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To justify his Garageland headaches, Loose picked up the drumsticks for the first time since high school. Then he formed the Crumbs with Chickenhead roadie Emil "412" Busse and ex-Cavity guitarists Raf "Classic" Luna and Johnny "B" Bonnano. Loose had a blast relearning how to play the traps, but the messy Crumbs made the Spawn Sacs look straight-edge. "They drank a lot -- and we played a lot of sloppy shows and got away with it by playing it off as 'drunk punks,'" Loose says. At the end of 1994, Loose chose the Crumb-y drunks over the drunks at Garageland and took his name off the lease, effectively killing the place.
Using the contacts Loose made while on tour with Chickenhead, the Crumbs became the first South Florida punk band to release a record on an out-of-state label. After California indie Recess put out 1994's I Fell in Love with an Alien Girl and I Think I'm Goin' to Mars with Her EP, Fort Lauderdale's Far Out Records lured the Crumbs into a posse including SoFla stalwarts Against All Authority, the Belltones, and Hudson. Together, the four bands took the region by storm, holding regular showcases in the Mudhouse, the dirt-filled patio of Far Out's Fort Lauderdale building.
This movement was in stark contrast to the Marilyn Manson-led scene that had previously run amok in Broward. "You should play music because it's fun," Loose insists, "not because it's a money-making shtick. Marilyn Manson was the opposite of what we were about. If you make money and get signed, God bless you. But it should be about the music, not some bullshit trend."
The Crumbs toured the country in 1996, winding up at the Recess Fest in Mount Shasta, California. Impressed by the band's drunken road show, Loose's old pal Molly Bratmobile signed the band to über-punk label Lookout! Suddenly the Crumbs had the brightest future of any South Florida band. Loose was ecstatic. "I told the guys, 'This is it! We don't have to work shitty jobs anymore. We can spend our lives doing what we want to do!' But they didn't get it."
Despite the instant cred that came with the Lookout! signing, Loose's bandmates in the Crumbs continued to put drinking before practice. "They would bring mini-kegs to practice, and we wouldn't get shit done," Loose grimaces. "I wasn't trying to be John Bonham, but while playing wasted in front of 30 people is fun, in front of 3,000 it sucks." After the Crumbs recorded their self-titled debut, they played a sold-out gig at the Masquerade in Atlanta with label mates the Queers. But once again, the crippled-up Crumbs were a toxic train wreck. It was the final straw for Loose. Embarrassed and heartbroken, he quit the band.
Sam Fogarino was also feeling the blues in 1996, but he came up with a different solution. He moved to Chicago, where he briefly found employment at the gothic label Projekt, then soon went into a personal tailspin. "I was in a downward spiral," he remembers, "drinking and getting stoned every day. I had to go to the ER twice." Contributing to Fogarino's funk was his inability to start a band in Chicago. "No one needed a good drummer," he says, "and the people who did sucked."
Following six months of Windy City misery, he returned to South Florida to save money. "I was sleeping on my sister's couch, or with whatever girl would have me, when I got a call from a friend in Chicago about somebody who had something to do with Black Sabbath," he remembers. "I called the guy and was sent $50 and an Amoco card with the name scratched out to get me to New York. I had a bad vibe from the whole thing, so I dropped my kit off in Philly and drove to this mansion in Westchester. It was bullshit. Some rich guy who never left his house. His connection to Black Sabbath was that he had hired a guy who once played on a Black Sabbath session."
Fogarino then drove to Brooklyn and helped an old friend start up a secondhand shop. He painted the floors for free lunch and beer. When Beacon's Closet opened, Fogarino was formally hired and moved into the efficiency behind the store. A week later, he joined a local garage band, the Ton-Ups. "It was perfect at the time," he says. "I could drink with one hand and play with the other. In my year with the band, we recorded an album and an EP, but there was no touring. I became very uninspired. It seemed like their first single was great -- very raw and very dirty -- but when I joined the band, they decided to start sucking."
To wash out the taste of bad garage rock, Fogarino started a music section at Beacon's Closet. "I was the only buyer for a record store," he explains. "It was Sam's tastes for sale!" In 1999, he married Pee Shy guitarist Cindy Wheeler in Central Park. "We called our parents and said, 'Guess what? We're getting married, and we don't want any money.'" Fogarino designed the ultimate post-punk wedding: "Cindy had a red dress, and I wore a black suit with a red shirt. I looked like Nick Cave. If you looked around the ceremony, you saw our folks -- and then Jack from Cop Shoot Cop."