An Interview with The Cribs
The Wakefield band may have lost Johnny Marr, but they’re back with a sound that’s as sharp as ever…
Following up your critically lauded and commercially successful fourth album can be an enviable enough task as it is. So what do you do when the ultimate guitar hero of his generation, who had lent you his considerable talents on the record, decides to go off and do his own thing?
If you’re The Cribs, you go back to basics. Ignore the Ignorant, a collaboration with The Smiths’ legendary guitarist Johnny Marr, was a top 10 album in 2009, earning the four-piece a reputation as “the biggest cult band in the world”. But with Marr taking leave with the sibling indie-rock trio, the Jarman brothers were left with no option but reconnect with their early selves.
“When Johnny left it made us want to get on with writing as a three-piece,” says drummer Ross Jarman, younger brother of twins Ryan (guitars/vocals) and Gary (bass/vocals). “That seemed so exciting again. It reminded us of the early days. It’s how the band is meant to be. With us being three brothers we don’t have to think about anyone else. And I think as three brothers in a band it brought us closer together. Ultimately, it’s been a positive thing.”
“We don’t want to analyse too much”
The result is fifth album In the Belly of the Brazen Bull, a rebellious title that hints at the defiant music within. Produced by Dave Fridmann (Weezer) and Steve Albini (Nirvana), it may be as raucous and anthemic as you have come to expect from the Wakefield three-piece, but there is a scope of ambition that displays songwriting progression. The closing song is a four-part suite that climaxes with the track ‘Arena Rock Encore with Full Cast’: its huge sound renders the title only a half-joke.
“I hate it when you put records on these days that just sound the same all the way through from start to finish,” Jarman states. “We want it to be aggressive and raw, but we don’t want it to sound like it did on the four-track. Weezer’s Pinkerton was a big influence, sonically that album is exactly what we wanted.”
Yet while the music exudes the effervescence of youth, a closer inspection reveals all is not well, the aftermath of Ryan’s break-up with songstress Kate Nash looming over the record.
“There’s a bit of heartbreak in there, definitely. But Gary, Ryan and I have a strange relationship where we don’t talk to each other about lyrics,” he admits. “They can be quite personal. There are various things we don’t want to analyse too much. We are from Yorkshire” he laughs. “People are a bit more guarded up here.”
Indeed, Wakefield is not your typical rock ‘n’ roll starting point and Jarman confesses in those early days 10 years ago progress was difficult.
“We were just trying to make something happen. One of the reasons we started the band was because walking round town you’d get a load of crap off people for having long hair. If you weren’t into sports you’d get a hard time. That shaped us as people. We chose music over sport. Being in a band was also a way to get out of Wakefield.”
Yet if The Cribs did escape their hometown, they would soon return. Jarman says he “really likes Wakefield” now. Especially how far removed it is from the music industry. It’s a refuge from the procession of ‘landfill indie’ bands that followed in the wake of The Libertines’ breakthrough.
“We’ve seen a lot of them fall by the wayside”
“I could tell that ship was going to sink a long time ago. It was too corporate for us. We’d turn up at festivals and there would be bands billed underneath us turning up on massive tour buses signed to major labels having loads of money thrown at them. The reason we were sometimes seen as a black sheep was because we tried to separate ourselves from that.
We wouldn’t do some stuff those bands would do. We’ve seen a lot of them fall by the wayside now. We’re still here and it’s not just because of the music. The artwork, the videos, they’re all important and our fans analyse everything we do. Casual downloads aren’t for us. People didn’t discover us from reading a magazine. We got discovered by going out there and playing live, toilet venues up and down the country. And we never phone it in. It might sound cheesy, but we treat every gig like it’s the only gig we’re doing. People appreciate that, don’t they?”
The Cribs’ album ‘In the Belly of the Brazen Bull’ is out now.