Raf Classic has a message for everyone out there: “We’re still alive and kicking!” Yes, that’s right, Miami’s finest, The Crumbs, haven’t stopped playing though it is true they’ve been rather under the radar for a while. In fact, the four-piece, which features Raf on vocals/guitar, Tony Vargas on bass, Johnny B. on guitar, and Marcio “Grim” Gemelli on drums, just put out a new full-length in February, their first for powerhouse label TKO. ‘Last Exit’ is an energetic, fun, rock ‘n’ roll/punk masterpiece. The guys fuse many elements and influences, spanning from Dead Boys and The Pagans to hardcore to “’60s stuff” and soul. As the frontman says, “There’s a lot of range” in the band’s music, and it sure comes through. From the hard-rocking, raucous tour de force “Tonight We Bleed” and insane “Hobos” to the lighter “The Anticipation” and the more rockabilly “All Chocked Up” and the country-like “Wrong Hand Again”, which has a real outlaw feel to it, this album is all about diversity. And if this is not enough, they’ve even begun writing more material for their next album.

As for The Crumbs’ history, they’ve been around for a while in one form or another: the band formed in ’93 when Raf left his previous outfit Cavity (a Neurosis-like heavy project) after a few tours. Then he was joined by fellow Cavity member Johnny and drummer Chuck, who is now in The Heatseekers. On bass was Emil, who had been with The Crumbs up until the 2000 LP ‘Out of Range’ on Recess. He’s currently “making a lot of money in South Beach” bartending, Raf attests.

The Crumbs have put out quite a few records, the last being the aforementioned ‘Out of Range’, (there was a compilation of rare and “lost” tracks entitled ‘Hold That Shit Right’ released on Recess in 2003), yet as Raf explains, they weren’t happy with the distribution, or rather, the lack there of. “It was too bad,” the frontman laments, “‘cause the record was pretty good, but a lot of people actually don’t know we recorded it.” That’s why Raf is so excited to be on TKO, but we’ll get into that later… In any case, current drummer Marcio played with the great ska-punk act Against All Authority for about a year and did some touring with them until The Crumbs began gigging once again, resulting in Marcio’s return to his former band.

When The Crumbs wrote and recorded their latest LP ‘Last Exit’, they didn’t have any of the benefits of being backed by a label. And considering the circumstances under which it was recorded, Raf believes it’s “very solid.” The guys were only in the studio recording the basic tracks for four hours. Yet, according to Raf, “We had so much time to practice and we really had all these songs down, maybe like four months before we got a record deal, so by the time we [recorded], it was like we did all the takes in one or two takes.” Naturally there were some overdubs done “here and there,” but still, it doesn’t sound like it was rushed and recorded in a mere four hours. He elaborates, “We didn’t have any money, so [the studio] gave us some hours free to record and we really had no choice but to crank ‘em out one after the other, and,” he concludes, “considering all that, it came out pretty tight.” Laughingly, he adds, “Beggars can’t be choosers.” So, they actually had the album all recorded with no label to put it out. The choices looked a bit bleak: either release it on their own, or go with a local label.

Luckily, however, TKO’s Mark Rainy liked the material the band sent him and agreed to release it. And the frontman doesn’t hesitate to give some much-deserved credit to TKO for doing a “helluva job with the mastering,” adding, “They went out of their way to make this record sound good, and they gave us all the support we needed at the time because we really didn’t have any money to spend on production and they really came forward and helped us out in a way.” The reason The Crumbs opted to sign with TKO was because they wanted a label that could get their record out to as many people as possible, as opposed to what happened with their albums on Recess.

It’s great that everything worked out the way it did, but there was still one thing I HAD to know: since they’ve been playing this rock ‘n’ roll/punk hybrid for so long, what does Raf think about the whole “rock is back” phenomenon that’s been happening lately? Raf is quick to note that the first couple bands to hit the scene probably started out genuinely, but whenever something is successful, “there’s always a backlash of so many people cashing in on the new sound.” As an example, he mentions a band he saw on TV recently – Jet, questioning their authenticity.  All he knows is that at the moment the music’s all the same: “just kind of garage and everybody’s wearing denim.” Interestingly, he elaborates, “I remember when we first started touring many years ago, there were a few bands like that and no one paid attention to them.” All he hopes is that the current trend “doesn’t turn into another grunge fiasco thing where all these bands sound the same and they have the same formula.”

Still, he doesn’t care that much, as he listens mainly to the bands who originated the styles that are popular and “retro” today. “There’s really nothing new for me, [but] maybe for younger kids” it’s interesting. And he brings up a really good point at this time in our conversation: “In a way it’s cool because maybe with The Crumbs I am trying to do something worthwhile and fresh sounding.” Definitely. To Raf, his band is highlighted by “a lot of raw energy with no compromises.” Sternly, but still in a manner that causes us both to crack up, he concludes, “You either take it or just go home!” Believe me people, take it! And come out to see The Crumbs if and when they play near you for a guaranteed good time. 

Interview date: Mar 8, 2004

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