The Cribs are back on the road and enjoying the reaction to their sixth LP. MALCOLM WYATT caught up with Gary Jarman somewhere between Dublin and Belfast to talk siblings, success and more
When it comes to loyalty, it’s an ethos built on brotherhood for indie favourites The Cribs.
While the West Yorkshire outfit complemented their sense of cool by recruiting Mancunian guitar hero Johnny Marr between 2008 and 2011, the brothers Jarman remain at the heart of the band – twins Gary and Ryan plus younger sibling Ross.
And while they continue to mix in revered company, that three-piece family dynamic provides the band’s momentum.
The Jarman brothers were on the east coast of Ireland when I caught them, between shows in Dublin and Belfast, the latest cities to show their appreciation for a band now in their 14th year performing.
Vocalist and bass player Gary, who along with Ryan (guitars and vocals) is aged 34 and four years the senior of Ross (drums), did the talking, his responses considered but honest with it.
We never expected to have top-10 records, so it’s pretty surreal
“Last night in Dublin was really fun, with a really enthusiastic audience. We haven’t been here for a couple of years, and there was definitely a good vibe.”
Have they enjoyed the reaction to new LP For All My Sisters since its March release?
“We’ve been really happy. We were so proud of the album when we made it, having gone away for around three years between records, the longest we’ve done that.
“Having switched labels, moving to Sony, we felt there was quite a lot of change around this record and worked really hard on this.
“It was nice to have the time away to do that, and in a lot of ways it felt like making our first record again.
“When you first start you feel you’ve got all the time in the world to make a record. But in the past we’ve been busy the whole time, writing while we’ve been on the road, going from one record straight on to the next.
“By the time this album came out, we felt really passionate towards it, and I think most of our audience have really embraced this record. In some ways it really is a return to the ideals of the earlier stuff.”
What’s the difference between working with Wichita Recordings, the indie label behind their first five albums, and now Sony Red?
“Not a massive difference. We were with Wichita from the start, but did a couple of records with Warner Brothers in America so already had the experience of working with a major label.
“We’ve been around long enough to see from the sidelines the small indie and big major set-ups, so knew what to expect.
“After establishing the band for over a decade, anyone who works with us has a pretty good idea of what to expect from us, and pretty much let us get on with what we want.
“The only time it feels odd being with a major would be if they have a pre-conceived idea of what they want to mould you into.
“With Warner Brothers in America it was slightly like that, but with Sony in the UK I think they understand what we’re about.”
“We were always more suited to being on an indie label. From an idealistic point of view we really liked the idea of community and a close relationship with the label.
“At this stage we’re pretty dyed in the wool. People know us well enough to know what we want to do, and this record is still fundamentally a punk record.”
There are a couple of radio-friendly tracks on For All My Sisters to pull new fans in, but there’s also enough to feel you’re staying true to your ideals.
“It’s always been the same with us, throughout the years. We’ve always known which are the singles and like to write pop songs, although not in the conventional sense. We’re not trying to be part of that world.
“I consider a lot of my favourite bands to be pop, like Nirvana, Teenage Fan Club and Sebadoh. To me they write pop songs, even though it doesn’t fit the same classification as commercial pop.”
The influence that came across more than most for me on the new LP is Weezer, although that’s understandable with the LP produced by Ric Ocasek, former frontman of US new wavers The Cars, who also worked with the LA outfit.
“A couple of people have said that, and I grew up listening to Weezer. They were accessible, and as a young teenager you need these gateway bands – where the more melodic songs turn you on to the experimental side.”
How much of the album’s sound and feel was down to Ric?
“His influence was mainly was as a producer who we respect for what he’s done before. It makes it smoother, where everybody ends up on the same page.
“Between me and my brothers we produce ourselves, but it’s good to have someone there almost like an arbiter.
“Otherwise we can end up fixated on the details. Ric was good at telling us what felt good and what was a good take but also very focused on vocal performances.
“In the past I’ve been happy enough if it’s felt right. Ric didn’t care about us getting a perfect performance either, yet with the vocals he wanted me to push a lot harder to put in great performances.”
The first single, Burning for No One, was a contender for a summer anthem, and not just for the accompanying video, shot in the Bahamas.
Was the fact that they chose the island of Exuma rather than Scarborough - where they recorded a track for their second LP on the beach - for the video a sign of them selling out?
“When we say it was in the Bahamas it makes it sound much grander than it was. But it was a cool experience.
“We knew there was this island inhabited by these feral pigs, but paid for some flights and took a friend along to film us.
“It was all done guerrilla style. It wasn’t like some big ‘80s production. It does seem like the classic cliché of signing for a major then going off to the Bahamas. But it wasn’t like that.”
Back in the Industrial North, how was your date in Leeds on May 2, in what must class more or less a home fixture for this Wakefield outfit?
“Leeds has almost always been like a home show, although we play Wakefield sometimes. Playing the Town Hall was like a celebratory show in grand surroundings on a really special night.”
This Sunday (May 24) The Cribs are at Liverpool Docklands’ Sound City festival, the same night as Gaz Coombes, Belle & Sebastian and Peace among others.
Is there anyone in particular on that bill Gary wants to watch from the sidelines?
“I wanted to see Thurston Moore and also Flaming Lips, but they’re playing the day before, so I don’t know if I’ll be around.
“We’ve bumped into Thurston a few times, and to me he’s still a guitar hero, although that sounds a weird thing to say about such an iconoclastic anti-hero!”
The Cribs are a four-piece live, with Russell Searle from fellow Wakefield band The Research helping out at present.
“We like to have someone fill in a couple of extra guitar parts and on keyboards, and that was Mike (Cummings) from the band Skaters in America, now Russell here.”
I’m guessing there’s still a bit of a rush down the front for crowd favourites like Hey Scenesters, Mirror Kissers and Men’s Needs.
“Well, we put out a compilation a couple of years ago, so our set-list is like a greatest hits, with certain songs people expect us to play.
“For us it’s more fun playing the new stuff, and at the moment we’re trying to find a balance. We had that in Dublin – about one-third new stuff, two-thirds hits.
“But when you’ve been touring for around 13 years, how many songs can you play? You know what works, and have a good idea what a crowd wants.”
From fellow triple-sibling bands The Beach Boys and The Bee Gees to more fiery brotherly combos like The Kinks’ Ray and Dave Davies and Oasis’ Liam and Noel Gallagher, where do the Jarman trio fit?
“We’re more like best friends really. As with most siblings, we argue a lot about petty things - but nothing major.
“With some artistic partnerships it’s usually about a clash of egos, but I like to think the three of us are pretty free of that. We’re all on the same team.
“The reason we started a band was because we had the same influences, feelings and intentions, and that’s been unwavering over the years.
“We couldn’t imagine being able to get on with anyone else. It’s best to be in a band with people you trust 100 per cent.
“The three-piece is really streamlined, and that whole power trio thing has proved so effective over the years.
“For us, it means each of us feels really engaged. No one feels a marginal member. Each of us is an integral part.”
That said, it must have been something to have Johnny Marr in your ranks. What was the biggest learning experience from that?
“The key difference is the fact that ever since he left, when we make records we still put extra guitar or keyboard on.
“Prior to Johnny, we never really did that and were pretty hard-line about it. When Johnny joined we had that extra colour on the palette.
“We still embrace that idea, and it’s actually quite freeing in that way.
“As a band of brothers it was always really defined as to who was in this band, so it was unusual to have someone from outside.
“We never thought that would happen, because we didn’t have any more siblings, so didn’t even think that was a possibility.
“When Johnny came along that was such an unexpected and rare opportunity. It was pretty surreal too.
“We’re still close with him and he’s still a great friend of ours, and we’ll always be inextricably linked in that way.”
Then there are the past links with several other notable artists, including Edwyn Collins, Bernard Butler and Alex Kapranos. Not a bad pedigree really.
“They’re all part of our history. We’re quite a closed unit.
“Being brothers we’re naturally less dependent on outsiders, because we’ve got each other.
“Anyone who became part of what we were doing was something we took a long time considering and they were all important to us in that way.”
So, 14 years after their initial set-up, did Gary ever feel it could have come to all this? Did they always have that strength of belief?
“We didn’t really. I think it’s one of the biggest myths and misconceptions about the band.
“We’ve always represented ourselves as being very staunch in our ethics and in some way that’s construed as being self-confident.
“It was more that we felt a duty to try not to deviate from our original intention and trying to retain what we had in the first place.
“No, we never expected all this. It’s been kind of crazy. When we first started we had pretty avant-garde intentions and played a lot of gigs with twee, very indie pop bands.
“We never expected to have top-10 records. Our peer group were in a very different world to that we ended up occupying, so it’s pretty surreal where we ended up.”
l Malcolm Wyatt is a Lancashire-based freelance writer, with his own blog at writewyattuk.com/
For tickets for Liverpool Docklands’ Sound City three-day event, head to www.liverpoolsoundcity.co.uk/
To keep up to date with The Cribs see www.thecribs.com/