Interview: Ross Jarman of the Cribs

By on Monday, 25th January 2010 at 12:00 pm
 

Mary and I met up with the very engaging Ross Jarman, drummer for the Cribs, and had a nice chat with him a couple hours prior to the band’s show at Washington D.C.’s esteemed 9:30 Club last Tuesday. He told us about the wrist injury he sustained prior to recording ‘Ignore the Ignorant’ in Los Angeles (ouch!), how it came to be that Johnny Marr joined up with them, why ‘Save Our Secrets’ is a favourite of his to play live and more.

**To save disk space, the audio file that originally went with this post has been removed.

Questions marked “Mary” are asked by Mary Chang, USA Editor. Questions marked “MB” are asked by Mary Beth Howard.

We would like to extend a special thanks to Mark and Nick from Fenway, Nigel, and of course Ross for making this interview possible.

MB: Last time you were in D.C., I think you played the Black Cat?

That’s right, yeah.

MB: That was a great show, by the way.

Thanks.

MB: Since then you’ve released the new album, ‘Ignore the Ignorant,’ and also gained a new band member with Johnny Marr.

Yeah.

MB: How has it been the past year, and were you worried about bringing someone into the band who wasn’t a Jarman?

It’s been great. For us, you know, we’ve done 3 albums together, so having another member it just really freshened things up again. For us, it’s been like having a new best friend, ya know? And subsequently, it’s made touring a lot more fun as well, ‘cos there’s like 4 of us now. It was a completely natural thing what happened. It wasn’t like something that we’d planned. We basically met Johnny, became friends, hung out, decided to play some music together because we’re all musicians, and then next minute we know, we’d wrote a lot of songs, seems a bit of a shame to put a cap on it, so we ended up just continuing and it just happened completely naturally.

MB: That’s probably the best way to do it.

Yeah, I mean that’s how most bands start. You end up playing with your friends and you end up forming a band, and it’s no different in this circumstance, either.

MB: If you could pick any one musician, other than Johnny Marr, obviously [laughter], to join your band, living or dead, who would it be?

I’m not sure, to be honest. The weird part is, originally, like many years ago, we were like, “we wouldn’t have anybody else in the band” (this was before we even knew Johnny), “but maybe Johnny Marr.” We were all fans of Johnny, we even had a picture of him on this fridge in our tour van in the UK. When we first announced we were getting another guitar player, all the fans on the site and that were just like “aw, this is gonna be rubbish, we want them to be a 3-piece” and the when we announced it was Johnny they were like “well, fair enough, then!”, ya know? They’re all like, “zip me mouth, then!” That’s kind of how it was.

I don’t know about that question, I’d have to think about it. It’s a weird question how you asked that, because we did actually have that conversation many years ago and we actually said Johnny, so it’s pretty weird.

MB: Well you got your wish, then!

Yup.

MB: So, what’s it like being in a band with – I mean, obviously it’s not just your brothers now – but, what’s it like being in a band with your brothers and being around them 24/7?

Um, we actually, for brothers, surprisingly get on really well. I notice most people, they always say how can you be with your brothers? with your siblings? I’d be killing my brother or my sister, but we get on surprisingly really well. We’ve had so much practice at arguing over the years, we know exactly which buttons not to press. We just avoid pressing them, so we get on really well, yeah. We’re too lazy to argue, to be honest, we just can’t be bothered.

MB: Don’t waste the energy.

Yeah, we’d rather just use the energy on the stage.

MB: So, Gary lives in Portland, right?

Yeah.

MB: Is it hard having him on a completely different continent and being far apart? Or are you touring so much that it’s not really…

Well, on paper it sounds worse than what it is, really. Because Gary lives in Portland, Ryan lives in London, Johnny lives in Manchester and I live in Wakefield. But, to be honest, when you spend so much time on tour with each other, it’s really healthy to go away from each other and have your own separate time apart – I think especially being brothers. In the early days, we used to all live at the same house and then go out to tour and come back, and I found that a lot more harder than what it is now, where we all go away and do our own thing, and then when we meet up with each other again we’re all really happy to see each other and it’s really fresh. It’s good when you’re writing, you know, ‘cos you miss each other. I think it’s better this way, to be honest. It sounds worse on paper, but when you do the amount of travelling we do it really isn’t a big deal at all.

MB: The new album is great. How do you feel that the music has changed from your past albums to this one, and what would you attribute the change more to? To growth over time or having Johnny in the band?

Yeah, I think both of them things are big factors. On the first album we recorded it in like 2 weeks and on this new one we recorded it in like 2 months or something. So I think we spend more time, and every time we write a record, unless it interests us…When we were writing this new album we could’ve come up with a concept similar to the first album, but we were like, why do that? Because we’ve already been there and done it. I think we probably take longer on things, and also I think there’s a lot more going on on this record, it’s got more depth to it . That’s partly to do with having Johnny. We’ve got all these other interesting guitar bits going on in the background and stuff, which again, inspires us and makes us do different things. It’s definitely a catalyst, having Johnny in the band, for the new album.

MB: Do you have a favorite track of yours on the album and can you tell us a little bit about it.

I dunno, it changes quite a lot. I like ‘Save Your Secrets’, it’s a bit different for us. It’s a lot more laid back and quite a delicate song. I also like ‘We Were Aborted’, the first song, and I love ‘Cheat On Me,’ as well. I love ‘Cheat On Me’ because it sounds like exactly like what you’d expect it to be: it sounds like the Cribs with Johnny Marr in the band. And that’s kind of the whole reason why we made it the first single, because we thought it was a good introductory: it’s exactly like us – it sounds like the Cribs but with Johnny’s distinctive playing on the top.

Mary: To me it felt, when I first heard it, it just felt very immediate – it just had that oomph!

Yeah, thats why we put that out first, for that reason.

MB: You’ve only got 14 dates on this North American tour, and you’re only doing the East and the West coast. Is there anywhere that you haven’t played in the US that you’d like to, and do you have plans for a more extensive US tour in the future?

Um, we’ve done a few extensive tours, like we did a long tour with Franz Ferdinand and Death Cab for Cutie, and we visited all these obscure places. So in the past we’ve played all over, so there isn’t many places we haven’t played that I’d like to play, now, I guess. We’ve gone to a lot. We’ve never been to Florida, but then again a lot of bands don’t play in Florida, do they? But I wouldn’t mind going down there at one point. It’s one place we haven’t played that I know is on the circuit.

MB: Just see what’s there.

Yeah.

MB: And I think you sold out two nights at Bowery Ballroom [in New York City] in November.

Yeah.

MB: That’s quite an accomplishment.

Yeah, yeah.

MB: How did that feel?

That was great, yeah. It was just good to come over immediately after the record had been released and do a couple of New York shows. On this tour we’ve been back really soon. Two months later we did the Fillmore in New York. It feels good because when we first came over we were playing to like nobody and every record and every visit we’ve made to the US we played to more people and the venues get bigger. And that’s how we did it in the UK, as well, you know, we just kept going back to places and playing to more people. We’re a real word-of-mouth band: people find out about us through word of mouth and by distributing music to their friends and stuff. Whereas I know a lot of bands, people will just read a lot of whatevers currently been in all the magazines and everything. So we we feel like our band’s doing it a much more old-fashioned way, like a much more organic way.

MB: More natural.

Yeah, and we wouldn’t have it any other way, really.

MB: So, do you think New York is the most receptive U.S. crowd, or what’s your favorite?

I don’t know, it just depends, really, it just depends on the night. New York’s always a lot of fun. It just depends on the night. Chicago was cool. Where else have we done?We’ve done a few…I’m trying to think where else…But yeah, it just depends on the night. Sometimes you go to cities and you have a good gig, and then the next time you have a great gig…it just depends. But New York’s generally pretty good, yeah.

MB: How do you think U.S. crowds compare with crowds in the UK or in Europe and other places?

I think U.S. crowds are more well behaved than UK crowds.

[Laughter]

MB: See, you wouldn’t think that, just based on stereotypes…

Mary: But does that depend on the venue, though?

Yeah, maybe. Some of the UK fans just go loopy. I think it must bet something to do with the drinking laws. They’re all ages shows so they get quite messy. In the U.S., I think they drink a little more responsibly and they show their appreciation in a different way. People like shout stuff out and thats really cool, whereas in the UK people don’t really do that. So I think the US audience is just a little more well behaved, yeah.

[Laughter]

Mary: I’m actually very surprised to hear that.

MB: People over here always stereotype British people as being all proper and well behaved.

It weird, yeah. But it’s not like I speak the Queen’s English, exactly, though, is it?

Mary: No, it’s their extreme love for you guys…

MB: So who are your support acts on this tour and how did you choose them?

Adam Green and the Dead Trees. The Dead Trees are a New York band we heard some good things about through Adam Green. And Adam Green we took him out in the UK tour, you know, we’re all fans of his solo albums and we’re big fans of the Moldy Peaches as well. We met Adam a few times at some festivals and other things and we got on well with him. As I was saying, we were fans and when we did the UK tour we were like, “Oh, it’d be cool if Adam could do it” and he had an record coming out so he decided to do it. And after the UK tour we had such a great time that we were like “We’re doing a US tour if you wanna come out on that as well.” And he does, yeah, ‘cos he’s got a record coming out as well at the moment. So that’s how it happened.

MB: So when you’re touring somewhere like the U.S., do you get a lot of time to explore the cities you’re in or are you mainly just on the bus?

I try. When you’re in a van it’s a lot more difficult because you’ve got really big drives. We’ve done the van tour a lot of the times. And I think you have to do, ‘cos I don’t like the fact that some British bands come over and just expect to be on a bus. ‘Cos they don’t appreciate the distances or anything or how big America is, and that’s why you have to spend so much time there. But when we’re on a bus, that’s when you get the opportunity to go out and explore. So on this tour, yeah, you wake up and then we’ll just go out and look ’round the city. I’ve been to Washington a few other times so I’ve done all the memorials: the Lincoln Memorial and the Capitol Building and all that. I’ve done all that before, but that was on a nice, hot Summer’s day.

MB: Yeah, it’s no fun right now.

It’s warmer now than it has been a lot of other places we’ve been.

MB: It’s a lot warmer here than it has been here. So, you picked a good day to come.

Mary: A good month, ‘cos we had that blizzard last month.

MB: Yeah, we had like two feet!

We had like the worst snow we ever had in the UK just before we came out on this tour. Well, not ever, for the last 30 years.

MB: So when you are on the bus, what are some of your favorite things to do? What do you guys do to pass the time?

We mainly just use the bus for sleeping, to be honest. But we do tend to go to bed late and just all stay up late and hang out. That’s kind of what you do. Just typical bus stuff, you know: we watch films. That’s pretty much it, really. We tend to spend as less time as we can on the bus because it gets kind of boring. It’s like being in the same hotel room all the time. But yeah, we just watch films, and just hang out and go to bed really late and regret it the next day.

MB: So I saw on your Twitter feed that you hurt yourself really badly with a shower door that broke. And then also during the recording of the album you had a broken wrist?

Yeah, I’m kind of regretting that now, as well. [indicates wrist brace] I broke my wrist…We got set up recording in the studio and I broke my wrist by going out on a skateboard. I don’t skate and that’s where the problem comes from. So I had a go on a skateboard, fell off and had to go to hospital. My wrist was like twice the size it usually is. I was told to rest it for like 6-8 weeks, and then 3 days later we started playing again, and I was taking Vicodin in between – it was really painful. Because I didn’t want to push the recording date back because everybody had got to L.A. and we’d all got set up and we’d booked the studio time, so I ended up playing anyway. And then I thought after that I’d have a few months off to rest it. So I did and it was okay, and then I went back out on tour and it’s kind of been giving me some problems since. But having said that, this tour it’s picked up a lot so I’ve been seeing a specialist and having like injections that you have for tennis elbow and stuff, so it’s much better now.

And regarding the shower incident, I was just taking a shower at a venue and the door fell off and just cut me up everywhere.

MB: That’s like a freak accident!

It was, yeah, it was scary! And everyone was like “what’s going on in there?”, ‘cos you could hear all this glass smashing, and I tried to describe to them what had happened, but I was naked trying to walk over glass. And then when I got out of the shower and managed to open the door, Ryan comes in and is just like taking a picture, and I’m like, “You aren’t even concerned about where the blood is coming from?”

Mary: Typical brother, right?

And then I thought it was quite a funny story after seeing the lighter side of it, even though I’d cut my hands and feet and stuff. So I just stuck it up there ‘cos I thought it was an interesting story, and that’s what happened.

MB: Yeah, you guys seem to get injured a lot! I know Ryan was injured at, what was it, the 2007 NME Awards?

Yeah, I don’t know why, but I think we’re just unlucky. I think that’s genuinely what it is, yeah. But maybe we just end up telling people about it…

MB: Other people just hide it.

Yeah.

MB: So you were on Jimmy Fallon last night. Congratulations.

Thanks.

MB: How was that, was it a good experience?

Yeah! It was fun, yeah. We’ve done a few other TV shows. We did the Jimmy Fallon show when it was Conan and we’ve done Letterman. We did Letterman in November. They’re always fun to do. They’re long days, but apart from that it’s fun. It’s good for us to come over and do them ‘cos it’s just something you don’t usually get the chance to do, so yeah, it was fun.

MB: Yeah, it seems like you’ve been on a lot of the late night shows here.

Generally, when you’re in New York you invite some of the producers down to the shows and stuff. And we’ve been really lucky, people have always really liked the band and the people who book the shows have been into us, and that’s genuinely the reason why we get on. There’s no other reason, it’s just to do with the fact that, you know, I think most bands invite people down to the shows when their in New York or L.A. or whatever, and we’ve just had really good responses from people who’ve come down and watched. And that just results in you getting offers to go on TV and stuff.

MB: Since you’ve been on so many of them, are you aware of and do you have an opinion on all the stuff that’s happening with Conan and with Leno?

Yeah! Yeah, it sounds like Conan’s getting the, erm, it sounds like he’s getting a raw deal, I guess. But I don’t know enough about it. I know Gary and Ryan know more about it. Because Gary lives in America he knows more about it than me. But from what I’ve heard it seems like he’s getting a bit of a raw deal, yeah.

MB: He looked like he was wearing a shirt with Conan on it.

He did, yeah.

MB: I couldn’t tell. I was like, “It looks like Conan, but I’m not sure…”

It was Conan, yeah. It was one of them things he just decided to do before he went on because I think we were on the same network as was kicking Conan off or something, was that right?

MB: Yeah, ‘cos Jimmy Fallon, his show comes on right after Conan.

Mary: On NBC.

MB: It goes Leno, Conan and then Jimmy Fallon.

So I think that’s why. He kind of wore it in protest, I guess.

MB: So I’ve just got a couple more random, non-connected questions.

MB: Who would you have liked to see have the Christmas # 1? Obviously, you would’ve liked you guys to have it, but other than you?

In the UK?

MB and Mary: Yeah.

I thought the Rage thing was so ridiculous that I bought it! Yeah, I bought it the week it came out ‘cos I was just thinking that Christmas # 1s are supposed to be something that families, you know….when I were a kid…your Gran’s supposed to like the Christmas # 1, and whatever. But having the lyrics like “fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me” and the word “motherfucker” in the Christmas # 1, I though was completely absurd, so I just, like…yeah, I bought it. And I’m glad I did. I think the guy who set it up did a pretty good thing. The Christmas # 1 shouldn’t be given away as a prize. Christmas # 1 should be just what it is. That’s why people don’t release Christmas records anymore. It’s not like we’re gonna do one or anything, but I just mean, like, you don’t hear as many Christmas records now in the UK, cause there’s no point in doing it, you know – nobody ever gets it. So that Rage thing, that was quite interesting, yeah.

MB: Yeah, it was interesting to see from over here.

Yeah.

MB: Just seeing…I sort of knew it was a big deal, the Christmas # 1, but I didn’t realize it was that big of a deal, so it was cool to watch that.

MB: Now, a little bit over a year ago, you guys released a live DVD?

Yeah.

MB: Are there any plans to do another live DVD, now that you’ve got Johnny in the band, or maybe to release the first one in the US?

Yeah, we’ve recorded like a few shows on the last tour. We just don’t know what we’re gonna use them for yet. But yeah, hopefully…the thing is we’ve always…we’ve been unfortunate because we haven’t really filmed any big gigs that we did in the UK. We always tend to film the small ones. We just sat back the other day and were like, hang on a minute! People are gonna perceive us as some band who just go around playing … like, the DVD, where we did it, we were playing at a really small club in Leeds. So yeah, we did think about that. We’ve done some recordings, and I hope in the future we’ll release a live DVD, yeah. Especially now with Johnny in the band, yeah.

Mary: Social Networking: twitter and those kinds of things. What’s your take on that? ‘Cos you have a Twitter, and we’ve been watching the pictures that you’ve been posting.

I’m the only one who does it, you know, in the band. Nobody else is really interested in it. But I think people shouldn’t be forced into it unless they want to do it. Like, I started doing it just ‘cos I thought it was quite interesting, you know? But yeah, I think a lot of the time it’s taking away a lot of mystery from bands and stuff, you know? I mean, you don’t want to know … you don’t wanna see pictures of them all the time, knowing what they’re up to. I think people like a certain amount of mystery about not really knowing much about people who they like. ‘Cos you might find out that they’re dead boring, you know? You’d rather make up this story in your mind that they’re just like … I mean, they might be – you get really interesting characters, but it’s like, who wants to see pictures of them eating their breakfast or something? It’s just boring.

Mary: Walking the dog?

Yeah, exactly. Can you imagine if you saw someone like David Bowie walking his dog or eating a bowl of cereal…you’d be like…he’s just boring, you know? So yeah, I think it keeps a bit of mystery not having ’em, but I think you should only do it if you wanna do it, you shouldn’t be forced into it or anything. And I just, I don’t know if I like it or not, but you have to try it and see. So far, I just post what I want. I don’t feel like I have to do anything, so it’s totally my choice, you know?

MB: And who does…there’s an official, just @thecribs, on twitter – who does that?

Well, we have access to that if we feel like writing on it, but generally it’s just like the people who run our Web site posting news and stuff on there and keeping people up to date. And the management use it as well. But we can go on there and write anything we want, so…

MB: So what’s up next for the Cribs? I think NME quoted Johnny as saying there’s gonna be another album in the near future – do you know when that is?

Yeah, Johnny’s not like – we’re not collaborating with him, he’s a full-time member of the band. We’ll just do some writing when we feel like it and still we’re in the middle of this campaign – we’ve got a few countries we haven’t been to yet, you know. We’re going to Australia after this tour and we’ve got festivals coming up and stuff like that. So, yeah, just carrying on with this campaign for the minute, yeah.

MB: Do you know what festivals you’re playing yet?

We’re doing Coachella over here, yeah.

Mary: Yeah, the lineup was just was announced today. What are your feelings about playing in the California desert? ‘Cos I’ve asked other bands who’ve been there, and …

Yeah, we’ve done it before and being from a cold place like Wakefield, I thought I was gonna die!

Mary: That’s actually the common answer I get!

Yeah, I was drumming and the tour manager’s looking at me, thinking: he’s in trouble, you know? So they were dipping, like towels in buckets of ice and putting them ’round my neck, and it was like snuff dry when I came off stage. Well, it were covered in sweat, but yeah… It’s difficult, but it’s a fun festival to be at. For such an energetic band like us, yeah, it can be quite a challenge and it just depends what time you go on and stuff. So I like the festival a lot.

MB: And do you think you prefer playing just normal shows, or do you prefer doing festivals or a little bit of both?

I like doing festivals, but I think I prefer doing normal shows ‘cos with festivals you have a lot of headaches – when you do festivals it’s like playing the lottery. Sometimes you have problems on stage, especially when you fly to other countries and you’re renting a lot of gear and you don’t even know if it works. So technically, it can be a nightmare or alternately it can come out really great. It’s a bit of a gamble, but…I dunno, I do like doing festivals and I think it’s good to have each in moderation, you know? I like doing shows and I like doing festivals, but if I had to pick it’d definitely be our own show, yeah.

Mary: Now, the BBC had this ‘Bands to Watch in 2010’ – who are your bands that you expect to do well this year, or that you’re looking out for?

I don’t know, to be honest, I don’t really keep that up-to-date with the music in the UK. I know who I’d like to do well.

Mary: It doesn’t have to be UK bands. Any band out there.

I like – there’s this band from Brighton we’ve taken on tour a load of times – called Shrag. we really like them. We’ve had them open for us a few times. There’s some other Wichita bands called, like, Los Campesinos!

MB: Yeah, I just reviewed their album like 2 days ago!

Yeah, they’re a good band and there’s a band, Skylarkin, they’re also on Wichita. So yeah, I’d like to see all them do well. We took them out on tour with us as well, but erm…yeah, apart from that, I’m not really sure. So as far as British bands go, that’s pretty much my list of British bands.

MB: Well you said you don’t really like British bands that much, for the most part. Do you have favorite American bands or other non-British bands?

I like Adam Green! Just whoevers on tour with us at the moment. You find out about new music that way. I’m sure I could name a load, but erm…we like Sonic Youth, I guess.

Mary: Now do you listen to a lot of music when you’re travelling around?

Yeah, we try to. Yeah, I think most bands do. You just listen to stuff and you discover different things – that’s fun. That’s one of the easiest ways to discover music, because, well, like, you might hear something that Gary’s listening to, or something Johnny’s listening to, or something Ryan’s listening to, and you’re like “Oh, I like that!” and they’ll just give you a copy of it or tell you where to get it.

MB: Do you guys like a lot of different stuff or is there a lot of overlap in what you guys listen to?

I think there’s a lot of overlap, yeah. I think we grew up listening to the same records, like me, Gary and Ryan. Surprisingly, we have such a lot in common with Johnny on band’s we like and we don’t like, it’s kind of weird, really, yeah.

Mary: That’s actually kinda…that’s coincidental, but good, I guess.

Yeah, it just shows that it doesn’t matter. You can be from a different generation, but you still like a lot of 70s punk bands, you know?

MB: I guess he’s sort of like an honorary Jarman now.

Yeah! Pretty much, yeah.

MB: You just inducted him into the family.

Mary: All right, well I think that’s all of our questions.

Cool!

Mary: Yeah, so thank you so much. We really appreciate it.

No worries, nice to meet you, yeah.

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

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