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IN CONVERSATION: THE CRIBS

“If there is ever an opportunity that I can be wearing pyjamas, I will be wearing pyjamas,” says Ryan Jarman, guitarist and one third of a brotherly whole that makes up the Cribs.

I say: “Agreed, there’s something quite special in getting up and already being fully clothed to tackle the day.”

He says (with charming Wakefield sass): “Yeah it’s like – I’m ready, this is me.”

Following the release of their new album, Night Network, the Cribs played their hearts out at the Cavern in Liverpool last Friday (20th), and in typical 2020 fashion, no one turned up. Of course, it was streamed live all around the world. Ryan understands these circumstances as much as anyone, he’s had loved ones struggle with Covid-19, calling it the worst few weeks of his life. The band seem clear to point out, though, this gig doesn’t get close to replicating the communal act sharing live sound and bumping shoulders with like-minded strangers.  

“I think people will realise what we’ve been missing, being at shows, and that communal vibe you get. There really is no replacement for it. We’re gonna do this remote gig from the Cavern, which I’m sure people will like, and you know, it’ll be fun. But I’m under no illusions, this is not a replacement for an actual gig. It never will be, ever.”

“It’s easy for me to say because that’s what I do, but honestly, that’s the shit you live for. Stuff that makes life worth living. Having that big experience with a room full of people, a communal experience. It’s important. Humans are social animals, they crave that stuff”.

Well, we may not be seeing live performances or even our family this Christmas, so I think it’s important to find pleasure in even the smallest things – like decorating your house, listening to an actual half decent Christmas playlist. There’s classic festive jams by the Kinks, Devo, Bob Dylan, and soon we’ll be treated to a jolly by the Cribs. Ho-ho-ho, Merry Riffmas.

“Yeah it’s something Gary was working on a couple of years ago, and we got together and finished it. Yeah it’s cool, it’s like a proper Glam Rock Christmas song. It’s fun, I think people are going to dig it. People think Christmas songs are really sentimental and really sappy, it’s just not like that at all. It’s not the most ideal year to release it I guess, but you know, this kind of shit always happens to us.”

Oooooh, the noughties. What I’d give to a return of shite lager and bands swarming out of the H&M skinny jean isle. The decade copped a lot of flack, and in many cases, rightfully so. But what now… Chaos but the beers taste slightly fruitier? Don’t you ever long for a cheeky episode of Never Mind the Buzzcocks or Soccer AM being your music journalism insider? They were some sweet times indeed, and to think, it was the definitive sound of the first track, ‘Watch Trick’, on the Cribs’ debut album that brought all these memories gushing back.

“It’s because what it reminds you of as well. If I listen to the first album, it really reminds me of who I was; we recorded that before we got a record deal, and it totally takes me back to being completely unjaded and excited about everything. It’s not even just the song and lyrics I think, the sound of it takes me back.”

“It’s almost a dirty word to say you like the noughties, but the noughties fucking ruled man. It really did rule for a long time. From like 2001-2005, I think that’s pretty much as exciting as it gets. What was happening was – the kids were taking over the whole music industry, because of the advent of the internet, the record labels didn’t know what to do. Then obviously, that was up until a point and then I’d say from around 2007 onwards it just got so oversaturated. I think that’s the era that people kind of have a problem with, but everything in the early ‘2000s, I have no qualms with saying that was a great time for music, and a great time for culture”.

The Cribs’ are fairly unique in that they’ve just about survived it all, against the current, in rush hour, jammed packed in an elevator going to the top floor. Or as Steve Albini puts it “wading through decaying shit filled trenches”. They’ve had to wrestle for it too, exhausting their energies in the lawful dispute of the rightful ownership of the very music that flowed from their own hands – I always find that bizarre. How could anyone else own that?

Night Network starts with the satirically titled ‘Goodbye’. It’s a melodic little Chéri of a track, which I guess the bands exposure to West Coast American culture has had some part to play. But it’s a far-cry from the big booming riffs that defined a lot the Cribs’ earlier work, and as Ryan continues to draw on how important his privacy has been over the last few years, it’s perhaps just a sign of the times.

“Yeah, well it’s interesting because I think with this record specifically, I’ve gone back to how I used to play, like around the first album time. It’s a little less riff orientated, I think especially like [In the Belly of the] ‘Brazen Bull’ and ‘For All My Sisters’ I was obsessed with just riffing all the time. That is my style, it’s kinda like baked in, that’s just always been the way that I’ve played”.

“On this record we’ve stripped everything right back. I don’t use any pedals on this record apart from ‘I Don’t Know Who I Am’ where I needed that ethereal sound, but it’s like, everything’s very deliberate. I really worked on the musicianship of the parts, and that’s not to say I certainly don’t want them to be complicated. If anything I’ve simplified all my guitar playing on this record, but it’s a lot more sophisticated. That’s kind of like the weird paradox, it’s really difficult to write a really simple, effective part you know, so that’s what we were going for with this record”.

In a final dash of ignorance toppled with a guitar ‘guru’ fledged romance, I wondered whether this ‘sophisticated’ playing had anything to do Johnny Marr’s impact when briefly joining the band. Ryan seemed a little antagonized by this question, which no doubt he’s probably been asked by every scoundrel sporting a pen and headphones since 2008, when Marr first joined the Cribs. Ryan’s a gifted player in his own right, and as he states over the phone:

“I don’t particularly think it was influential, we actually just happened to play together really well. We never sat down and crafted guitar parts, or even talked guitar. I didn’t really have to modify my playing at all, and he didn’t have to modify his either.”

Night Network is a great return. Go and support a local record shop if you can. They both need it now more than ever!

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