September 11, 2007

Spotlight On The Cribs

Print More

After hearing just the first single off of the Cribs’ new album Men’s Needs, Women’s Needs, Whatever, the Sun was hooked. We quickly procured all of the other Cribs music we could and listened intently all summer up until the big moment when we got to see them live for the first time at Lollapalooza, after which we got to gawk at the Jarmans in the media tent for hours (highlight!) Cornellians in the grad years of ’08 and ’09, and some ’10 architects as well, were lucky enough to have the chance to see the three brothers from Wakefield, England opening for Franz Ferdinand and Death Cab for Cutie in one of their legendary live shows. Seriously, so legendary that on one night they almost retired after they thought they killed a fan. (She survived.) After that tour, the band worked with Franz frontman Alex Kapranos as producer to put out their best work yet. Cribs drummer and baby brother to the guitar-bass frontmen and twin duo of Ryan and Gary, Ross Jarman caught up with Daze post-looza to discuss his brothers, booze, Cornell and Death Cab for Cutie, all in his cool Northern England accent.
The Sun: Since it’s clear that you three are brothers, I’m wondering if you are you the only three kids in your immediate family?
Ross Jarman: Actually, we’ve got a half-brother. But we don’t see him that often and he’s into techno and stuff like that. He doesn’t really fit in with our music. But yeah, we have got another brother but he’s a half-brother.
Sun: Is he older or younger?
RJ: He’s like a year older than Gary and Ryan; he’s like 27.
Sun: I hear you only started playing after a burglar stole your computer games. What would you have become if you had continued playing computer games throughout your childhood?
RJ: Gary and Ryan had a studio in Wakefield. They basically rented a room and other bands would give them money to use their space there, and they turned it into this little business. I guess they’d be running a rehearsal studio in Wakefield. But me, I dunno. I was always kind of interested in woodwork and stuff like that. So I guess I’d maybe be doing something like that.
Sun: When you first started, how was it really decided who would play what and who would sing and everything? I hear your mom played you the Beatles sometimes as kids. Did she teach you how to play?
RJ: When we were younger, we started playing violin and stuff like that. She always encouraged us music-wise. But as far as me being on the drums, I’m sure it’s purely to do just with the fact that I’m the youngest so I get the worst instrument. You know, like the oldest kid gets the biggest room; the youngest gets the smallest bedroom. The youngest gets the drum kit while the lead guitar and singer are in front.
Sun: [Laughs] Do you still consider the drum the worst instrument?
RJ: I don’t consider it the worst. You know when you’re a kid, you don’t want to be the drummer. You want to be the frontman with the guitar. But no, I certainly don’t think it’s the worst instrument now.
Sun: Did your brothers, or do they still gang up on you a lot because they’re twins and you’re their kid brother?
RJ: When we were younger, yeah, but now we’ve had that much practice arguing and not getting on that we really get on properly now. We’re all cool with each other. But definitely when we were younger. But sometimes me and Ry would gang up on Gary. I remember one time when we padlocked Gary under the stairs one Christmas. That’s when I was like three. It was really dark and really small. I do have memories of me and Ry ganging up on Gary, and me and Gary ganging up on Ry so it all changes.
Sun: [Laughs] I’m the youngest one too so I can definitely relate to that. Many great bands in rock have included brothers, like the Kinks and The Beach Boys and even more recently, Arcade Fire and Kings of Leon. Have you guys ever met any other bands that are kind of like family bands? Do you think that they share an understanding with you or is it really not that big a deal that you guys are a family and a band?
RJ: I haven’t met a band who all of them were brothers. Many times you have bands who are like cousins and stuff like that as well. I think one of the reasons it helps is just when you’re growing up, you always listen to the same records. It helps when you write. That just makes things easier. And also it’s not hard to talk to them if, like I’m not going to turn up to practice one time and do a really big drum solo. Ry would be like. “That stuff sounds rubbish, man!” If you’re in a band with your friends, and you say that to your friends, you’re going to fall out. I feel like being friends, its kinda like you’re all competing. Not always — but with your family, it’s easier to tell people what you’re actually thinking when you’re writing rubbish.
Sun: You guys were at Cornell—
RJ: Yeah, I remember playing there with Franz Ferdinand and Death Cab like last year.
Sun: Do you remember much about the gig or our school?
RJ: I remember we were in our dressing room, which was a trophy room. And there was an Olympic torch. Is that correct?
Sun: [Laughs] I think so, yeah.
RJ: You’ve got one of the Olympic torches there and I remember having a good look at it ‘cause it was actually in our dressing room. And also we found a Cornell T-shirt as well. Red with white writing on it. So I thought it would be quite funny for me to wear it. I did and then I went onstage with it by accident. Everyone thought I went to Cornell University so I was really popular. It was quite funny.
Sun: You guys seem a lot more rowdy than Death Cab for Cutie. Were they very reserved or do you have any funny stories or was there anything unexpected that they surprised you with during that tour?
RJ: We’ve known Death Cab for quite a long time actually. We toured with them a long time ago in the UK and we’ve been friends ever since. When we played in Seattle as well, Ben [Gibbard, frontman of Death Cab for Cutie] came up to Vancouver with us and back. I think we’re different musically, but as far as getting on on tour and stuff like, it was just really easy and really good. I’m just trying to think of some stories actually … One of the gigs — it might have even been Cornell — one of the last gigs on the tour, Death Cab wrote on a big banner and hung it over the side of the balcony saying, “Go back to Wakefield, Cribs.” When they were onstage, we found this big white sheet and we covered it in masking tape in really big letters, and we wrote on it “Fuck off, Death Cab,” and put it over the side. They found it really funny, in the middle of their gig to have a big banner that says that. I’m glad that they saw the funny side of it … but we’re really good friends and I remember it was a good fun time.
Sun: I’ve read a lot about your UK gigs and they seem kinda crazy. Are American gigs as crazy by nature as the ones you have back home?
RJ: We do have kinda crazy gigs back home. I think its just to do with the differences in drinking culture in the UK and in the US. People seem to drink more responsibly over here at gigs and stuff than in the UK. I find it really weird how in the US that some of the gigs are 21 plus. I remember when I was 20 and I found it really strange that I couldn’t see bands at gigs and stuff.
Sun: Yeah, tell me about it. I’m only 19.
RJ: Really? That seems kinds weird. In the UK, from the age of 16 or whatever, you can kinda get it because they’re not that strict on ID and stuff so you can go out and get drunk and go to a gig and have a really good time, you know? So that’s one of the reasons that the gigs are more rowdy-like back home. But, having said that, this is like the first tour we’ve done in the US that have turned out to be really good, and we’ve had some really rowdy crowds and we really weren’t expecting it. I think the reputation from the UK has probably trickled over here a little bit.
Sun: It’s funny that you say that about the British drinking culture versus the American one because here, since its so hard to get alcohol when you’re under 21, kids go more crazy when they’re under 21. And by the time that they reach 21 and they can go to those clubs, its like its not even a big deal anymore.
RJ: Yeah, yeah, that’s exactly what its like in the UK. In the UK, at the age of 14 and you’re just kinda hangin’ out with your friends, you end up going to parks and going down the woods and stuff and drinking. I remember just looking like a little kid and having a fake ID and going up to the local shop in Wakefield and they still served me. It’s so weird. Looking back I don’t know why. I hadn’t even reached puberty at that point, and they’re serving me beer. And then when you get to 16 or whatever, you’re going to clubs and stuff like that. You can get away with that because they’re not strict. They might check like every sixth person’s ID or something like that. And then by the time you’re 18, you get barred. But what were weird for me were we came and did South by [Southwest] a couple years ago when I were under 21. I’d been drinking legally in the UK for like two years and it really weren’t that interesting to me. And then when I came to South by, they were crossing out my hands and it was just so weird. It was just something I never thought I’d not be allowed to do again. [Laughs]
Sun: [Laughs] Yeah.
RJ: I kinda like the fact that you’re underage. It gives it a bit more excitement when you go out.
Sun: Definitely. Do you think that the reputation that your shows have for their rowdiness, is that almost more about the fans than it is about you guys? You guys give it your all every night, but what happens is pretty much up to the fans?
RJ: Yeah, I guess so. At gigs a lot of the time it depends on what the audience’s reaction is like. I don’t think audiences always realize that, but in the first couple of songs you can tell if you’ve got a really good, lively audience, and it always helps us if we’re getting a good response to what we’re playing. It definitely snowballs and we get to the edge and work the crowd a bit more. That seems to work really well.
Sun: From what I’ve gathered, you guys are somewhat known back at home for your “resentment of the independent music industry.” I’m curious what you think of the American independent music industry, if you think its better or worse than the way things work in the UK, and how its different? I get the sense that its not exactly the same term here and there.
RJ: You mean the term “indie music”?
Sun: Yeah.
RJ: Yeah, it’s definitely not the same in the UK. It’s really frustrating for us because indie’s become more of a genre now. Before it used to actually mean something; you’d be going out and doing things independently. But it seems really strange to me how nowadays, there’s all these UK bands and they’re fully dependent on major labels so it seems weird how they’re throwing the term “indie” around so loosely. That’s more of how your band runs things really. We go around on tour in the UK in a van and we drive it ourselves, whereas we might play a gig with a band who’s equally as big in the UK now and they’ll be on a bus. It just seems really stupid because you know they’re doing it to keep up with the Joneses instead of being practical and independent. So definitely in the UK, it’s not how it used to be at all. We’ve been on an independent label since 2004, and the climate in the UK’s music scene has completely changed now.
Sun: Is it more about principle than whatever the band’s actually playing? Because I’ve seen a lot of your brothers … your brothers kinda talk more in the interviews I’ve seen than you have. I don’t know if that’s the usual dynamic —
RJ: They’ve usually just got bigger mouths [Laughs]
Sun: If you listen to a band and you don’t know who they are, and you think they’re really amazing, but then you find out that they happen to be one of those bands touring in the bus — is it mostly about principle?
RJ: I mean is I think its kinda wrong that people claim to be an independent when they’re not. That’s the only thing that annoys us a little bit really. For a band like us whose been touring around and doing things independently, and being on a label with no money, it seems weird that these other bands will go around claiming that they’re an independent band when they’re really not. That’s the thing that really frustrates us. It’s not about the music.
Contrasting with their well-earned rep for being the rowdiest band in rock, (case in point 2, Ryan Jarman jumped on a table of glass dishware to accept an honor at the 2006 NME Awards, and nearly pierced his own kidney,) the Cribs are also one of the nicest bands around, and definitely one of the most talented. Men’s Needs, Women’s Needs, Whatever is available at Amazon and most major music outlets.