Interview With: The Cribs – North Star Bar, Philadelphia Pa.

After watching phemonal sets by both Jeffrey Lewis and Ra Ra Riot on Saturday night at the North Star Bar, I waited with anticipation for Wakefield England’s The Cribs to take the stage. Prior to the show, I’d heard about how amazing they are live and knew they’d been nominated for Best Live Act for the 2008 NME Awards. As the guitar tech and The Cribs front man Gary Jarman set up the stage, I overheard one guy in the crowd say, “The Cribs are the greatest band I’ve ever seen live, hands down.” Another audience member said he’d “stand out in the cold three hours to see The Cribs” as his conservation turned towards the frigid Philadelphia weather.

Skepticism crept up in my mind after hearing The Cribs’ fans give such rave reviews before the show had started. I was afraid that all the build up would only lead to me being disappointed in the end, but Ross, Ryan and Gary Jarman put on one hell of a show. The energy in the room never wavered as the three brothers played their instruments with expertise and a finesse that you wouldn’t necessarily expect from hard indie punk rockers.

The Cribs’ set started out loud, driving, hard and energetic, and never once waivered. The crowd sang along and rocked out to the hard and catchy riffs, the thumping bass lines and skillful drumming that came from the stage. No moshing is allowed at North Star, but every single member of the audience was jumping around and I myself found it difficult to stopping dancing around to take pictures. Ryan bounced up and down on stage and Ross rocked hard on the drum kit, getting up on his seat and jumping around a few times. The Cribs definitely fed off of their fans’s energy and vice versa, creating one of the best rock shows out there.

Prior to the show, I was lucky enough to chat with Ross, the youngest Jarman and drummer for The Cribs. For as hard as he attacks the drums on stage, he was almost soft-spoken sitting on the couch in the green room. We chatted about the new record, the video for “Men’s Needs” and working with legends Lee Ranaldo and Johnny Marr. Read the full interview below:

Jessica, PopWreckoning: OK, Ross, so The Cribs consists of you and your two older brothers, who are twins. What is the dynamic of the band and being with your brother’s all the time?
Ross Jarman: I’d be curious to see what it’d be like to be in a band with your friends, ya know? ‘Cause we’ve been a band of brothers for such a long time. I have early memories of us playing together in Ryan [Jarman]’s bedroom. So I don’t really know what it would be like to be in a band with your friends. I think it makes things a lot easier; you can be a lot more open and honest. If someone’s playing something and it sounds like rubbish, you can just say to him, “That’s rubbish.” But if you said that to your friends, they’d probably fall out with ya. We’ve got years and years of practicing arguing; we know which buttons not to press now. We get on fine. We just each other each other’s space, and it works really well.
PW: Earlier this week, you were on “The Late Show with David Letterman” — what was that like?
RJ: It was really cold in the studio. For some reason, they keep the temperature really low. I don’t know why. The weather were really cold, as well. We played in Athens and then after the show in Athens, we didn’t go to bed. We got on a flight and went straight to New York. It was a bit of a last minute thing with the Letterman thing. So when we got there, we hadn’t slept, and we were really kind of cold and sleep-deprived. Then you get to the studio and you were freezing. That’s what I remember about that morning, but as the day went on, things got better.I really enjoyed playing it, ya know? Then we watched it in a bar in Brooklyn after the show and I think it sounded really good. I was really happy with how it came out. The people down there were really nice. I enjoyed it.
PW: Did you get to talk to Dave at all?
RJ: Yeah, very briefly. Apparently, though, he doesn’t usually talk to people unless he likes them. And he came over and said “Hello” and shook our hands. His press officers have said that’s a really good sign. He seemed like a really nice guy, very cool.
PW: Dave Letterman seal of approval. The Cribs have quite a hardcore fanbase in the UK, what’s it been like for you in the US?
RJ: I think it’s gently trickling across in some ways. In the UK, we did a lot of touring, like small venues. It seemed like after we’d done it a long time, it paid off; we built a really good, hardcore fan base. A lot of the time, there are a lot of bands that come out of the UK and they’ve just built up a fan base through advertising and stuff like that, whereas we’ve really taken our records out there and played our records to people rather than just hearing about it wherever. Every time we come back to the US, the turn outs get better and better. I’m really happy we have things going here, you know? In the early days, you could pick a random city and no one would know who you are at all. Whereas now we come over and the venues might be kind of small, but there’s a lot of people there and everyone’s really getting into it. This has definitely been the best US tour so far. It seems every time we come over, it gets better and better.
PW: The new album, Men’s Needs, Women’s Needs, Whatever is brilliant and the album’s title is a bit tongue in cheek; who’s idea was that?
RJ: It was actually Gary [Jarman]’s idea, you know, the bass player and singer. What happened was, we were doing a 7-week tour in the US with Franz Ferdinand and Death Cab For Cutie and we spent a lot of time in the van. It was just one of Gary’s comments as he left the van. We were talking about something silly and as he left the van he just said, “Men’s needs, women’s need, whatever.” Then he wrote it down in his book ’cause he thought it was a pretty cool sentence and it stemmed from there, really. That’s about as glamorous as it gets.
PW: What was it like collaborating with Lee Ranaldo [of Sonic Youth] for the album? And you guys just performed with him in Brooklyn?
RJ: Yeah. It was great. Definitely to work with Lee Ranaldo is a real great thing to be able to do. We booked a couple of days in the studio in New York and we just pulled it together in two days. We really didn’t know what it would come out like. But it’s definitely one of my favorite songs on the new record. A few days ago, we managed to perform it for the first time live with Lee. In the UK, what we’ve been doing in the big venues, we’ve been putting big video screens outside of the stage. We’ve been playing it to that, so Lee’s been on big screens while we’ve been playing on the stage. Obviously when we got to America, the venues were a lot smaller. You can’t really do stuff like that. Having Lee turn up in New York and playing it for the first time fully live was really great. We really enjoyed it, and Lee’s a really nice guy.
PW: Recently, you’ve been collaborating with The Smiths‘ and now Modest Mouse‘s Johnny Marr for a future project?
RJ: We’ve just been doing some writing with Johnny. I met him for the first time in Glastonbury a few years ago, but Gary had met him previous to that in Portland ’cause they both live there. Gary’s moved to Portland and Johnny’s playing with Modest Mouse. We just had a bit of time off, ’cause we all kind of live…Johnny lives like an hour away from where we are. And we found out that Johnny liked the band and Ryan asked him at the Q Awards, like months and months back, if he wanted to get together and just have a jam or whatever. He was really, really up for it. We booked a couple of weeks practice in Manchester where Johnny lives, and we were just writing a lot of songs. We didn’t really decide what we were going to do with them, but then Johnny came out on the road with us and played some songs. I think he’s gonna do the festivals with us as well. We’re just taking him as he comes. It’s been really good for us three brothers to have someone else’s input. It’s really fresh for us.
PW: The video for “Men’s Needs” is very interesting, who came up with the concept for that?
RJ: The director came up with the concept. It’s a woman called Diane Martel who’s a friend of ours from New York. We really liked it. The whole idea of the video is to put the girl in the video in the dominant position. She cuts my arm off and cuts Ry’s head off in the video. We thought it was definitely an unusual video, and we liked the idea of that. We didn’t really want to make just another video. It’s just cool, and people seem to like it, which is good.
PW: Was it hard to focus filming while she was running around the set mostly naked?
RJ: [laughs] We definitely didn’t see it as being seedy in any way. It was purely artistic. It didn’t really seem hard to focus. She was a really nice girl, as well, so it was fun to work with her.
PW: It was a really fun video. At the end of the video, though, was it milk that fell out of your drum?
RJ: Yeah, that was horrible. I remember we had full day’s worth of filming in LA and by then we’d played the song over and over again. We were just like, “Why don’t we fill the drum up with milk?” and we were like, “Well that just doesn’t even make sense, but yeah! Let’s do it anyway!” Then we did, and it kept leaking out and at the end of the day everyone stunk of milk; it was horrible.
PW: I read that you have a love for woodworking and that if the band hadn’t been so successful, you’d be doing that. Quite different from being in a rock band.
RJ: Kind of, yeah. That was just something I said in an interview once. I’m kind of…if anything’s broke on the road, I enjoy fixing it. I guess that would be the type of thing… It’s just like a hidden talent of mine, I guess. That’s all that is.
PW: What are you listening to? You and your brothers, while you’re driving and such?
RJ: On this tour, we’ve been mainly sleeping when we’ve been driving. The last time we came over we played with a band called White Rabbits, and they supported us. I recently found theirs record in shop, so I picked that up. I’ve been listening to that a lot at the moment. Also, Jeff[rey] Lewis, he’s great, he’s been supporting us here and in the UK. He’s done most of the dates where Ra Ra Riot and Drugrug have split the other dates. I’ve heard Jeffrey, mainly. I’m a really big fan of Jeffrey Lewis; I think he’s really good. He’s got comic books and stuff, as well, during the shows. He’s great, he’s really good. He’s definitely really underrated.


more photos @ flickr

My entire Cribs experience, from the moment I sat down with Ross through Jeffrey Lewis and Ra Ra Riot to Ryan playing his guitar against the amp Gary knocking over the mic stand at the set’s end, was nothing short of absolutely enjoyable. While I might not stand three hours in the cold (summer is more my kind of season), I’d definitely go out of my way to catch The Cribs and recommend you do the same.

Tour Dates:
26 Mar – Varisty Theater, Minneapolis MN
28 Mar – Larimer Lounge, Denver CO
31 Mar – Chop Suey, Seattle WA
02 Apr – Doug Fir, Portland OR
03 Apr – Pop Scene, San Francisco CA
04 Apr – El Rey Theater, Los Angeles CA

12 June – Kasbah, Coventry, Midlands

The Cribs: website myspace

[where: 2639 Poplar Street, Philadelphia, PA 19130]
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