INTERVIEW: The Cribs – 24/10/2012 Norwich Waterfront – In The Belly Of The Brazen Bull Tour

Having been absent from The Norwich Waterfront since touring their second album back in 2005, it’s all too clear how much the The Cribs have achieved since their last visit.

The temporary addition of ex-Smiths legend Johnny Marr to their ranks for their fourth album ‘Ignore the Ignorant’ (2009) was a surefire acknowledgement of their worth and having recently won a Q Award for the ‘Spirit of Independence’, these are just a couple of many footnotes now proudly cemented in The Cribs’ history. We convened for a much needed catch-up with two-thirds of Jarman brothers ahead of their live performance at The Waterfront in Norwich.

Becky Excell: Hello, we’re here with Ryan from The Cribs today. How are you feeling?

Ryan Jarman: We’re touring on the bus at the minute, something we generally don’t enjoy, we much prefer being in a van because we get to go out into the city and feel a bit more normal. Kinda feeling a bit wiped out today but it’s nice to be back on tour in the UK, we haven’t been really toured here since like…

Gary Jarman takes a seat.

Gary Jarman: May, when we put the record out. We haven’t toured since then but we did some festivals.

BE: Happy birthday to you both for the other day! Get anything good?

GJ: Didn’t get much, we’re like studio nerds; we both got bought microphones! I’ve basically had a microphone for my birthday every year since I was seventeen.

BE: Are they somehow better every year?

GJ: It’s just such a safe bet with me. Me and Ryan are pretty enigmatic gift-wise as we don’t really give a shit about fashion…

RJ: Or even with anything, we’re always on tour, it’s not like you have anywhere to put anything.

GJ: A mic just seems so boring to other people, but to me it’s really exciting. It’s gonna make our lives easier!

RJ: Ross bought us a Freddie Mercury DVD which was good. We were at the Q Awards a couple of nights ago, we had to drive from London to Oxford so we watched it in the van on the way there. Obviously that was good.

GJ: I guess we got a Q Award for our birthday!

Mark Wood: Have you guys ever played here at The Waterfront?

GJ: Twice.

MW: How long ago was that?

GJ: 2005/2006. The last time I played the Waterfront was before I moved to America. It’s kinda weird.

MW: It never changes much here… in Norwich or at the Waterfront!

GJ: I like that. I don’t like change too much, it’s nice to have at least some semblance of stability when you’re on the road. It’s a bit pathetic really!

BE: Do you like the intimate setting of The Waterfront? Or are you more at home on bigger stages?

GJ: Don’t care really.

RJ: We just don’t like playing the same places over and over, I don’t like it when it becomes a routine. Certain cities only have certain venues you can play and stuff. Like the last time we were out on tour in any capacity we were doing festivals, before that we were touring America in a van doing smaller towns and little shows in small rock clubs. We just like it to be different, keep things interesting.

GJ: Just not bothered, it’s not like it’s impossible to sustain. Some bands… I don’t mean this in a disparaging way, but some bands find it difficult to tour without some of the accoutrement that comes with being successful. We’re just not bothered either way.

RJ: Within this tour, we’re doing such different kinds of venues. The Waterfront is definitely the more intimate venue, in two days we’re doing the Apollo in Manchester. It keeps it interesting to do bigger and smaller venues at the same time because at least things feel different at that point.

BE: Do you feel like you have to change your set list to adjust to different venues?

RJ: Not really, no. We only ever play the set depending on what we feel that night in the dressing room. I think it kinda annoys them because we always write it very last minute.

GJ: We don’t change it that much. We find something that works and base it off that. It’s hard after five records to fit everything in; you’ve always gotta play the singles… for me I would probably start dropping some of the singles and start putting in rarities. But it’s hard because that will please some of the hardcore fans, but the other people will prefer  something that they’ve heard… and the hardcore fans will usually take the priority but you don’t wanna be…

RJ: It’s just hard to find a balance.

GJ: At least we’re lucky enough that people care but everything we ever do is never quite right. You go out on tour and we chose a set list based on three factors, one being which record you’re touring at the time so you need to weigh stuff towards that. Second thing is what’s gonna make people happy, so you have to put some singles in there. The third thing is what’s gonna matter to the people who are a bit more discerning… so we always put a few deep cuts in there. So we try and find as much of a balance as we can, but after five records it becomes a lot more different to cut stuff… and so we generally get a set that we think works and change a few bits and pieces each night.

MW: What’s been keeping you guys entertained on tour recently?

RJ: We mentioned that DVD the other day but…

MW: I saw you were once writing a screenplay involving The Mask in the van…

GJ: That was on the US tour!

RJ: In the US you’re in the van for…

GJ: Nineteen hours a day.. it’s brilliant! A lot of bands don’t like to tour America in a van for that reason, but we really like it. We find that it’s really productive… I mean it’s obviously productive to sit on your arse for nineteen hours a day but we like to do that because you come up with all these weird theories…

RJ: Weird thoughts…

GJ:  You’ll be driving through Billings, Montana at like 5am and you’re just going kinda crazy figuring out stuff to keep you entertained.

RJ: So yeah we do come up with stuff like The Mask screenplay to keep us entertained; that’s something we keep coming back to, it’s still not finished.

MW: Do you continue to write whilst out on the road?

GJ: Yeah we were actually just writing today in soundcheck so… but it’s not…

RJ: It’s not an ideal way of doing it, but you write all the time by accident. Like today in soundcheck, us guys said we’ll write a couple little bits and pieces but as far as sitting in the bus and writing… or sitting in the van and writing, we’ll never do that. I just kinda feel like the two things are so separate, touring and writing. Not just because you don’t have the time but because the mentality is so different…

GJ: You don’t have the inclination…

RJ: Yeah but the mentality is so different, like when you’ve been in the studio for ages and you make a record, you want to go out on the road so you kinda forget about that aspect and start enjoying the more visceral element of just like playing. But after you’ve done that for a while, you become desperate to start writing… I feel like it makes more sense to just wait until you really get that desire to do it rather than trying to kill time by working…

GJ: We’re not trying to meet deadlines or anything so…

BE: As you said earlier, you won a Q Award the other day which you must be really pleased about! Being the Spirit of independence award, obviously you don’t do the things you do us a band such as being DIY to get an award, but is it nice to be recognised for being like that?

GJ: Recognition yeah, it’s just nice to think that… people are aware and have acknowledged the fact that you did take a different route. There was a period of time where a lot of bands came out after us and they kinda had a quick route to the top or whatever… and now they’re all finished. It was frustrating at that point though because you felt like you were somehow judged by what they were doing. So it’s really nice to have the balance redressed in the fact that a few years later down the line, somebody acknowledges the fact that you took a different route. That was the source of a lot of our vitriol on the second and third records really, so it’s nice that we can concentrate on writing songs now and not be bilious all the time…

RJ: It’s funny for it to be so synonymous with us these days, doing everything in the band DIY, it’s not like we do it on purpose or anything, it just makes sense to us and has always been our way of doing things. It suits us.

GJ: It’s more fun…

RJ: It’s weird to win an award for that, but as we were saying, it is nice I suppose to get the acknowledgement.

GJ: It’s kind of a funny award actually because if you think about what an awards ceremony is usually, they’re quite decadent. And the idea of rewarding things again seems quite decadent, revelling in an achievement or a moment; it seems like a funny juxtaposition. But yeah, don’t wanna be flippant about it, it’s definitely nice to be acknowledged for your way of doing things, if only for accuracy’s sake…

BE: I guess it makes everyone just aware how you are.

GJ: Yeah, it just helps to like, let it be set in stone a little bit that you maybe eschewed the regular route, that’s why we led a different career path than a lot of people who were previously considered to be of a similar ilk to us which we never really felt any affinity with. It’s like a nice full-stop.

MW: How do you feel about ‘In The Belly Of The Brazen Bull’ now that the dust has settled? Were you pleased with its initial reception?

Both: Yeah!

RJ: We were discussing this yesterday that it was perhaps viewed slightly inaccurately as a lot of people were like “Oh it reminds us of the first and second record” which I just don’t think that it is like that. The song writing is far more…

GJ: I don’t think the first record is anything like the second record, that’s the other thing…

RJ: I think the song writing is far more developed with it being our fifth record, you wouldn’t get anything like the last four songs on ‘In The Belly Of The Brazen Bull’ on the first record but, I think it’s just something to do with the familiarity of going back to the three piece sound. When we made the fourth record and I look back at that, I do see it as being… at the time we were very much adamant that we’re the same band,  just as a four piece. I just think that with this one, people did feel some kinda familiarity with it…

GJ: But it’s because of the two tracks that we led off with. That’s really where that came from. I can see the comparison between those two tracks and the second record, but not the first. The first record is not punk at all when you think about it, it’s quite twee if anything, it’s really quite sweet and good natured; very different from the second one. The first two tracks we led off with this record are the first two tracks that people heard, they were punk and noisy, recorded live and approached in that way. So I think maybe that coloured people’s perceptions of what the record actually was, as I think it actually has more layers to it than that… that was my one frustration. But I was definitely happy with the commercial and critical acceptance of it; I feel like most people got it right and if people didn’t like it, usually they didn’t like it for the reasons we did like it, so that’s totally fine. It’s only when people don’t understand it that it’s a problem and I think that by and large it was pretty well understood.

RJ: I feel like our fan-base liked it too which is always a good indication of… I feel like our fans our fans are quite opinionated and quite precious about the stuff that we put out and compare everything to how it used to be. Like “I prefer things how it used to be” or “I’m more old school and I like all the old school stuff” or whatever. The fact that it went down well with our fans is quite a good indication of it being a decent record.

BE: Thanks very much guys, we’ve got loads more we’d like to ask you but we’re out of time!  So thanks for talking to us, have a good gig tonight.

MW: Cheers guys.

Both: Thanks!

Agree or disagree?