Nearly two decades on from the release of their lo-fi, self-titled debut, with 2005 second album ‘The New Fellas’ and 2007’s ‘Men’s Needs, Women’s Needs, Whatever’ not much further in the rearview mirror, The Cribs are, this week, in possibly the most unexpected chart battle in recent memory.
In the midweeks, all three reissues (re-released with additional material and available again on vinyl) are nestled in the Top 10, grazing the shoulders of Beyoncé and Harry Styles; in celebration of the records, meanwhile, the Jarman brothers have been on a whirlwind tour of the UK, playing all three albums in full to hungry crowds visibly testifying to how much these old goldies still mean to many.
Choosing between your artistic creations might be like asking to choose a favourite child, but let’s be honest - everyone secretly has one. Catching up with the band after the weekend’s Banquet Records shows, here’s how The Cribs’ first three releases line up, in the eyes of their authors.
“That post-Strokes/ White Stripes boom was so vibrant and such an exciting thing to be part of.”
— Gary Jarman
Which of the three albums do you have the fondest memories of recording?
Ryan: It’s really hard to say because all three of them were so memorable for different reasons. The first album I personally have the most fond memories of because we didn’t have a record deal, there was no reason for us making that album apart from the fact that we wanted to make an album. We saved up for it ourselves by working together in a factory, and we made it in a week. Everything after that came at it from a completely different angle because it had to.
Gary: It was coming from this naïve place, whereas the second album was right in the eye of the storm. 2004 in London, there was so much going on at that point - lots of club nights, lots of secret gigs, just general chaos. We were brought down to record in London and, on paper, it was a good idea because we were in the studio with Edwyn Collins, but in reality it was so chaotic that recording almost became somewhat secondary.
What was it like then becoming part of that scene and entering that whole bigger world?
G: To us, that was profoundly exciting because we were stuck in the North with very narrow horizons, we’d never even met anyone from London and then all of a sudden people were saying, ‘Come down here and do shows and make a record’. That post-Strokes/ White Stripes boom was so vibrant and such an exciting thing to be part of.
R: Me and Gary were at college at the time, and it was so weird to all of a sudden be getting labels and promoters coming up to us just based off this really rough demo we’d made. It was really exciting, but at the same time it kind of creeped us out how quickly and easily that stuff came just based on a trend.
G: The London music industry was just looking for another lo-fi garage-y band. [We were different] but aesthetically it was close enough in the way that what we were doing was pretty poppy but rough around the edges.
R: I wore a leather jacket back then…
G: Everyone was taken by surprise by the way these bands had come out of nowhere, so they were looking further afield for more. We were brothers, and we were in the North, and we had a good demo so we just happened to fit the bill. But our relationship with it was so disjointed because we’d go back up to the North and live our normal lives in Wakefield working in a factory, and then go down to London and be part of this very exciting, vibrant, alive scene where people were making a fuss of us. It was a peculiar paradox.
Which album changed your careers the most?
G: It was definitely ‘The New Fellas’ or ‘Men’s Needs…’ but in very different ways. ‘The New Fellas’ was when the kids were connecting to us through the internet and through file-sharing and stuff; it was written on the fly, in the moment, and the kids in that world were the ones [who spread it]. It was so fan-driven.
With that record, all the singles went into the charts because of that fan community and what happens then is the BBC and the radio stations and the big magazines start focusing on you because it’s happening without their patronage. So that had the biggest impact on a grassroots level, but then because of that we made the third record on a major label and it went straight onto the radio and people wrote about it straight away.
R: And there was Tom from Myspace…
What was Tom up to?
R: Just based on what was going on online around ‘The New Fellas’, Tom from Myspace really heavily pitched us to sign to Myspace Records - it’s the most 2000s story you can imagine. We had a meeting with him; he seemed like a nice guy. But there was something about that to us that seemed a bit too alien.
G: I think Myspace Records was very short-lived…
“You can never replace your first album, there’s no do-overs.”
— Ryan Jarman
What song are you most proud of writing from those first three records?
G: ‘I’ve Tried Everything’ [from ‘Men’s Needs…’] is my favourite Cribs song but I don’t know why, it just seems to be the one that’s aged the best to me. There’s something special about it, it kind of encapsulates everything I wanted the band to be. It’s melodic, it’s got good riffs, I’m proud of the lyrics and it’s hooky but not super major or positive. All of those things are what I like in a song and it has that.
R: I wouldn’t say it’s my favourite but I really like ‘You Were Always The One’ off our first album. We were listening to a lot of ‘Hard Day’s Night’ at the time and that’s what it sounds like to me; it’s just off the cuff, we probably wrote it in an hour with no expectation attached to it. When we play it now, I wish that we could write pop songs as easily as we wrote that one.
When you were digging back, which of the three uncovered the most hidden treasures?
G: There was loads of stuff from the first album that didn’t get used, but the most surprising thing for me was that ‘Be Safe’ was written before ‘Another Number’ - it was literally maybe the second song we ever wrote, in basically the same form but just without Lee [Ranaldo’s] part. I was surprised at how close it was to the finished version. It was maybe slightly slower and it sounded a bit more like a prom band, like someone soundtracking a US dance, but it’s really cool.
R: We wrote ‘Another Number’, ‘Be Safe’ and ‘Third Outing’ in the same afternoon which is crazy. When there’s no real reason to be doing it, you just do it, whereas when there’s reason to then - even if you don’t care - it gets in your head a little bit. I think we’ve always done a good job of avoiding feeling any kind of pressure but, certainly on the first album, we were really prolific.
G: I’d like to put all of those raw archived tapes out one day.
R: When we start running out of material then we’ll start plumbing the archives.
Which album has been the most challenging and/or rewarding to learn again for these shows?
R: With ‘Men’s Needs…’, a lot of those songs we’ve been playing anyway so there wasn’t a lot of rehearsing for that. A lot of the first album we haven’t played for ages, but it’s just so easy to get back into.
G: That’s the headspace we wanna be in; that era’s so pure, we all wish we were still those people. Unfortunately those people do get corrupted and eroded by the industry, but when we first started rehearsals for these shows, playing that first album, we were all so happy after doing that record because it makes us feel like we did back then.
R: There are some songs on ‘The New Fellas’ that were difficult, because the way of playing was idiosyncratic in a way that you kind of had to recalibrate for it.
G: If the first album was instinctual, the second record was perverse. We’d be like, ‘Let’s do a big band section there’, or ‘Let’s do a jazzy bit in between here’.
And finally, do you have an overall favourite of the three?
R: My favourite was always ‘The New Fellas’, always, because of the way it came together. We went to a studio and sat and wrote about what we were doing outside, and we didn’t really know what the album was until we finished it. But now I’m the most fond of the first album because it was done before it was our life. It WAS our life but it wasn’t the only thing we did.
G: The first album just makes me really happy, it reminds me of a very innocent and exciting time. I enjoy listening to it the most, but I think the third one is probably the best even though it took me a long time to accept that. But I can see why everyone likes it the best now - it’s got the best songs on it.
R: But you can never replace your first album, there’s no do-overs.
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