Your band isn’t officially on the map until its swarm of fans has its own moniker. For alt-rock band Cracker, that’s the Crumbs.
“The Crumbs, like the Deadheads, they follow us from show to show,” said Johnny Hickman, one of the original founders of the band. “They’re very dedicated to the band; they know every record.”
Hickman said Crumb-dom passes from generation to generation and has become a bit of a cult phenomenon.
“They take care of each other almost in a Deadhead kind of way, the Crumbs, as they call themselves,” he said. “And that sustains us. We can keep touring and keep putting out a record every couple of years. We are at the tip of the iceberg of a band that can maintain for 20 years. The average lifespan of a band is six years, and we’re going on 21, actually.”
In those 21 years, Cracker has collected some pretty famous fringe Crumbs.
“Gipsy Moon, a band made up of Vince Herman of Leftover Salmon’s kids, are opening for Cracker,” said Todd Altschuler, owner of The Barkley Ballroom. “Leftover Salmon, and Vince especially, are huge fans of Cracker and even did an entire album called ‘Oh Cracker Where Art Thou,’ where Salmon covered Cracker songs.”
“The jam bands do our songs, which is quite an honor,” Hickman said. “Widespread Panic and Leftover Salmon are both doing our songs.”
Godfathers of alternative rock
But before there were Crumbs, there was Cracker.
“David Lowry and I started the band right around 1990-91,” Hickman said. “We’d been friends for 10 years, and we both found ourselves without a band temporarily and decided to get together and start writing songs, and the rest is history.”
The band helped launch a new genre of rock.
“It wasn’t really a term, but it wasn’t hair metal or Prague rock or Euro dance music, so we were in with those bands like the Meat Puppets, and we were doing something a little different,” he said. “They didn’t have a name for it. We don’t sound anything like the Chili Peppers — all these bands coming up — and they called us alternative rock.”
Cracker had the elements of rock with a bit of a Southern twang and influences ranging from The Pixies to Led Zeppelin.
“Now they call us ‘godfathers of alternative rock,’” Hickman said. “It was this guitar-based band and it was a little twangy, and no one else was doing that. Now they look at us as one of the first bands to break out of what was going on at the time, glam metal and Motley Crue. I’m proud of the term alternative rock; I’ll wear it proudly.”
The band’s first album, buoyed by the hits “Teen Angst” and “Happy Birthday to Me,” went gold, and the follow-up, “Kerosene Hat,” went platinum with chart-topper “Low,” “Get Off This” and the epic “Eurotrash Girl.” Hickman said the set list for Cracker’s show in Frisco will be a group of songs the band is having fun playing.
“We don’t think we’re too cool to play our big radio hits, so we’ll play those,” he said. “We like to bring in songs we haven’t done in a while and mix them into the set. We’ll do “Get Off This,” “Teen Angst,” “Happy Birthday to Me” — a combination of all of those things; we’ll mix it up. We’re a good live band, so I think people will be very happy.”
A sound with longevity
Cracker’s sound remains a mix of guitar rock and psychedelic, with a bit of that old, dirty, roots-based twang and threads of country and blues. Hickman said the band’s longevity could be attributed to the strength of its song writing.
“David Lowry is one of the best song writers of his generation,” he said. “We just know how to write a good song, and it’s not really based around a style or a fashion; it’s based around songs. That’s been our biggest strength, and we have very devout fans and they like nothing better than to bring in a bunch of new friends and show off their favorite band, Cracker.”