Guitar music has been dying a slow death for some years now – ‘promising’ new bands have ploughed through the music circuit, and have just as quickly faded away. There’s no consistency in musical output, but most of all, there’s no authenticity and rebellion, if only ideologically – gone are the days when standards and delivery were the sole concerns for labels. Now, musicians are treated like they’re cattle in a factory farm – they’re fed nails and are expected to produce milk, and there’s no objection from anyone. With the current climate diminishing the principles of music, there’s a glimmer of the same hope that has been there all along – The Cribs. Hailing from Wakefield, Yorkshire, the three-piece consisting of twins Ryan and Gary Jarman and younger brother Ross, have served as a musical amulet not only for their town, but for British rock.
Active since 2002, they’ve got an impressive catalogue of albums behind them with both acclaim from critics and fans alike. The once-cult band later saw commercial success with Men’s Needs, Women’s Needs, Whatever without compromising their style, integrity or quality, which eventually led to the release of Payola in 2012, a ‘best of’ compilation album marking their 10th anniversary. Albeit The Cribs didn’t pioneer punk, they’ve been the only modern band successful in carrying the attitude, values and ideals of it. Their lo-fi, skuzzy anthems aren’t the only testament to their talent and position in the industry – it’s the DIY movement they started, the independent ethos they embody and the truth that resounds in their music. The spirit of punk lives on.
I spoke to Gary about small town frustration, writing the new records and why music should now be called ‘content’.
You’re currently in the middle of writing two separate albums – an aggressive one and a pop album – why do you feel the need to release them as two separate entities now? It seems like in past you’ve always found a way to balance this.
I think the reason we’ve decided to split the two is so that we don't have to balance things – it's a way of idealizing the concept without any considerations getting in the way. Plus, after 10 years of releasing records, we were intent on trying to find a slightly different format to keep us interested – the same reason we did the suite on In The Belly Of The Brazen Bull – just to break the standard 12- songs-in-a-row-on-a-record format. Some of the people that like the band like us for our noisy, lo-fi stuff – others cos they heard 'Mens Needs' on the radio. You can't please everyone – let ‘em choose.
You’ve said that you’re writing your best record yet – what’s different this time around?
Nothing is particularly different aside from the fact that we’re indulging ourselves in the songs we’re writing in a more in-depth way than before. No punk-rock guilt creeping into the pop songs, no concerns for commercial appeal on the punk stuff. It's a good feeling, and we’re writing pretty fast.
Would you say you’re more in tune with your song writing now that you’ve been doing this for over a decade?
I don't know. We don't think about things like that, really. I've been writing songs since I was 14. We just do what comes naturally – if you do that and don't try to be something you're not then you should always be pretty much in tune with your ideas.
Do you now know what you want a bit more and know how to achieve this?
Yeah, I think so. We used to spend a lot of energy on anger and frustration, but now my agenda is just to try and create the best art that I can. I'm comfortable with that, and that’s why I enjoy this now. There's totally a place for the inspiration that comes from a negative place though – I'm just not as consumed by that as I used to be.
The release of Payola sort of felt like the end of an era – the album really reminded me how long I’ve been a Cribs fan and brought back so many feelings of nostalgia. Is this a next chapter in your musical career?
I thought of Payola as a way to book-end the last 10 years. That's why the name is suffixed with the dates. I was hoping that it would be a way to move on – no one realistically wants to be a nostalgia act. There were a lot of changes in our band life last year, and we feel like this is a clean page in some respects.
Your sound has always been angsty and quite ‘teenage’ for a lack of a better word — how do you feel about the fact that you guys have grown older and you’re still playing these sort of anthems?
If the teenagers weren't so busy listening to Fleetwood Mac and Kate Bush then maybe we wouldn't have to do this.
A lot of your lyrical content touches upon living in a small, isolated town and it seems that’s what drives the frustration in your music – now that you’ve moved on to bigger things, how does this change what you write about?
We used to write about that, because in the early days we just wanted to be honest and sincere – and that was the life we were living. It was pretty uncontrived. As we moved on and became more worldly, I think that the alienation element came in – as you get yourself reflected back at you – and we kinda realized that we were outsiders at that point. Now, we just write about whatever we want, though I believe that outsider element will always be there when we are trying to be sincere – it's just such a formative part of who we are.
How do you feel you’ve affected Wakefield with your own success? Have you seen a surge in local bands trying to make it?
Wakefield has changed a LOT in the past few years, I’m happy to report. I think that when a band breaks out of a small town, it takes away a lot of the complacency and excuses that can be rife in a local music scene. A lot of people feel it’s hopeless when you live outside of the capital, and that can breed complacency as it’s an easy excuse. When a band has broken out of that, then it makes people more optimistic, and if we have a legacy in Wakefield, then I hope that’s it. It now has a strong local scene, with a lot of bands, its own festival, and several labels and fanzines. That's fucking great.
It’s pretty evident music’s dead at the moment. What’s missing?
We don't call it 'music' anymore, we call it 'content'. Get with the times, dude...
Words by Rachel Grace Almeida