A fierce DIY spirit has always been the ethos of UK punk rock trio The Cribs, a band so anti-rock’n’roll clichés they ironically named their seventh album 24/7 Rock Star Shit. The band of brothers have been together for 15 years, defying critics who presumed their reckless nature would ultimately see them crash and burn. Instead, they’ve cultivated a fevered fan base and a sound that sets them distinctly apart from their contemporaries.
In a sense the Jarmans have always been outsiders, growing up in Wakefield, an isolated town in England’s north. Unlike most bands who trade it all in for commercial glory, The Cribs chose to bunker down in the studio to record 24/7 Rock Star Shit in a mere five days, announcing and releasing the album within just two weeks. With legendary engineer Steve Albini at the helm, the live sound captured harks back to the immediacy that made their eponymous debut album so compelling.
The band’s guitarist and co-songwriter Ryan Jarman is articulate and friendly on the other end of the phone line, indulging my confession of being a big fan by joking that it’ll be refreshing not to be asked shitty questions like ‘Where does the band’s name comes from?’” We speak a month prior to the band’s return to Australian shores after five years, their blistering live show easily the most raucous it’s ever been. And we’re talking about a band whose motto was once “three songs and then off to casualty”.
“The first time that we came out to tour in Australia was on the second record”, explains Jarman. “We had no idea how things were going down there, we were so used to just touring in the UK at that point.”
”Australia is such a long way for us to travel,” continues Jarman. “It was crazy being on the plane travelling for 26 hours or something. To travel all that distance and have no idea what way it’ll go is kind of weird.” Australian audiences however quickly made an impression on the band for their unwavering energy and lack of cynicism. “One thing that sticks with me is that Australian crowds definitely seem to be there to have a good time. There’s so many places where you’ll play to a cynical audience and that’s no fun. Australia’s good, we enjoy coming down there. I mean, if we didn’t enjoy it there’s no way I’d sit on a plane for that amount of time because I’m so sick of travelling at this point. It’s got to be worth it.”
The Cribs have always been known for their intense live shows that often see the band members nursing injuries after the gig. “We’ve been doing this for 15 years, we’re pretty dedicated to what we do but we don’t necessarily take shows that seriously.” Jarman explains. We see the experience of what the audience gets as more important than going up there and making sure we play the songs well. I think by this point we’ve played the songs so many times that we’re not going to fuck them up anyway,” he laughs.
When I note that he jumped straight into the crowd before picking up his guitar when I saw the band in 2013, Jarman poetically states the band’s live mission. “We try to retain and also provoke a little bit of chaos within the audience because that just makes it more interesting for us. I think going out and crowd surfing from the start gives the message that we just want you to do whatever you want. We’re just trying to get rid of that invisible barrier between the audience and the crowd. We’re just one of you, that’s what we want people to think.”
Being not only band mates for so long but also brothers gives The Cribs plenty of archival material to share online. “We’ve got loads of photos and videos that were just going to sit around in someone’s attic or in a hard drive,” says Jarman. We aren’t adverse to social media but when we started there wasn’t anything like it. It was something that we’d kind of not taken that much notice of but in the last few years my brother Gary’s gotten really into it. Since we’re pretty obsessive about archiving things it’s kind of a good outlet for it. We just kind of share things we think people might find interesting or amusing. With us all being brothers, we’ve grown up together our entire lives, we’ve also got funny photos from when we were kids and shit like that.”
As for the return to the band’s more DIY roots, Jarman explains that a lack of sophisticated production is an important aspect to the band’s sound. “It’s something that’s an important part of the DNA of the band,” says Jarman. “I think that when we first started we were just recording any idea that we had with outdated, crappy gear. I don’t listen to a lot of records that have that really slick production, I don’t really like records that sound that way. I think it’s just bullshit that the recording industry want you to spend a million dollars on a record. If I had a million dollars there’s much better ways that I can spend my money on than making a record.” “The new record was written very quickly,” continues Jarman. “It was supposed to be a really visceral record as opposed to something that we’d sat down and crafted meticulously, which is how we did the last two albums. We wanted the way that the album was recorded to sound like a live band playing so that’s why we went with Steve Albini because he’s the best at doing that.”
When Jarman speaks about the band there’s a real sense that it serves not so much as an extension of his relationship with his brothers, but an all consuming experience. “When the band started when I was 21 I’d never really left Wakefield. I hadn’t really done anything, I’d just lived a small town life and then the band started and since then that’s all I’ve ever done.”
“I used to be on the road so much I didn’t even have a home base to go back to. I didn’t do anything else apart from the band. It isn’t a job, it’s your life completely. I didn’t notice this until I stepped back from it a little bit in the last few years.”
After an exhaustive 2017 the band have only been touring intermittently since their Cribsmas tour in December. The run of nine shows saw the band play over 80 of their songs in an attempt to satisfy their fans often obscure requests. “Those shows always sound fun on paper but when you end up doing them night after night it gets really hardcore. By the end of it we felt like we were losing our marbles.”
“If we do arena shows in the UK you feel really weird about pulling out an old song because you assume 90% of the people there might not know it,” continues Jarman. “They’re not going to remember b-sides from 2004 but you know that at those smaller Cribmas shows everyone’s going to know every single song. Because of that we re-learnt a lot of them.”
Above all, there’s a ‘do or die’ attitude towards the band, which is why at the time of writing this I’ve spent most of my week travelling interstate to see them play. No two Cribs shows are ever the same, and it’s because of this that fans like myself often travel extensively to see multiple shows. That the band are so passionate about their fans is paramount to the undying love that diehard Cribs fanatics adopt. I truly believe that music has the power to heal, the ability to make your shitty life better than it actually is. The Cribs are all this and so much more to me, and I certainly wouldn’t be the person I am today without their music.