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Interview The Cribs

Nick Rowan speaks to bassist Gary Jarman about album number five, Johnny Marr and going to back-to-basics

Interview: The Cribs

“By the time it came to the third album [Men’s Needs, Women’s Needs, Whatever], we were on a major label, at least in the USA, so we had to start working again,” bassist Gary Jarman tells me from his motel room in Seattle, “As circumstances would have it, that was our mainstream breakthrough and I don’t think we expected that. So all of a sudden we found ourselves playing a very different game. We told everyone at the end of the Men’s Needs… tour that we were going to take time off, but then Johnny joined around that time so we had to keep going again.”

“The two Warner Brothers records, the third and the fourth [Ignore The Ignorant], I just remember being so burned the whole time,” he continues, “and then the fourth one surpassed our expectations too and so again we just had to keep going, by the end of it we were pretty thrashed. This is the first real time off we’ve had off since the release of the first album [The Cribs] and that’s why we have that enthusiasm and excitement once again.”

The back-to-basics approach, adopted since Johnny Marr left the band in April 2011, extended to playing practice sessions in the basement again, like a regular garage band. Admittedly this time it was in Gary’s new home out in Portland, Oregon rather than back in Wakefield, but the three brothers (guitarist Ryan and drummer Ross making up the trio) being back under the same roof obviously triggered a lot of happy memories.

“It was like when the band first started again, you had that first flush of creativity and ideas – everything’s exciting and you’re kind of starting from scratch really,” he says. “And we are starting from scratch in a lot of ways…” A lot of bands fail to recover from a major line-up change, especially one played out in front of the media, but The Cribs appear refreshed and very much ready to re-engage. “It was honestly one of the most fun times we’ve had,” Jarman says of their time together in Portland.

I’m relieved when Marr’s name crops up naturally in conversation, as although almost a year has gone by, as an outsider it’s been difficult to ascertain quite how amicable the split has been. “Johnny did tell me several times that he wanted The Cribs to be the last band he was ever in,” Jarman says, “which was obviously incredibly flattering, but I don’t think I was egotistical enough to believe that that would be the situation.

“It wasn’t a complete surprise but at the same time everything that had been said was to the contrary. In the press we did say that it was going to be more of a permanent arrangement, and I was a little embarrassed about that,” he says. Still, there are no obvious traces of anger or resentment. On the contrary, the respect that Jarman holds for Marr still shines through.

“I really hope to maintain a close friendship with Johnny because he was one of my best friends for a couple of years,” he says. “It has been a little bit fraught at times, but not because of the band or because of Johnny, but because of the way the press decides to report it a lot of times. Johnny understands it anyway. He phoned me and said ‘I’m really surprised about the way people have been twisting my words’ and I was like, ‘I know man. It’s happened to me too.’”

Both Gary and Ryan had been considering putting the band on hiatus in order to record solo albums but Johnny leaving somewhat forced their hand. “It would be weird to lose a band member and then not regroup,” he says.

“When Johnny left, there was a lot of attention,” Jarman says. “So it was just perfect for us because we were in a basement in Portland, where it doesn’t really matter.” They also decided to remain in the States to record, including separate sessions with producer Dave Fridmann and with engineer Steve Albini, as they’d found the time away from the UK helped to improve their perspective. “You lose sight of that when you’re in England because it all becomes about playlists and Radio 1 and TV, which isn’t really a concept for a band of our ilk in the USA,” Jarman says.

“The US is basically an escape from the UK in a lot of ways, and I don’t mean that to sound mean or anything, but really if you’re in a band in the UK that does well to any kind of degree, it’s really kind of a rat race. For example in the States you have bands like Sleater Kinney and they’ll still be relatively underground. Now if you sell 100,000 records in the UK, you’re basically in the mainstream realm at that point. You get judged by their criteria and are

Posted on Wednesday 8th February 2012

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