No Place Like Home

2 October 2013 | 4:15 am | Steve Bell

"I’m defined by the band, it’s what I do and I can’t imagine that being a transient thing and moving around."

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Even though hard-working English indie outfit The Cribs are literally and figuratively a band of brothers, the ties that bind them haven't been quite as tight of late. The trio of Jarman siblings grew up (and discovered music) in the relatively miniscule city of Wakefield, West Yorkshire, but have in recent times spread to the wind, with oldest twins Ryan (guitar/vocals) and Gary (bass/vocals) having decamped to America, leaving only younger brother Ross (drums) to mind the fort at home. And while for Ryan having a place of his own at all is a novelty after a decade of living out of a suitcase on the road with his band, he recently discovered that home isn't always where the heart is.

“Yeah, Gary's been living [in America] since about 2006, and I just moved out there last year,” he offers from the road while touring Europe, where The Cribs have been enjoying the northern festival circuit. “I mean I didn't live anywhere – since the band started, for the last ten years, I just haven't lived anywhere. I've just been on the road so constantly that I just haven't had a home, so then last year I moved to New York because I met friends and stuff out there. That's been good – it was good to finally find somewhere that I actually want to live.

“It's [good laying down roots], apart from the fact that since I've been out here on tour, I was living in this place in New York and the guy who lived in one of the other rooms has stolen everything that I own and gone missing. That's been really stressful – you think that you've set roots down and you think that everything's good, and then you realise that you've moved in with a complete fucking wildlife.”

Earlier this year The Cribs released Payola, a career retrospective celebrating a decade as a band, the milestone which is also bringing them back to Australia so abruptly (they were here at the very start of the year touring 2012's In The Belly Of The Brazen Bull). Did putting together the compilation offer a chance to reflect on everything they'd achieved in the last decade?

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“A little bit, I suppose,” Jarman considers. “We're not really that big into that, you know? We don't want it to be some self-congratulatory wank back-slapping session. It was interesting going back and getting all of the old tapes, but thinking about what songs to put on there was difficult just because there was so many – we'd written and recorded over a hundred songs, so even thinking of the tracklisting was difficult. But it was really satisfying because it wasn't just like a record company thing, we all got involved and went back and found the old master tapes
and did remasters. Gary has a box where he saves everything from flyers to wristbands – everything from the whole band history, stuff that we hadn't seen in ten years – and we scanned it all and put it in the artwork, so it was sort of satisfying putting it all together as just one package. And actually making a good job of it, because we didn't leave any stone unturned.

“But at the same time me and Gary are really prone to getting super-nostalgic about things – I always miss the days when I was at school or at college or back in England, it speaks to me and it's so easy to get wrapped up in nostalgia – but at the same time I never do with the band, because I'm always concerned with what's happening next. As soon as you put a record out I want to move on and make the next one, so it was weird seeing the 'best of' record because with the band we'd never really looked back. I guess these shows will be interesting, because we've forced ourselves to do that – go back and play some small places, and maybe do some stuff from the old records. It's not really what we're used to, but it's kind of nice to spend a year looking back I guess.”

While The Cribs are obviously a band not prone to examining their overall place in the annals of music, receiving the Outstanding Contribution To Music gong at the annual NME Awards earlier this year must have been a tad surreal, especially given their relatively tender ages.

“I know, we grew up being big Queen fans, and that's the kind of award that you'd give to someone like Queen or something,” Jarman laughs. “We found it really funny at the time and really weird. It is interesting to get it when you're really young, but I figure that we've written over a hundred songs, which is kind of rare. I think that in the last ten years we've really packed a lot into it, and written a lot and toured relentlessly – so we've packed quite an intensive career into ten years already. But you can feel with awards like that that they're almost putting you out to pasture; it's like, 'Alright you need some milk now, you can chill out for a bit'. But it was cool. The thing I like about this band is how perverse it is, and getting an award like that feels like a perverse, strange occurrence. We were happy to get it, but at the same time we're only like thirty-odd, I think there's still life in us yet.”

Renowned as an insular three-piece, for a while The Cribs had a fourth member; none other than legendary The Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr, who grew close to the band following a chance meeting (while he was still a member of Modest Mouse) and ended up joining full-time, playing on forth album Ignore The Ignorant (2009). Jarman recalls the stint fondly, even if his own transient nature when it comes to living quarters doesn't reflect his steadfast approach to being in a rock'n'roll band.

“We never expected to have anyone else in the band first and foremost, and we didn't expected to really want anyone else – we always felt that the thing about The Cribs was that it worked better as a three-piece,” Jarman recalls. “We never intended to get someone else, so when Johnny joined it was great – it was fun – and I think that we made a good record together. With the press in the UK there's always a lot of media attention, and The Smiths' fans are passionate fans and The Cribs' fans are passionate fans so it wasn't like we had a lot to prove, which was good and I think we made a good record, but then Johnny said that he wanted to stay in the band with us – he said, 'I want this to be the last band that I'm ever in' – so as soon as we started getting our heads around the fact that he was a full member and was going to be with us forever, he went and left! I guess he's the kind of guy who likes to move on and do different things, but that's not the way that we are at all. We feel that once you're in something you're really defined by it – I'm defined by the band, it's what I do and I can't imagine that being a transient thing and moving around.

“So it was good having Johnny in the band – a good experience – but I don't feel that I changed the way that I played and I don't feel that the band changed a great deal. For me personally, as a guitarist, it was great to play with someone that I'd considered to be an influence when I grew up, so I really appreciated that aspect of it. And I still genuinely feel that the way me and Johnny played together really did work; we didn't sit down and work at it but somehow naturally our guitar lines would weave in and out of each other and I really enjoyed that. It was really satisfying in the studio the way we seemed to play together, but I do see that as being more of a collaboration record now – it's like an anomaly in The Cribs' back catalogue because it's the only one where we had someone else in. At the time I thought it was just a progression, but I kind of feel that we're meant to be a three-piece although I'm happy having that record in the back catalogue. It was a fun thing to do and it worked, and collaborations very rarely work.”