The Cribs | Full Interview
I’ve been on the road since I was a twenty-year-old so it’s pretty much what my adult life has been, as disruptive and unusual as it is, it’s become our reality.
It’s a quiet Sunday in Bristol as I’m led up to the dressing rooms of The Fleece, where lounging around in the white room are brothers Ryan and Gary Jarman, back home for a run of shows ahead of the release of their next album ‘For All My Sisters’. It seems weird seeing the band in such a casual way, for in only a few hours time they’ll be back in their natural habitat, onstage playing songs to an adoring and messy crowd. I shared a few words with Gary:
So you’re currently on an intimate UK tour, it’s a surprise you decided to take on smaller shows…
Well that’s what’s good about it, that people are surprised about that. There’s definitely a part of us that we realise why we’re still around and we realise why we’re still able to operate on the level we do; and the reason why is because we’ve been lucky enough to build up a fan-base that are committed to the band. So when we come back with a new record, before you kick off with all the promotional stuff it’s good to remind people that ‘hey we’re still the same guys that we were when you first started to like us’. So it’s just a way of reconnecting and making sure that when you do kick into the full promo cycle people don’t feel alienated. It’s important to us, it’s the reason why we’re still around.
It kind of fits with that spontaneous nature of The Cribs…
Yeah and we always do it as the first tour back after the album. I like the bigger shows too because in some ways I feel like it’s more fully realised like that; we can afford to bring bands along that we like, we can play music through the night that we really like and you can create a full experience in bigger places. I just hate the thought that we couldn’t do what we did in the first place because we fell in love with touring like this. When you do the larger ones you need a bus, ultimately it’s satisfying but I think there’s an element of struggle that’s always appealed to us because we didn’t have a straight forward trajectory in a way that a lot of other bands did. We don’t want to stop putting the effort in and lose that.
You all live in the states now, is it weird being back?
I was actually kind of nervous and I think part of the reason why is because we’ve got the new record and no-one’s heard the new songs; and you become comfortable with that, with it being your own thing. So at first I was nervous but we’ve settled in quite quickly. The shows have been really good so far, it’s almost like I feel more comfortable being on the road than I do at home; if I’m at home for too long then I worry about the small things in life a lot more. I’ve been on the road since I was twenty year old so it’s pretty much what my adult life has been, as disruptive and unusual as it is, it’s become our reality - we never expected to be around this long.
It’s been a while since the last album, obviously you did the ‘Payola’ compilation but does it feel good to be releasing again?
Yeah, when we did ‘Payola’ that was another record in our minds because you were releasing something and do all the stuff around it, but it didn’t feel the same because people had heard those songs before. It was only just recently when we had a meeting about what was going to be the first single that I realised it was actually three years since we did the last one. I love making the records but birthing them out into the world is the worst part because the nature of it is that you have to draw attention to yourself. I’m so precious about it that I’m happy to say ‘oh yeah, we made a record and I think it’s cool’, it’s just a different state of mind I suppose.
You recorded out in New York again, tell us about the experience?
At first it was really intense because we were living at Ryan’s house and working most of the day. It felt a bit unsettled because of the big city and stuff, but the studio was really cool because it’s in the Soho area and it’s just like a little door that doesn’t have a sign on it. You just go in there and it’s a bolt-hole away from the world. We had to be really quick because it’s expensive to record in New York so we recorded it in three weeks and I think that was definitely a good thing for this record.
You all live quite far apart so how easy is it to get the material together?
In some ways, I’ve lived in Portland for nine years now so we’ve written the third, forth and fifth records with me being over there, I just end up coming back a lot. We realised we weren’t going to be on Wichita anymore which was a really weird feeling. So we put ‘Payola’ out in 2013 and that was the last thing we did with them. We had a contractual situation where we didn’t have a contract with them anymore but we hadn’t started looking for another deal because we wanted to remain loyal. So there was a year where we didn’t know what we were going to do - so we were just writing casually. This was good in some ways because it meant we’d built up a massive amount of songs to choose from.
Judging from the singles on the album, you seem to have kept that big anthem like sound…
That’s the way that we write songs really, I’ve always been influenced by pop music and I grew up listening to Queen which is always like really big chorusses. My main influence though is punk music and Nirvana who again are also a really melodic band. They were our big influences growing up and I think that’s why the hook is always important to us. On the last album it was more about the ideas than the hooks, and that was intentional because we wanted to explore every idea we had. We wanted to make this one more streamlined really…
Would you call this one more of an all-out pop record then?
I mean I have been saying that. It’s more of a sensibility of stripping stuff back and doing a lot of self-editing really. I think the songs are pretty immediate, a few are more expansive though. We wanted to concentrate on the pop side of the band.
There was talk of two albums last year, one punk and one pop, is there any truth behind that?
Yeah, it was kind of mis-reported a little bit. We were just writing songs really and there was some that we were putting to one side because they were particularly abrasive and aggressive. So rather than trying to mesh that with our pop side we thought lets just let them be what they are. We recorded a bunch with Steve Albini and it sounded cool so we didn’t really want to mess with it and detract from that. It’s not really a present concern, it will get made at some point but we’re not in a rush to do it.
Especially because you’ve got a lot to focus on at the minute I guess…
This ones going to be quite busy yeah, I just don’t want to feel like we mislead people. We were just speaking frankly about what we were working on. I don’t want people to feel like we were talking something up that we weren’t going to deliver on. We’ve got like half of the record recorded already, we’re just taking our time.
So how are the new tracks going down live?
Well the first three nights they’ve gone down good. Obviously people know ‘An Ivory Hand’ and ‘Burning For No One’ already, but the other ones we’ve been doing, I guess they’re getting received as well as we’d expect. It’s good that they don’t know them in some ways because you feel like people are listening to the songs and taking notice of them rather than just jumping around and having a fun time. People have really been receptive to them so we feel good about it.
One moment that always sticks in my mind is when you ripped up the Reading stage back in 2012… do you preconceive the destruction of your shows or is it more spontaneous?
Oh yeah that was so much fun! We always kind of want to do that, I think the reason why is because over the years it’s become harder and harder to climax the set, because you’re doing it every night and you want to feel when you come off stage that you did everything you could to have a good show. When we first started playing it used to always get wild towards the end but not to the point when we destroyed everything because we couldn’t afford it - not that we can afford it now, but back then we were literally living at our parents house and losing money being on the road. Once you’ve climbed the rope it’s hard to come down, and so everything has gradually been getting more and more intense. Going back to Reading, we knew that At The Drive In were playing after, we went into it knowing some shit was going to go down but we didn’t know what it was going to be.
You don’t ever do encores either which is quite cool…
Yeah, I like the fact that when people see the gear go over they know their not going to get an encore. Otherwise it’s such a standard practice now and I never really understood it. It’s almost like saying, I need to be adored to come out and play another couple of songs. It doesn’t make sense, if you’re playing them you should play them anyway, to me it seems contrived. In our whole career we’ve only ever played two encores, and it was because it was a genuine thing - in Japan it was because the crowd didn’t leave and we felt guilty for them because they’d stayed. One time we also played a show at The Troubadour in Los Angeles and they were pretty disastrous to be honest because we were all spent and the gear was out of tune…
Lastly, beyond this tour, what do you think the rest of the year holds for The Cribs?
We’re going to do a residency in New York after this tour, then we’ve got Coachella, then some UK festivals. After that a full-scale tour I think - and that’s the thing I’m really looking forward to because we’ve got big plans for that one. That’s the pay-off for me, you do all of this stuff so that when you do the big shows they’ll be really good. We could have booked the academy circuit on this tour, and I felt weird because it was great that the tour sold out straight away - but then I felt kind of bad. We don’t want to be an exclusive club you know? I don’t like anyone ever getting turned away, you do these shows for the hardcore fans but then if they’re unable to get in then it’s contrary to our inclusive spirit. It’s flattering, and if I was more of a rock star I’d be like ‘oh that’s awesome man, that makes me feel really good’, because it makes your ego feel good - but for me it doesn’t do that, it just makes me really sad.
Check out ‘An Ivory Hand’ right here: