Name: The Cribs
Progress Report: The Jarman brothers do whatever they damn well feel like on The Cribs forthcoming record, In the Belly of the Brazen Bull.
After losing Johnny Marr as their guitarist in 2011 (what would surely be a crushing blow to pretty much any band in the universe), the three remaining members of The Cribs (twin brothers Gary and Ryan Jarman, along with younger brother Ross) decided to re-embrace their life as a three piece and basically just do whatever the hell they felt like doing. This included writing enough songs to fill three albums and recording at three of the world’s most notable recording studios (including London’s Abbey Road) with two of the world’s most noteworthy producers (Steve Albini and Dave Fridmann). The resulting album, In the Belly of the Brazen Bull, is slated for release later this spring. (You can check out the new single, “Come On, Be A No One” here).
STEREOGUM: Hey Gary. How are you?
GARY JARMAN: Not too bad, I’ve kind of got a bit of a cold so you might have to forgive me if my voice sounds a little bit ineloquent.
STEREOGUM: No, it sounds good. It sounds extra deep.
JARMAN: Oh, good then!
STEREOGUM: I was happy to do this. I’ve actually interviewed you guys two or three times over the years for different places. The last time — it was several years ago — but we ate at some cafe on the Lower East Side.
JARMAN: Hmm, I’m just trying to think. Was that before Johnny Marr was in the band? It was probably in 2007, I guess. I wish I could remember a little better.
STEREOGUM: That’s all right. I’m guessing when you do a million interviews all journalists start to look and sound like the same person. I interviewed you guys once years before that, for the very first record. It might have even been the very first time you played in the States.
JARMAN: I’d be hard pressed to remember anything from that era.
STEREOGUM: I just mention it because, as a writer, it’s been interesting to follow your career. So much has changed since I first spoke to you and your brother back in 2005.
JARMAN: It makes me feel old now, cause I was looking through–we’ve gotta do a bio for the new record and stuff — and it just makes me realize — ah shit we’ve been doing this ten years, not that that’s a bad thing, but that’s a long time, and it kind of makes you feel like … you hate to think of it being a career, but then again … I haven’t worked in ten years, so it can’t be bad.
STEREOGUM: Also when you’re traveling and constantly moving, time becomes very fluid.
JARMAN: Yeah, you kind of forget. Are you in New York right now?
JARMAN: I’m going out there in a couple of days to master the new record. I’m in Portland right now, I’m in my bedroom — just puttering around, eating lunch.
STEREOGUM: My understanding is you recorded with a couple of different people in a couple of different places for this record. How did it come together?
JARMAN: We moved around a lot and I think one of the reasons why I was intent on taking a little bit of time off after the last record. We played the Reading festival last year, and that was our last show … that was in August? … and we went home and took a little time, and then Johnny told us he was gonna leave in December, so that kind of threw us for a loop a little bit and we decided that “Well, I guess now is not the best time to have time off” because you don’t really want something negative like that happening, and then you go missing for a long time. So we all just met up again. My brother Ryan, he came out to Portland just for some time off from England, and we wrote a few things out here. Then I went back to England and we wrote a bunch of stuff out there. It was weird because of what happened — it was almost like turning a negative into a positive, because we found ourselves just really enjoying having the company of each other and being able to sort of do whatever you want. We started writing and we got working pretty fast. The reason why we went through a bunch of different producers was that we didn’t want to get bogged down like when we made the last record, I felt like we got a bit bogged down because we were in Los Angeles for six weeks. We just didn’t want to get in that situation again, where you spend so long recording a record. Historically, we’d always made our records pretty quick. So we wanted to just do it in bits and pieces so you could never be anywhere for longer than a couple of weeks. So we just thought of people we wanted to work with. I guess the other thing was the liberation of it just being the three of us again. We kind of followed up on a lot of whims. That’s something that’s always been a good element to our bands — we kind of go off on tangents. So we were really into this Queen record, Innuendo, around that time. It wasn’t very big in America, but it was massive in England. It was one of the first records I ever bought. I went through this crazy obsession with that record for six months last year. Literally I listened to it like five or six times a day. It was really all encompassing. I was like “Oh I want to copy the guy that made that record.” And we did that, you know, we just did one track, but it’s kind of like not exactly what you would expect a band like us to sound like. We just wanted to indulge those kinds of whims again, just do things that aren’t necessarily a good idea, rather than going the route of going in a studio in L.A. for six weeks. That didn’t seem appealing. But then, after that, there were just a couple of people we’ve always wanted to work with, like Dave Fridmann and Steve Albini. When I was in my teenage years, the first time I’d ever heard an Albini record, and to me it was just mind-blowing, these great-sounding records that were kind of really dry and fucked up at the same time, and dark. I don’t know why we didn’t do that before. We had talked about making the first record with Albini, but we had already started with someone else at the time. It was great to finally get around to doing that.
STEREOGUM: It’s so interesting to me — the dynamic that a producer brings to an experience, because I interview a lot of producers too, and they all have their own sort of take on ’this is what my role is with the bands and this is what I bring to it’ and it can just be such a wildly different experience — whether they’re just sort of a gearhead who’s sort of obsessed with the sound, or someone who’s a drill-sergeant and wants you to do it fifty times in a row. But it must be cool, especially in the course of one record, to sort of get to flex your muscles in different ways with different people.
JARMAN: Between me and my brother, Ryan, we’re both very interested in home recording and we always did a lot of home recording in our youth. So we’ve always been kind of difficult to record because we’ve always had a specific way of wanting to go about things, almost a bit dictatorially in the studio. But on this record it was like we really love and respect all these guys, so lets just go with what they say. When we went in with Fridmann, he’s a total gearhead and that was a really good, creative time, because I’m really into effects pedals and I took all my pedals and we took a whole bunch of guitars and it was so amazing out in the woods just getting to experiment with all these different sounds and all these different mic placements. It was really a totally different experience. But Dave’s really laid back and chilled out. He’s really fun to work with because he’s the sort of guy that … he’d be like “Let’s just do this and make something totally off the cuff” and he’ll be really committed to the idea, just creating different sounds. He’s really great at that. One of the things I love most about Dave is that nothing is off-limits. So we’ll be recording an acoustic song and he’ll get down and — you know those clip-on mics that you use in interviews and stuff — he’s like “Let’s just do it on this mic” and I’m like “Are you sure? It seems weird because what if …” and he’s like “It doesn’t matter, it will sound cool. It doesn’t matter if it’s technically the best thing to do, it will sound cool.” And that was the best thing about him — he’s not hung up on standard procedure whatsoever. He’s totally prepared to experiment, and that was a lot of fun.
And then with Albini, we knew what we were getting. A lot of people have got this kind of stigma of Steve being hard work or whatever but its really because they’re not going in there knowing what to expect. If you go in there knowing what you want and can just let him do his thing, it’s a breeze and it’s really fun. It was the most eye-opening studio experience I’ve ever had because you realize that wow you can actually make an awesome-sounding record in three days. We were trying to book a week, and he was like “You don’t need a week!” and we were like “Well, maybe we should have a week anyway because we don’t know … it might take a while.” And he was like “Guys it’s not going to take that time. Three days. That’s it.’ It’s funny when they’re trying to talk you out of booking more time. And we got in there, and yeah three days, we were in and out, recorded and mixed five tracks. I just love the ethic behind it, it was just “Hey this is how you guys sound — if you’re worried about sounding any different, then you should go with someone who’s gonna meddle with your record. I’ll just give you what you sound like and I’ll give you an optimum recording of that. There’s something about that which just really feeds into our general approach and ethic. We got on really great and it was a total eye-opener, a revelation to think on that level and not be compromised at all.
STEREOGUM: Now that the record is about to be mixed, how long is it? I had heard that you guys were making a double record.
JARMAN: It’s the biggest problem that we have right now, and just before you called I was actually fielding a few emails between me and my brother arguing back and forth because we’re mastering on Wednesday so we have to have it fully decided by Wednesday, and we’re really kind of in battle because we’ve got twenty-one tracks now. The reason being is that like I said after Johnny left it was sort of a — it kind of snapped us out of the idea of taking time off and we really just worked very quickly. Once you get working and once things are going well you don’t really feel like capping it just because you’ve got enough tracks, so we kept on working pretty much all of 2011. So we’ve got twenty-one songs now and it’s just about choosing what’s going to go on the record, really, cause this minute we’ve got the record whittled down to fourteen — which sounds kind of long–but it’s going to be 45 minutes and fourteen tracks. That leaves us like seven tracks left. There’s actually a couple more that we haven’t recorded yet either, so we’re just gonna keep recording, I think. We’re just gonna keep going. We’re probably not gonna do a double album, because we’ve always believed that you should never give people too much. You should always let people get to the end of the record and be like “Oh…is it over already?” So we’re probably gonna try to put another record out — maybe try and release two records next year? That’s kind of the idea so far. We’ve got enough songs, but we’re really enjoying writing and recording. Usually after making the record I’m kind of burnt out, but right now I really feel excited. That’s why I’m in the basement right now, that’s where I do my demos. I’m still working on stuff.
STEREOGUM: That’s exciting though. So does that sort of throw the rest of this year into question for you, just in terms of when you’re going to put one out and when you’re going to tour?
JARMAN: No because the tour is going to start as usual — we’re going to start touring in February/March just to do some UK shows. And we’re going to start touring proper around April. And then after that, I was hoping that we were gonna finish recording with Steve in June — I was gonna try and book some time with Steve in June and finish another album, and then … it’s one of those funny things because I feel like some people who work with a band are like “I don’t think putting two albums out in a year is a good idea,” but my way of thinking of it I’d rather be productive in putting stuff out than holding stuff back, because next year it just won’t matter to me. What’s the point in recording a song in say November 2011 and then releasing it in January 2013? It’s kind of irrelevant by that point, so I’m really hoping we can finish recording another album in June or July but we’ll see. It only takes a week with Steve. It’s not going to throw anything out of balance.
STEREOGUM: Thinking about the songs that you have done so far, does it feel radically different from the last record?
JARMAN: It definitely feels different from the last record. When we were writing it I was convinced that this was going to be our sort of — like the “weird” record. I always think that. Now I look at it in hindsight and I think it’s more representative of our ideals. It feels like when we first started out and we had this very specific agenda of how we wanted to go about things. It sort of feels like that, and having said that, I think some of the songs are much more … I don’t know what the right word to say is without is sounding like I’m being conceited…but they have definitely expanded from what we did last night. I think with the new record, we just went down every avenue that we wanted to. It was really fun and really liberating. There’s one track that we recorded at Abbey Road because we did this show where we got paid a lot of money, and it was either the tax man will get the money or we’ll just spend it recording more music, so we put ourselves in the studio in Abbey Road in London. It’s like a fifteen-minute long song but it’s got four different sections. So the four different sections are effectively four different tracks, and I know that sounds really indulgent and silly but it’s one of those things where we thought, “You know, I’m lucky enough to be putting out my fifth record and people are still interested. If I’m not going to indulge myself and try to be true to the integrity of the band’s direction then what’s the point?” So we just did it. And it’s totally fun — there’s so many different tangents in that song and it’s one of the things I’m most proud of, if it works. I hope that it works out on the record, because it will be sort of split into four songs that weave in and out of one another, so hopefully it shouldn’t be too off-putting for people.
STEREOGUM: I think that’s cool. I don’t know if I necessarily consume music in the same way that other people do, but I think little bit of self-indulgence is good. A fifteen-minute long song might make some people roll their eyes, but whatever … it’s rock music.
JARMAN: Well yeah, nowadays everything seems very apologetic and it seems like just a lot of thought put into how people are going to perceive things but like I said, if we’re on our fifth record now, we’ve got the luxury of realizing when we’re that far in, maybe you don’t have to worry so much about pleasing everyone all of the time, and you have more freedom to sort of do what you want.
STEREOGUM: I think so. That should be one of the joys of getting to be in a band.
JARMAN: It absolutely is, and that’s kind of what trumps any sort of trepidation about how that will be perceived. You know, this is kind of why we’re doing, and like I said we’re a few records in now and we have people who care. We’re in a good spot to do what we want.
In The Belly Of The Brazen Bull is out 5/15 on Wichita.