Crumb Is An Unstoppable Force of Indie Psychedelia

By Salim Garcia

The last few years have seen an explosive wave of indie rock hit the mainstream, thanks to a select number of influential music curators crafting dreamy playlists that lead to a rapid growth of bedroom pop performers. Amongst these is NYC-based psychedelic indie group Crumb. A fusion of 2000s indie, jazz and pop, each of their songs finds a way to break free of any confinement, making a name for their sound difficult to place. Even for frontwoman Lila Ramani, finding a name for the kind of music they create has been tough.

“That’s a constant struggle,” laughs Ramani as she drives through upstate New York with bandmate Jesse Brotter on their way to a writer’s retreat. “I never quite have the words for it, but people always describe it in interesting ways. One way I’ve heard it described is ‘nostalgic music.’ For some reason that struck a chord with me. Music that reminds you of some other time in your life.”

The band’s latest musical endeavour, The Jinx, is a phonic relic of a challenging time.

“Jesse, John, and our merch person Manny were in this huge car accident,” Ramani recalls of the incident that put their last tour on hold. “They were driving in Montréal and hit a car that was stalled in the fast lane. It was just totalled and the aftermath of that was pretty traumatic. We did a bunch of shows where they were like, playing with broken limbs and whatnot.” Then, just before they began recording the new album, Jesse Brotter fell down a flight of stairs, breaking his knee and adding credence to the record’s name.

“He still managed to record the whole album for a month on crutches,” laughs Ramani. She wrote her perspective of how the accident happened into parts of The Jinx album, but a lot of the themes in Crumb’s music are inspired by Ramani’s childhood growing up in Brooklyn’s industrial neighborhood of Gowanus, hanging out in her mom’s art studio. She grew up celebrating her mixed-race heritage, and even samples a Hindi prayer spoken by her grandfather in Malaysia for one of Crumb’s tracks. Still, the frontwoman, who is half-Indian and half-white, expresses fragments of an identity crisis within the band’s music.

“Being mixed-race is definitely something that has been a huge part of my identity,” Ramoni says. “I feel very in-between in a lot of ways and that’s influenced my music a lot.”

Ramani says her place of being in between exists not only within her race, but her bisexuality and her astrological placement as a Gemini. But it hasn’t managed to affect the band’s unbreakable work ethic.

“I think making music is something separately we all love to do. I personally feel like I can’t not be writing — it’s kind of like a curse,” Romani says. “One big change is that we’re definitely spending more time together writing music, which I think is going to benefit the songs and getting into the world of each song and going on these little retreats. I find it very helpful. Investing more time into writing and relaxing with each other.”