Cracker knows how to keep its Crumbs happy.
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Cracker is a West Coast band not a West Michigan band, but you’d never know that from the enthusiastic cadre of Grand Rapids-area fans, aka Crumbs, who embrace the group’s unique alt-country-infused rock.
“They take great pride in Cracker being their band,” guitarist Johnny Hickman says of the devoted pockets of Crumbs across the globe who follow Cracker’s every move. “It keeps expanding. They look out for each other. It’s like a mini-Deadhead community of Crumbs. I’m happy for them.”
Hickman credits Crumbs, in part, for the longevity of the band which has released eight official studio albums since 1992. That fan base – which is apt to tape and take video of performances – is expected to be out in full force at The Intersection on Sunday night when Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven roll back into Grand Rapids (with West Michigan’s own Dutch Henry – an equally inventive alt-country infused rock band – opening the show as an acoustic duo).
It helps that Hickman and frontman David Lowery – who also fronts CVB, the more esoteric, more prog-like outfit which preceded the formation of Cracker – have “stayed the course” and stayed “on the same page” creatively and business-wise during that time period.
Cracker, Camper Van Beethoven, Dutch Henry
When: 7:30 p.m. Sunday (doors open at 7 p.m.)
Where: The Intersection, Grand Rapids
Tickets: $18 advance, $20 day of show
Buy tickets online here.
“The two of us combined are influenced by everything from The Ramones to Johnny Cash to Iggy Pop, The Pixies. There’s such a range of influence that each album comes out a little different,” he offered in an interview with Local Spins earlier this week. “It’s … chameleon-like, yet it always sounds like Cracker. And we have a sort of shared sense of humor that threads through the entire thing.”
Not to mention a bit of an attitude that had the band going against the mainstream grain from the very beginning.
In fact, the band’s first public gig at a Los Angeles club in the early 1990s was erroneously billed as “Crapper” by the Los Angeles Times, Hickman recalls. “It was pretty hilarious,” he says, noting the performance drew “40 or 50 curious people” who knew Lowery from his CVB days.
The record label even initially suggested calling the band Beethoven, something Hickman and Lowery quickly rejected. Fortunately, the band’s self-titled album sold well enough to go gold and its follow-up, 1993’s “Kerosene Hat,” did even better by achieving platinum status.
Along the way, Cracker has enjoyed a smidgen of commercial success with singles such as “Low,” “Teen Angst,” “Euro-Trash Girl” and “Get Off This.”
“We kind of snuck in the back door by being a band that had something to say and were lucky enough to write a catchy three-minute song,” Hickman suggested, with the band attracting a “diehard following” for tunes “with a big, simple guitar lick.“
Not surprisingly, the lion’s share of Cracker fans also are diehard CVB fans. So, when that band reunited about a decade ago to record its first studio album, “New Roman Times,” in 15 years, Crumbs embraced that, too. Since then, the bands have frequently toured together, with CVB releasing its latest album, “La Costa Perdida,” in January.
Cracker, featuring bassist Sal Maida and drummer Frank Funaro (who also plays in CVB), usually closes out the evening, with members from both bands occasionally joining each other on stage.
“Most of our fan base likes both bands … It’s the same singer in both bands and they’re both guitar-based rock bands,” said Hickman, who lives in Colorado. “And every time we tour, we pull out a couple songs we haven’t done in awhile. We mix it up. We just kind of get a group of songs and start playing and get the vibe from the audience.”
The guitarist said he and Lowery appreciate the time they spend away from Cracker to work on side projects; Hickman last year released a solo album which he described as “very satisfying and successful.”
But something new may be brewing soon for Cracker, which released its last album, “Sunrise in the Land of Milk and Honey,” in 2009. Hickman and Lowery will likely start plotting a new studio project “in the next few months. I can feel it coming; it’s about time.”
Until then, they’ll keep their community of Crumbs revved up on the road.
“We may be a little too weird for the main mainstream. The people who do get us, get us all the way,” he said. “They get the irony, they get the humor and all the facets that Cracker is. We make music to please ourselves and that’s a plus, that’s a bonus. We just want to entertain each other and entertain ourselves, and make it sound as good as possible.”
Email John Sinkevics at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright 2013, Spins on Music