In an era of guyliner and Boykillboy, The Cribs always appeared to offer something more potent, ramshackle and crucially, more sincere. Now, as the Jarmans gear up for the release of their sixth album For All My Sisters on March 23rd, The Edge had the chance to catch up with Ryan before their performance at The Wedgewood Rooms to discuss influences, label changes and how the musical climate has changed since their formation 13 years ago.
You’ve said that the new album is mainly inspired by 80’s pop and The Replacements. What do you think it is about The Replacements that inspires so many musicians?
They were a band picked up by a major label out of the punk scene and had certain commercial expectations thrust upon them but they were the wrong kind of people and they weren’t gonna play ball. They did have the capability of being a classic band as has been proven but they weren’t gonna do it on the terms that were being asked of them and I think that we all respect that. I definitely respect that because I can empathise with that situation because we were with Warner Bros. in the US and we didn’t find that to be a comfortable situation whatsoever. And just the music is really good as well; people consider them punk rock but I think they also have a bit of a classic rock element too; it is just really inspiring. I think with us being brothers and those guys being brothers as well I can just imagine what their situation was like and relate to it and that’s one of the reasons that I like them so much.
Are you going to try and make it down to the shows at Roundhouse?
I was gonna try but I live in New York now. It’s weird because they played at the tennis stadium really, really close to my house but I don’t really check online or anything; I really wish someone had told me. I know what I was doing that night and I wasn’t doing much so that’s a real shame. I don’t think I’m gonna be around when they play the Roundhouse but I definitely wanna see them whilst they’re back together; usually these things are terrible but apparently this is quite good.
You’ve parted ways with Wichita and have signed with Sony RED. Considering your fairly staunch DIY ethic how difficult of a decision was that to make?
It was really difficult because Wichita have been with us from day one. When we first started the band we weren’t really looking for a record deal; we got signed on our third show but we weren’t looking for a deal. We met Wichita and the only reason we decided to do it was because they were cool guys. They’ve been around forever with us but it got to the point where we have just outgrown each other relationship-wise and we couldn’t really work together any further; there were too many reasons why it wasn’t gonna work, personal reasons as well. When Sony came along we were weary about them being a major label but to be honest we record the album and license it to them so it actually means that we’re a lot more independent than what we ever have been. We make the record, we license it to them, we still use the same team that we’ve used for ten years and Sony are basically just the guys who distribute it. It was a hard decision for sure, just on a personal level but as far as the record goes it had to be done and sometimes you have to serve the record and the music more; you have to put that before your personal feelings. The record might be a part of you but it’s still an entity once it’s done and you want to see it do as well as possible.
Ric Ocasek of The Cars produced your new album. What was it like working with him? What did he bring to the table that was different from producers that you’ve worked with in the past?
We’ve wanted to work with Ric for years, he doesn’t really do many records; he’s not like a producer that you can just book. I went to meet Ric in New York and we just hung out all afternoon and got on really, really well so he asked me to send over some demos. He loved the tracks and didn’t want to change anything about them; usually you have producers who want to chop them up and all sorts but he didn’t want to change anything and that meant that we were on the same wavelength. We got on well personally which is really important for us because if we didn’t it’d just be a nightmare. The thing that was really good in the studio is that because we wanted to make a more pop record and concentrate on the melodic side it was great because he has had some really big pop hits in the states but coming from a leftfield place. And that’s important to us; we want to make pop records but we don’t want to be coming from a straightforward mindset.
This being your sixth album, how do you maintain that each release is a fresh approach?
We always figure out a reason why each one has to be better. After the first one we found the music industry to be really exactly all the negative stuff that people say about it and that drove us to make the second album, then after the second album had done quite well we realised we couldn’t build on what we had already done so we made a third record. Then Johnny joined so we had to make a good record for the fourth record, then Johnny left so we thought “shit, we’ve got to make a record straight away or people will think that Johnny leaving is going to destroy the band”. Then for this one we actually had loads of time off. Ever since we started touring I never had anywhere to live, when we’d come off the road I didn’t have anywhere to go, I had to find people’s houses to stay at. So this is the only time I’ve found myself in a situation where I’m happy because I moved to New York and have a stable life, so I think this record is written from a more optimistic kind of viewpoint for that reason because I think everyone feels in a more comfortable situation. We’re not in the same state of flux that we usually are; there are usually negative reasons for making a record, this is the first time since our debut that we’ve made a record and we don’t have that.
With each album there has to be an event to spur you on to make the next record better than the last. Could you ever see yourself making a Cribs record without that kind of parameter and still believing in it?
I think we maybe invent these parameters. At the time we didn’t see Johnny leaving as a big deal but when we went and made the record we turned that in to an event and our own graves. I think we’ll always find a reason why we’re doing stuff; we’ll always invent it subliminally.
You emerged at a time when rock music was in very rude health with yourselves, Arctic Monkeys, Franz Ferdinand, Arcade Fire and Modest Mouse all breaking through around the same time. Rock, specifically indie rock, felt very vital and exciting. Do you feel that in contrast we are currently experiencing a malaise and if so, why?
I think that we are. We don’t really notice it because we never really lived and died by the same things that other bands did. When indie was really big a lot of bands survived on radio play and we never did; we haven’t seen our audience drop off at all, we’re bigger than we ever have been. I think the reason there may be a drop off is because people can’t afford to be in bands any more. When we first started people were like “if you get signed you can shift your job”; it gave you something to aspire to, it solves your problems. Whereas now I don’t think people have that, the people in bands are people who can already afford to be in a band; their parents will fund their lives so their isn’t that same desperation any more.
Do you agree with Noel Gallagher when he says that there aren’t enough working class people represented in the music industry?
Perhaps on some wavelength; I just don’t think working class people see music as a way out any more and that is kind of sad because I think it’s good for music to have that sort of desperation, that real longing to get out of your situation.
A lot of people have argued that the pulse of culture has shifted to hip-hop with some contending that we are currently living through another golden age. What would you say to that?
It’s probably right but we don’t really have to take any notice and we don’t; we just ignore what’s going on in the mainstream until we’re in the top 10 and then it’s all good.
You have always maintained a DIY ethic and a close relationship with fans. The technology that bands can use to maintain the relationship with their fanbase is constantly advancing, yet the processes are becoming increasingly monetised. In the future do you think it’ll be easier for bands to connect with their fans or harder?
There won’t even be the question; it’ll be so ubiquitous that you won’t even have to think about it, things will be running in such a different way. The connection will be there from the start; crowdfunding is the way that everything seems to be going so I guess for new bands, unless they have their own money to play around with, they will have to look at forging a fanbase before they can finance a record. In some ways it might be a good thing because it means that only the good and the strong will prevail. If you wanna do it for the right reasons then you’ll stick to it. But everything is fucked at the minute, I used to like the old business model of “you get signed, you get famous” and that was it.
If there was one piece of advice you could give to new bands today, what would it be?
Buy a van. We’ve had our own van the entire time we’ve existed; we’re on our third one now. That is what allows you to go on tour and that will fund you and promote you. So I’d just say buy a van and tour as much as you can.