Before The Cribs’ much anticipated take over of Rock City on Monday the 26th October we had the opportunity to interview Vocalist and Bassist, Gary Jarman.
Starting out you were a band with a very DIY ethic and this appeared to transplant onto your touring as well, how do your touring experiences now differ to at the start of your career?
It’s in and out really because it’s bigger places and people pay 20 quid to come see us play or whatever and so you have a certain degree of responsibility to not be completely ramshackle. We have a few crew members who take care of us but we still, as far as like other bands who are on the level that we’re at, like touring places like Rock City, we’re still pretty basic. But then we just got back from the US tour, and when we go to the US it’s just me and my brothers and maybe one other guy in a van, and it’s great. I think our ideology when we started out has made it so that we don’t look at things in the way that some bands do, we still look at it as if we have nothing you know? So we look at the tour on paper and we figure out the way we can make it work without being indulgent, and then there’s some times we do stuff to make things nicer for the crew. I like things to be a little bit grotty and fucked up on the road because otherwise it just breeds complacency being on a bus, waking up at the venue on the bus, you’re just complacence, whereas if you have to get there off your own steam in the van and you watched the world go by for a few hours, you get there and really want to do the show and you want to make people happy.
In the early days it used to be really fucked up, we didn’t have any structure at all, we went out there without any professional crew, we just took our friends with us. We were touring in pretty big places and we were doing a lot of support gigs just without any structure. I remember doing the NME rock and roll riot tour with Kaiser Chiefs and Maximo Park, they were both touring pretty high level stuff and we were just drunk kids basically, we were like the brats on the tour but that was what used to fuel our fire I think, just being like misfits on the road, and I believe that was one of the reasons why people liked us because we didn’t ever represent ourselves as professionals. So like I said, now there’s a certain obligation to be worth 20 quid to the people coming to see us play but I think a lot of our audience want it to be fucked up anyway, it’s a fine balance between being a punk rock band and a fuck up.
For All My Sisters is your third consecutive top 10 album, many bands who were massive in the early to mid 2000s have all but disappeared, but not The Cribs, what do you think has contributed to your sustained success?
Well I mean we always felt like underdogs, and I know that that’s a pretty typical thing for people to say now, but we didn’t really have as much stuff going for us as a lot of other bands. When we were first having top 40 singles, it was really a lot of the time without having much radio support or anything and we certainly didn’t have the sort of budgets that the other groups did, so I think just the way that we established ourselves as a band meant our fan base was of people who just really liked us, they didn’t get us rammed down their throats, they didn’t see us on TV all the time, it just wasn’t like that. I think if that’s how your band initially becomes popular you always need that, whereas if your band didn’t become popular in that way, you can sort of enjoy it. When people come round to your way of thinking those people pick up on you. We never needed that stuff, nowadays people talk about how guitar bands aren’t really big anymore, it hasn’t really affected us that much because we didn’t get anymore support back then than we do now. I think people back then liked us because we represented a different ethic to what the acceptable brand of indie rock was.
Your latest album was produced by Ric Ocasek from the cars, how did that happen?
Well Ric was someone we wanted to work with for a long time because we grew up listening to records he’d made. I actually didn’t know that much about the Cars, I just knew his name from record sleeves. Me and my brothers were real geeks about records and record sleeves, we wouldn’t just listen to the album we’d read through the lyrics and look at the photographs as well, so Ric was a name we knew from being like fourteen or something. When we were looking at making a new album we signed to Warner Bros in the US and we had like a list of producers including Ric Ocasek, we liked the Guided by voices records and Weezer records that he’d done, we’d been kind of chasing him for a while. This time round it’s a little bit of a complex situation because Ric does pretty well without being a producer, he’s actually not really a producer so he doesn’t record that many records, it makes him kind of hard to get. Every time we try to make a record we send Ric an email and send him some downloads but he’s always doing something else, he’s a real renaissance man and then this time he happened to be free and we got on really well. Ric’s not a conventional guy but he really knows, he’s got a real pop brain, and for us that’s what really drew us to him, we make pretty poppy music but I don’t think we have a conventional take on it, so I think we hoped that Ric would be a good match with us for that reason and he was, he’s a really good guy and everything was really intuitive and fun.
Your current tour takes you around the UK for a total of 10 shows, what venue have you enjoyed playing the most or what venues are you looking forward to playing the most?
We did Barrowlands in Glasgow, that’s somewhere that we really love, I think we’ve headlined it 5 times now and every time we go to Scotland we always do that one. The promoter up there says we get treated like a Glaswegian band at that venue and that’s a real honour because the music fans in Glasgow are very vociferous and if they don’t like something it’s fucking tough, so we’ve always thought it’s a real honour and of course it’s a really legendary venue. Then again I really like rock city as well, one of the reasons why was that when I was a kid I just knew Nirvana had played here, I remember seeing it on the “Live! Tonight! Sold out!” video that I got for Christmas in 1994 and I remember seeing Rock City on there. So it always held this mystique and this aura, it’s like when we find out we’re booked in to play it’s always exciting, this is the kind of gig that’s got a lot of gravity to it, I get nervous before Rock City, and I don’t usually get nervous before that many gigs now.
Your support tonight is coming from Brighton based surf/psych trio, The Wytches, how did they get the opportunity to support you guys?
We’re just lucky, we just take bands on tour that we really like and Wytches played with us when we did this special Christmas show in Leeds, there were 2 nights in the academy and we asked bands that we heard and that we liked to play with us and The Wytches were one of them. They were fucking great that night, they’re a little bit heavy but fun and usually heavy can be a bit too serious, not to say those guys are not serious at all but you know they’re heavy but also a really good fun band to watch, so yeah we just asked them. We were happy that they could do it, like with all the bands that we’ve had on this tour, all the bands are really great, they’re bands that I would pay to go see. For us we love putting together bills that we think would be good value for the fans and so The Wytches, they’re a headline band themselves and Esper Scout are a band that we really like and you know when you’re going to take two bands on tour it’s nice to take a new band and give them a platform. We also had Pulled Apart By Horses and PAWS supporting on the first half of the tour and that kind of epitomised that too, it’s great and for us it’s like there’s a lot of bands that will take a support band on tour who they don’t really like, we like to take support bands on tour that are going to really give you a run for your money, because by the time you go on stage the crowd are really feeling it, if they have a good time the band has a good time.
You rose to prominence during the indie/mainstream crossover, nowadays it seems indie is once again underground, what is your opinion on indie music now as it was back when you started?
As far as popular indie music goes I think it went exactly as I expected it to, there was an exciting period of time in the early 2000s and then obviously that got commodified which happens all the time, any time there’s a youth culture movement that has a grassroots sort of appeal it gets commodified and that’s exactly what happened which is why we were such a cynical band in the mid 2000s. I remember the late 90s man and it was the most destitute time for guitar bands, it’s really similar to that now but now the benefit of that and the upshot of that is that there’s been a reaction to it. The reaction to it is that all the good indie rock bands or punk rock bands, they don’t give a fuck about having that crossover thing whereas in the 2000s everyone was going in the studio with like U2’s producer and wanted to get on the radio, now the reaction is exactly as it should be where people don’t care about stuff like that and that’s what’s really exciting, it reminds of the period of time just before we came out. I feel like we’ve got way more in common with a lot of the young bands, I feel like we have much more of a Kingship with them and for us it’s cool because a lot of those bands actually like us, which is great as I think hopefully our ideology was correct, it did separate us from the scene we didn’t really want anything to do with and in good measure that is. Like the bands we bring on tour, they were bands who listened to us when they were younger and I suppose that’s a great honour. I’m glad that people understood us, I spent a lot of time thinking we were really mis-represented and I would really worry about that. The band are much more at peace now that the ship has sailed on that whole scene.
Your final tour date is 30th October, what are your plans for after the tour has finished?
Not really any plans because Ryan’s got to go back to America, he’s got some stuff to take care of over there. I don’t think we’re going to do anything for the rest of the year after that and then I’m hoping we are going to write and record some stuff. I was hoping to put out another record next year, early next year if possible and then we have some other stuff planned for 2016, we have some tours offered and some big one off headline shows, but they won’t be until like the beginning of next year sometime. But the end of this year we’re not really doing much after this tour, we’ll probably just do some writing.
Your aim was to create two albums, one pop-centred and one punk centred, what can you tell us about that?
This album pretty much focused on the poppier side and we’ve got four tracks recorded with Steve Albini which we’re really happy with and we want to put out but we don’t want to put it out as a four track EP. I think we’ll probably do a mini album, like 8 or 10 tracks or something because that will allow us to get it out really soon. The intention is to not have to go through all the machinations of the industry, there’s a lot of contractual stuff involved as well as marketing and all that stuff, I’d rather just make it a mini album and put it out really quickly to bypass it all.
You mentioned giving support to upcoming bands on your tour, any bands that you are really liking at the moment?
My favourite new band were chastity belt, I really like their first record but that was a couple years ago and I have to say I haven’t even heard the new record. We hung out with them a couple of nights on this tour, I liked the first record so much that I purposefully didn’t buy the second record yet because I’m still into the first one, they were my favourite new band. Esper scout are really great, they’re first on tonight. PAWS from Glasgow are also a great band, they’re like sort of a grungy punk-pop, they have a really great spirit. They’ve actually just made a new record that’s been produced by Mark Hoppus from blink 182, which is kind of a bit leftfield, they played it to us the other night in the dressing room and it sounds great, it’s a big step up for them so that’s going to be good.
Johnny Marr joined the band from 2008 until 2011, what, if any, legacy did he leave on the band in terms of song recording, song production and generally how the band functions?
Not really on how we record because Johnny had a different recording approach to us. We made that record with Johnny, we did record most of it live but the way that he does his guitar, he really builds stuff up and layers it. We still have another guitar player live now and I think the reason we do that is because we got used to having someone else there, so when Johnny left to be able to play the songs from that record we needed another guitarist or we just wouldn’t be able to play it live, so we had to get another person and now when we make records I play a bit of guitar on the records as I’m always thinking about how if we’ve got another guitarist live we might as well have him doing something up there. I guess his legacy is that I’ve ended up putting guitar on the fifth and sixth records whereas I didn’t used to do that, it used to be just Ryan. I think ultimately he did flesh the band out in that way, you know it’s hard to go from four members back to three, we did it but once it’s noisier and louder on stage it’s always hard to dial it back.
It seems to be a historically risky dynamic having a band consisting of all brothers, and yet you’ve apparently made it work, what do you think makes all 3 of you work so well together, where bands such as Oasis were pulled apart by a similar band structure?
It is a question that does come up. I think the key thing for me is that none of us are trying to be alpha with each other, I’m not really that sort of personality. Growing up with a twin you bond very empathetically, my entire life I’ve grown up with somebody else there and so I’ve never really thought just for myself, I’ve always thought about how what I do affects somebody else such as my brothers. It just means you’re generally more forgiving of people, so like we’ve always grown very diplomatic with one another. The most important thing was when the band got signed or when the band started doing well, none of us became big headed. That’s why the big bands who were siblings ended up falling out so much because when you are a sibling you have a pre-established relationship and a dynamic so if you’re working together creatively and you try and impose that dynamic upon the artistic side, it’s going to cause friction and I think that that’s what causes a lot of problems especially if there’s egos involved. We’re just not really like that, I want the band to do well for my brothers’ sake just as much as my own. I mean it is a double edged sword, I actually feel that if I had been in a band with other people I couldn’t have really dealt with it for this long, you get really lonely, I go on tour and I don’t see my wife for months, that’s tough but when you’re with your brothers you don’t really worry about it so much because you’re with people who are your best friends and who are family. I don’t feel like I could have done it twelve years without being in a band with my brothers to be honest. I would have been one of these weird dictatorial, crazy James Brown type people telling everyone in the band what to do and be stressed out all the time.
Finally, you’ve got a day off from touring tomorrow, any plans for after the show tonight?
We have a day off tomorrow, but it’s the worst kind of day off because we have to be up really early as we’re doing a radio session at 6 music. As a result, I have to be in London at 7AM, so tonight we play the show and then immediately drive to London. Even though it’s a day off it’s going to be harder work than any of the other days on tour. So yeah tonight we’re planning on leaving as soon as we can which is a drag because I love Nottingham.