As one might suspect from Crumb’s debut disc, Jinx, singer-guitarist Lila Ramani and keyboardist Brian Aronow took a different path to indie rock than many of their contemporaries. Forget crashing around in punk bands or stumbling through the White Stripes’ back catalogue in high school, the two bandmates were into a genre that doesn’t resonate with most folks until later in life.
“Brian and I both met by being in a jazz group,” Ramani says, on a conference call with Aronow from an Austin, Texas, tour stop. “So that’s definitely our initial background. I played a lot of jazz in high school, mainly jazz guitar. That’s the world that we started in.”
Aronow continues: “Saxophone was actually my main instrument until Crumb. But even though we loved jazz, we both knew that we weren’t interested in being in jazz quartets or big bands. There’s so much jazz that I love listening to, but we also knew that we wanted to journey through other musical worlds.”
Crumb came together in 2016 when its members hit university in Boston to study things like computer and cognitive sciences and psychology, and eventually answered the call when Ramani needed help fleshing out songs she’d been writing since high school. (Rounding out the band are bassist Jesse Brotter and drummer Jonathan Gilad.)
As is often the case, what had been played around the house when the members of Crumb were kids shaped the sound of the group, which is why Ramani cites Brazilian legend Arthur Verocai and Cape Verde icon Cesária Évora as important influences.
Not surprisingly, given where the members of Crumb come from musically, Jinx isn’t a record that’s going to guarantee inclusion on the next Vans Warped Tour. Adjectives like dreamy and meditative are often applied to the group, but they don’t completely capture what Crumb is about. Entirely by design, the album rewards close listening. Consider the way “Nina” drifts along lazily until the Bristol-issue drum-and-bass outro, or the way “M.R.” subtly flips the switch from paisley soft-psych to quietly menacing art-pop.
It’s a formula that’s led to an almost instant fan base for Crumb, with the group having clocked over 70 million streams on Spotify, including 16.5 million for the title track of 2017’s Locket EP.
Sometimes it’s all been a bit overwhelming, which explains the opening lyrics on Jinx: “How you keep yourself from cracking it’s not easy need to/Practice night time day don’t let it get the best of you girl.”
“That was one of the first songs that we wrote in the album cycle, and it’s funny because sometimes I don’t know that I’m talking about until way later,” Ramani says. “It’s like I’ll look back and go, ‘Oh, that’s where I was at and what I was talking about.’ ”
Still, no one in Crumb has any regrets about the way that things have turned out.
“We were all doing full-time jobs or school until about a year and a half ago,” Ramani notes. “And then we made the decision to do the band full-time.”
Aronow adds: “There was maybe a little bit of anxiety about it. I was the last one to graduate school, in 2017, which was the year we made Locket. Once I graduated, we started touring a lot but keeping it super low-key with basement shows and things. And then things really started to happen. It’s been super exciting—we’ve been lucky that there’s a lot going on.”
Crumb plays Fortune Sound Club on Saturday (September 28).