In 1995, Todd Congelliere’s Recess Records, then based in Torrance, California, released a quirky seven-inch platter by Miami punk rockers the Crumbs, called I Fell in Love With an Alien Girl and I Think I'm Goin' to Mars With Her. It was the first recording of many by a band now celebrating its 25th year. Fine wines age well. Who knew an ice-cold Schlitz would do too?
The Crumbs were the affordable and intelligent middle ground for those in South Florida who sought the yesteryear of Miami’s incredible punk-rock scene. (Remember the Eat, Reactions, Charlie Pickett & the Eggs, and Critical Mass?) The Crumbs inspired many acts, got out of the swamp to spread their gospel, amused and confused many, and left a wave of rock 'n' roll excess in their wake.
“It's crazy to think this whole thing started 25 years ago,” Raf Luna says. “None of us really thought we'd play more than one or two shows, let alone go on to record many albums, and do some traveling.” Luna, the band’s lead singer, rhythm guitarist, and founding member, grew up in the shadows of Miami’s first punk-rock wave as a young transplant from Peru. In his youth, punk rock was still a relative teenage danger, with rock 'n' roll anti-heroes fueling weekend skateboarding excursions to seedy downtown Miami.
The Crumbs were, like the Ramones, a unified rock 'n' roll force influenced by Chuck Berry and Little Richard. They were leather-clad, four-on-the-floor, snotty, teenage miscreants. They had the right attitude, and their shows were fun. They did for South Florida what the Dead Boys did for New York City. They were unafraid but also serious about punk-rocking their way out of Floridian obscurity.
“Back in those days, the only way to spread the word was traveling — going on tour and playing just about every shithole. Is that OK to say nowadays?” Luna explains. “All the bands had a cassette demo that they’d give out or sell for buck. That led to a tour, playing Gilman, and getting noticed by Lookout! Records.” By this time, the band had the seven-inch pressed again by Recess and a more mature, pop-oriented ten-inch, Get All Tangled Up!, on Fort Lauderdale’s Far Out Records.
The Crumbs' first Lookout! album put them on a bigger stage, adding pressure and expectations that caused the first turnover in personnel. Their followup, Low and Behold, was the antithesis of America’s punk-rock scene at the time. Directly influenced by the South and American roots music, the album was a mature rendering of rock 'n' roll. Angry youths at all turns, this was their aural vandalism.
After Lookout! Records' success with Green Day, copycat bands were crawling out of the woodwork, looking to get signed. To make room, the label dropped the Crumbs.
“I am not one to speculate on the moves they made and how things turned out,” Luna says of the label. “I believe in supply and demand. The second album was too different from what the label wanted, and their base was expecting more pop-punk rather than trashy rock 'n’ roll.”
From then on, the band would exist, always at the forefront of creativity, through different lineups and labels such as TKO, Livid, and Insubordination, amassing an impressive catalogue with a total of two seven-inch singles, one EP, a ten-inch, a live DVD, six LPs, and two compilation albums.
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The Crumbs' upcoming 25th-anniversary concert will draw from the band's entire history. “Feels amazing to think we never tire of playing the songs,” Luna says. “I think because all of us have now mastered our craft, those old songs are even more fun to play today.”
Luna, who lives in Los Angeles and performs with Tiger Tank, knows he can always call in on any of the folks who’ve shared membership in the band over the years. Miami, he says, will always be a sonic port of call for a Crumbs show. It’s been a long ride since that seven-inch caused a stir locally, undulating outward like a pebble dropped in still waters. And the ride is not over yet: “I just need to spend a few weeks in Miami, drink some Schlitz, and spend a couple of hours in the studio — nothing fancy; just like the old days. Come in and — boom! — you got a tune.”
The Crumbs' most recent compilation, featuring remastered out-of-print and previously unreleased tracks, will be available for a limited time on bandcamp.com.
The Crumbs. With Death Lottery and MC-1. 7 p.m. Saturday, March 3, at Gramps, 176 NW 24th St., Miami; 305-699-2669; gramps.com. Tickets cost $5 at the door.