Interview: The Cribs

Comeback kings The Cribs talk new music, Sheffield nostalgia and going against the status quo. Emily Beaumont caught up with frontman Gary Jarman ahead of their headline show at the O2 Academy on October 24.

Hi Gary, greetings from Sheffield! How are things going on the US tour at the moment?
Yeah they’re going really well, we’ve just left Chicago and are on our way to Detroit. The West Coast is really good fun. We always do so much driving when we’re over here, we’ve just finished driving for two days solid – it’s very full-on.

More importantly, are you excited to see us all in Sheffield?
Absolutely. Playing at home is a completely different vibe to playing in the US. We’re not from Sheffield but it’s close to our hometown of Wakefield, and we played the Sheffield gig circuit a lot when we were first starting in the early 2000s. In 2002 we played the National Pop Museum a fair bit, I think it’s the student union now, and they were always happy to have us. The Sheffield music scene is very open – it has a lot of variety and everything fits in somewhere.

Do you ever get nostalgic about those early days? Driving around the north in a van playing anywhere and everywhere?
Yeah I do. Back then, we were very idealistic, and I like to think we’ve held onto that through the years. We’re brothers and we all lived together – looking back, they were the best days of my life. Now we all live apart all over the world but have tried to retain that sensibility.

Did you ever think back then that you’d achieve this level of success?
No, not at all – I think if we did it may have been a little conceited! Popularity was something that never really mattered to us. We were happy just playing one gig at a time and seeing where it went. We always tried to put on a good live show, because if people like you, they’ll come back to see you. We supported some great bands on tour which got us excellent recognition, and then our second album ended up in the top 10. It was very surreal. There was never any grand plan to get into the charts but I’d definitely say it’s something we’re proud of.

You put out a B-Side this week, ‘Wish I Knew You In The 90s’. How has the response been so far?
I actually have no idea! We’ve been a bit out of it at the moment so haven’t had any phone signal, which has been quite liberating actually. But yeah, from what people have told me it’s been pretty well-received overall. People tend to get more excited about B-Sides than singles, because with a single they’ve heard it already. From the few articles I’ve read it’s been cool, apparently quite reminiscent of our old stuff; a bit of a throwback. It is a bit raw and a bit rough, something for fans of our second album.

Your latest album, ‘For All My Sisters’, peaked at number 9, with it’s predecessors hitting the top 10 too. Does it feel gratifying to have that kind of commercial success?
It’s one of those things – it’s not the aim, but it does feel good when it happens. It’s certainly something as a band we’re very proud of. We learned early on not to depend on hype and whims of the media, as they can only guarantee short-term success. The fans are the ones who will make you successful in the long-run.

You spent a little longer working on ‘For All My Sisters’ than on previous records. What was the process like putting this record together?
Well in the early days it was much quicker as we all lived together, so we could put out albums year after year. Now it’s a bit more difficult as we live apart in different parts of the world so it’s harder to settle into writing again. With this record we would play together and then write. We went on the Weezer Cruise which was great fun, so we wrote before and after that and then rented a studio all summer to record.

Was their a specific line of inspiration behind the album?
I’m not really sure, we took a lot of road-trips so maybe that had a contribution. There was nothing specific, we just knew we wanted to make a pop album. We listened to a lot of 80s synth and experimented with melodies and harmonies. It wasn’t that we wanted to be a pop band; we’ve just always had that side to us and wanted to explore it more.

Have your influences or motivations behind songwriting changed at all since your first album?
Not at all. I’m not sure whether it’s a good thing or bad thing. Our influences are the same as Nirvana, The Beatles and The Ramones who all have a big impact on our sound. We think of ourselves as a punk band playing pop and our beliefs really resonate with punk rock bands.

When you first started, there was a huge wave of indie bands starting out. What are you doing different to the bands who have disappeared?
I think we were a bit earlier on the hype. We started in 2002 and I think these other bands started a bit later, in maybe 2004/2005. There were The White Stripes, The Libertines, The Strokes. There was a lot of excitement around bands at that point, particularly British bands. Two years later, indie took over. By the time our second album came out, these bands were being signed with huge labels and making it overnight. By the time 2007 came around, there was a massive glut, but for us we’d already been around a fair bit. We were dismayed, it felt like commodification of something exciting. That’s when we got a bit of a reputation for being outspoken, we weren’t about that label smash n’ grab. We didn’t live and die by radio and tv and commercial media.

Now you’ve been going 10+ years, what advice would you give to bands just starting out?
Learn that respect is worth more than exposure. Establish what your ethos are and stick with them. Don’t compromise your identity for popularity. We didn’t have anything handed to us as a band, and we stuck with what we believed in. We’re still around and didn’t get lost in the indie-band bubble, I think we represented ourselves right with no regrets.

Catch The Cribs at the O2 Academy on October 24. Tickets and more info available here.

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