Ryan Jarman and his band’s reputation precedes them, and so, in true Cribs style – laid back, cool, friendly, thoroughly interesting, unassuming, passionate, and did I say, cool? – Jarman relays in his inimitable voice, tales and deep thoughts of brazen bulls, barbarism, Bengal tigers and brotherhood. We chatted at length about the new album, the creative process, playing gigs in the States, recording, producers, 10 year anniversaries, and why this band of brothers will always remain as three.
Libby: So the new album, the title, ‘In the Belly of the Brazen Bull’ what’s the meaning of it, does it signify anything?
Ryan: Well it wasn’t intended to signify anything at the time, really. I got this book out about different methods of execution. Me and Gary especially kind of kept on obsessing over it. ‘In the Belly of the Brazen Bull’, the phrase.
It’s not contrived and the songs don’t follow it…
Ryan: Yeah, I definitely think after having made the record, the title really does kind of work with it. There are definitely coincidences or reasons why it perhaps seems to work because essentially, we had a really good time writing the record, but it was definitely a strange time.
And you say you wrote that at a strange time, what made it so strange? What was going on?
Ryan: There was just a lot of upheavals and stuff you know. I guess there’s something about having been in a band for so many years, which means that I don’t really have a great frame of reference of what is actually going on. You just live within a bubble, you just spend every day only thinking about writing songs, from when I wake up, to when I go to bed. It’s kind of all I’ve ever really lived for and I feel like the writing of this record, I was so obsessed by it and there was nothing else that ever entered my brain and I spent a lot of time in my basement just working on it.
‘So many years’…that’s about 10 for you, isn’t it? There are a few bands that have celebrated their 10thanniversary this year – have you thought of doing anything like that?
Ryan: Officially its ten years this year since we started, in 2002, so we’re in our tenth year now.
I think there may be plans to do something next year perhaps. For us it’s strange because you don’t really see it. When you first start a band, you never really anticipate hitting a ten year anniversary…And obviously, surviving as a band in this climate is really difficult anyway, but I don’t think it is if you do it for the right reasons, and that’s kind of why we’re still around I reckon. We have plans, we have unreleased material and stuff like that.
You mentioned ten years is a very good stretch for a band. What do you attribute that to? Is it because you’re brothers?
Ryan: I think that helps that we’re brothers because we have a good understanding of each other and there are no egos and that’s really important within a band. Fundamentally, we share a lot of the same values which is really important to us, but really the main reason that we’re still around is, as I was saying, I feel that we’re in it for the right reasons. We never started to purely get in the mainstream or the charts or anything. I think that’s what will quite generally set you apart or at least allow you to keep going, if you’re about more than just being part of some trend.
The only reason I do anything is that I just love writing songs. If I write songs, I feel good about it for days and that’s the only reason I do it and it is the only reason I’m in a band. And it’s the touring aspect, getting out there, seeing the world, meeting people. It’s all I ever really wanted, you know. And it’s kind of ever since I was fourteen, I was compelled to do it. I just don’t really know what it is or why it is.
You’ve recently spent a lot of time in the States…
Ryan: We’ve been touring a lot out there. It’s been going really good. We bought a van that we share with Steve (Malkmus) and now we can just tour completely self-sufficiently out there, we’re on tour all the time. We’ve already done two tours. Doing it in the van makes it seem much more like that and as a result of touring out there so much, gigs are going really well and we’re playing thousand capacity rooms out there. We like to make stuff work on a more basic level. The show that we do, we just storm on stage and do it. The most important thing is that we get out there and play.
And along the way you’ve got the inspiration, whether you realise it or not, as things are affecting you, and coming out in more of your songs.
Ryan: It’s true and also I think that when you’re all sat around in the van, there are a lot of talks together in the same environment, there’s a lot more camaraderie. It feels like everyone appreciates each other more and everyone gets on better and feels more like you’re a unit.
So, saying that, you know the States, it’s kind of wacky and there are a lot of extremes. What’s the weirdest or most noteworthy thing that you experienced that you can think of now? I’m sure you’ve seen a lot.
Ryan: Yeah, well on the last tour, some of the gigs have been crazy actually. The thing I’ve realised about the States is that people stage dive. I love that. People jump on stage and kiss us and stuff, and then stage dive. It’s so much more fun. Also on our last tour that we were on, we woke up at a gas station, really late at night, I guess at like four in the morning, and we get out of the van and it had a live tiger in the gas station. I’ve no idea why, I don’t know if he was some kind of attraction or… it just makes no sense. We were just filling up the van and a huge Bengal tiger was just living at the gas station. It was actually really depressing, I actually felt really sorry for it.
So I know that Gary lives in Portland. Do you spend a lot of time there?
Ryan: We have been. A lot of this record, we wrote out there. Gary would fly over and we would practice in Ross’s garage and as soon as that got stale, we would fly over to Portland and write in his basement. The change of scenery automatically re-invigorates you and Portland is such a great city. It’s so artist friendly and everyone that we know there is in bands and working on some form of art. It’s kind of like the polar opposite of Wakefield. But it’s good to have both.
Do the people there make a big deal about who you are?
Ryan: No-one really does that anyway. It is funny cos sometimes you’ll go out to a bar and it will be us and guys from Steve Malkmus’ band and then Modest Mouse. But it’s all bands that I’ve always admired and really liked. I always find it really nice that everyone does hang out, and there’s a community there. I’ve never known that before. I’ve never known there to be a unit between bands, to have this respect for each other.
Ok, a few more questions about the record… so Steve Albini produced a couple of tracks?
Ryan: The full album was produced by Dave Fridmann. He’s an amazing producer, and he’s always been one of our dream producers for years. He did Pinkerton by Weezer, which was always my favourite record and he did all the Flaming Lips. Then at the end, we went in and we had another four tracks with Steve Albini. Again, I’ve always wanted to work with Steve, I think he’s a genius engineer. Only one of them made the album which was, ’Chi-Town,’ and then there’s another three which, I don’t know, maybe they’ll make up the core of the next record, because the only reason we left them off is because we had so many tracks recorded.
How do you find the reaction to this album?
Ryan: I find it to be good. When we’re putting a record out I never ever consider how people are going to respond to anything. I only ever think about how I feel about it really, and as long as I feel I’m making the best record I possibly can where my head is at that time, then that’s all that really matters. I really feel that this is our best record. I was very aware of the fact that with it being the first record since Johnny left the band, I imagined that some of the more, old school publications may have their knives out for you, purely based on the fact that Johnny wasn’t in the band. And I’m sure there was that response from some people, but it doesn’t matter, I just don’t care. Across the board, I feel that it’s been received well, I feel like the fact that the fans like it so much, that’s cool.
You talk about having the freedom to create. Does this have a lot to do with being on Wichita? Seeing how it was based on independent aesthetics and ethos of Creation Records?
Ryan: I think so. Wichita have always completely trusted us to do whatever it is we want to do. The fact that Wichita trust us implicitly means a lot to us.
What support bands have you been touring with?
Ryan: We’ve had Martin Creed who was really good. I love his music, maybe because he comes from the art world predominantly. He won the Turner prize a few years ago and I guess cos he comes from that world that the approach he takes to writing songs…the songs are just like no other you know.
And you’ve got some festivals lined up this summer.
Ryan: Yeah, we’ve got T in the Park and then a couple of gigs in Italy and I think we’ve got the Reading and Leeds weekend.
And, do you like playing festivals?
Ryan: Yeah, I feel they really work for us because, as I was saying earlier, we’ve never depended on production, or fancy light shows or anything. We’re definitely the kind of band who likes just getting in the van and showing up and getting on, so festivals have really worked for us. Our favourite gig was headlining the tent at Reading and Leeds, still possibly one of my favourite gigs of all time.
So, do you think that you’ll remain as a three piece, or are you up for taking on a fourth member again?
Ryan: We’ll absolutely remain as a three piece. Song writing wise, I feel like it’s a far more progressive record. Especially the last four tracks on the record, that Abbey Road kind of thing that we did. I think the spirit is back that people kind of missed. We will definitely remain this way now. It’s just the way the band’s supposed to be. The Cribs are a three piece.
Photo Credit: Steve Gullick
Words by Libby Mone
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New single ‘Glitters Like Gold’ out now on Wichita. Album ‘In The Belly of the Brazen Bull’ also out on Wichita.