like, ‘No that’s fine. Change what you need to’ – obviously with approval.”

Part of Berenyi’s goal was to engage readers who aren’t already Lush fans. “With the reader in mind, I thought, Am I writing for diehard Lush fans who want to know how every song was written and every spit and cough in the stuff? That doesn’t really interest me,” she explains. “I actually wanted people to read that book who didn’t know anything about Lush.”

She adds, “You can’t take for granted that people know exactly what you’re talking about when you’re talking about publishing deals or how it works to go on tour or blah blah blah. Actually, that was more interesting to me, to explain that to the outsider.”

In addition to being Berenyi’s personal story, “Fingers Crossed” is also an insightful look at band life and the details many don’t think to consider, like how payments are split or how money from a record deal is distributed. Those details aren’t always clear. “I don’t think it ever served me very well,” she says of the hush-hush nature of deals. “Therefore, I’m quite happy to blow the lid on it.”

But there are also a lot of tidbits in here for Lush fans, like the story behind “Ladykillers,” the 1996 song that depicts guys who think their pick-up moves are smoother than they actually are.

“I got quite a lot of grief for that song. Obviously, mainly from men,” says Berenyi. “I get it.”

But she thinks “Ladykillers” is a bit of fair play.

“Allow us to have a little bit of a laugh at your expense,” she says, arguing that so many songs allege “some pretty grimy stuff” about women. “Surely, you can take one [expletive] song … about how tiresome it is to get some guy thinking you’re going to fall for some asinine line.”

Besides, Berenyi says, “Rather than an anti-male song, I would argue that it’s actually a female bonding song.”

In recent years, Berenyi has returned to music. Lush reformed briefly in 2016. Two years later, she formed the band Piroshka. Her latest project, Miki Berenyi Trio, will be touring the U.S. in May and June and are set to play The Fonda Theatre in Los Angeles on May 29. On the tour, which comes to Los Angeles and San Francisco, the opening act will be Lol Tolhurst x Budgie, former members of The Cure and Siouxsie and the Banshees.

“I’m a bit blown away that Lol Tolhurst and Budgie are going to be supporting. I still can’t quite get my head around that,” says Berenyi. “If I could go back and tap my teenage self furiously writing in her diary and whisper and say this is going to happen in 40 years time, I would be, ‘OK … life is worth living, brilliant!’”

Miki Berenyi Trio

When: 8 p.m., May 29

Where: The Fonda Theatre, 6126 Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles

Information: https://www.fondatheatre.com/events/detail/527456

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