The Cribs' Ryan Jarman On Fraternal Chemistry, Kate Nash And Surviving Trendspotting
The Cribs, who played two sold-out shows in New York last month, happily returned for a third New York gig on Saturday at The Fillmore New York at Irving Plaza, part of the West Yorkshire-born band's current North American tour supporting their impassioned new album Ignore The Ignorant which dropped last fall.
Guitarist and vocalist Ryan Jarman, on the phone from Ferndale, Michigan where the band played on Thursday night, told The Alternate Side that he's glad to be back so soon, explaining that the brief flurry of December gigs happened because "we wanted to something after putting the record out." However, a third gig deeper in a long tour gives The Cribs the chance to delve headlong into their four-album, B-side-abundant catalog.
"We're definitely doing a different set," said Jarman enthusiastically. "We don't want to come over and do the same set twice, ever! There's a lot of old B-sides ... we have an old B-side called 'To Jackson' that I really like. We do still play that sometimes. We like to keep all of the options open. Any song that we've written, we always like the idea of being able to play it. The ones that have fallen off the set are ones we don't think represent the band particularly well anymore."
And what represents the ferociously charismatic band these days is their very strong fourth album, a bruising, buoyant blend of pugnacious rockers ("Cheat On Me"), more experimental perambulations ("City of Bugs"), and soaring pop anthems ("We Share The Same Skies"). Most notably, Ignore The Ignorant marks the debut of The Cribs' new member Johnny Marr, the holy and hallowed guitarist of The Smiths who also moonlights with Modest Mouse. The union of the brothers Jarman - Ryan, bassist Gary and drummer Ross - and Marr has signaled a real turning point for The Cribs. As Ryan puts it, The Cribs "feel fresh again."
"[Johnny] offers a lot of heart and excitement to the future," says Jarman, who says that Gary and Marr became friends when the two lived in Portland, Oregon, where Marr is now based. "We've made this record together that I think went very well. Now we're closer, we know each other musically. We chat constantly about what kind of things we're into and what we want to achieve in the future. And by 'achieve,' I don't mean places we want to play or winning awards or anything like that, but what we want to achieve with the music. I just feel excited about what we're going to do next and Johnny's been a big part of that."
Although he's one of rock's great guitar gods, Marr might not be the man to hire for ear piecing. During the recording sessions for Ignore The Ignorant, Ryan begged Marr to skewer his earlobe after learning the he had done the same for his former Smiths bandmate Andy Rourke. "It was a jealousy thing," says Jarman, laughing. "I think I was [very drunk] at the time. But the next day it got really infected. It's just one of those things. Kind of like an initiation."
Happily, Jarman's ear did not fall off (and the mishap is now forever preserved for posterity on YouTube) and the guitarist, who flips vocals with his fraternal twin brother Gary, completed Ignore The Ignorant. It's a watershed release for the band, marking what Ryan feels is a giant leap for the trio-turned-quartet. Unlike the The Cribs prior releases The Cribs (2004), The New Fellas (2005), and Men's Needs, Women's Needs, Whatever (2007), which he describes as being more "bashed-out" ventures, Jarman feels that this record has a deeper textural quality and "cinematic sound" that shows the band's ability to swing effortlessly between grit and grace. In fact, now that The Cribs have proved that they can turn out a sleekly expansive album like Ignore The Ignorant, it might be time to "regress."
"I really like the idea of going out and bashing out something in a week," he explains. "Our first record took a week to record. I've liked that we've progressed enough away from that so to go back to it would feel fresh."
Jarman said that while the band has been working on bits and pieces of new songs whilst on the road, they're not ready to step back into a studio to record their next album. But following their North American tour and a road trek through Australia and New Zealand in February, the three brothers and Marr have booked studio time to put themselves "in a creative environment" - no pressure involved - to explore some of the rudimentary ideas they've been exploring.
Jarman, who speaks quickly in a densely-colloquial Wakefield drawl, is quite open when discussing his longtime girlfriend, singer Kate Nash. Nash, whose brash, fearlessly confessional songs (which often berated crap ex-boyfriends) helped her debut album Made of Bricks soar to platinum in the UK, will be releasing her second album this spring. Jarman says that when Nash wanted to include strings on some tracks, he not only wrote some arrangements, but played violin on the record. In fact, one of Nash's new songs, "I Hate Seagulls," was her Christmas gift to Jarman when the couple celebrated their first holiday together. Are more collaborations in the future?
"I'd definitely help her in any way I can," said Jarman. "But I also totally respect the way she works with her own creative force. I try not to get too involved. Although we do talk about writing some songs together at some point, we're both so busy at the moment. But I know that's something we'll definitely do in the future. Whether there's any wisdom in that, I don't know! I don't really think about stuff like that. I think that we both inspire each other in some ways. We always bounce ideas off of each other."
For the moment Jarman says that he, his brothers and Marr are enjoying The Cribs steady ascent both in the States and back home in the UK. He finds it a bit amazing that The Cribs have soldiered on while more heavily-hyped bands have fallen by the wayside. Perhaps it's due to the strength of the siblings' relationship or as Jarman puts it, being "passionate and pure" and believing that an audience will find you. The Cribs are survivors and, as Jarman sees it, making the best music of their career thus far.
"I don't why it is we never worry about selling records," muses Jarman. "We never worry about getting on the radio. I honestly think that the people who are really hung up on things like that, it's not conducive to making good albums. I've always believed in living in your own world. We've always done that and we only write records because we've got to do it."
He continues: "It's so strange. In the UK, we never went for automatic success and we certainly didn't get it. But now we're on our fourth record. Back when we released our first record, [there were] all of these big acts that had come out. [They] don't exist anymore. And we're bigger than we ever were in the UK. I feel like we've become - I'm not being egotistical - almost a classic band there because we've been around for such a long time and haven't been affected by trends. And that's a really great position to be in. I don't believe in being part of a trend because you will go down with that ship."