Meetings involving the Split Festival team are usually animated affairs, with the most exciting discussions revolving around which bands they could invite to play. One band which has cropped up every year has been The Cribs. You won't find many indie rock bands as popular or as well respected as the Wakefield trio, and Split have been dying for them to play for some time now. Having secured the band this year, Split's Chris Thompson caught up with Ryan Jarman from The Cribs to ponder the rockers' success, their signature sound and their trip to Sunderland.
The Cribs released 'Payola' in 2013, which was a 'best of' album. You don't find many Indie Rock bands releasing 'best of's as unfortunately most of them don't make it past the second album! Did you ever see yourself being in a band that could release a 'best of'?
We never thought about the future of the band when we started and I guess we still don't, but yeah, I've always liked the idea of 'greatest hits' records or whatever, I think deep down we always felt like we would make one. One of the fun parts was dragging up all our earliest, most fucked up recordings for the 3rd disc that came with the NME. Payola was never just a collection of singles though, the Anthology edition was 40 tracks and came with a b-sides collection, and the main disc was a collection of singles and album tracks that we are most proud of and that we think still represent us best. It's good to do these things, I like the idea of having an entry level record for kids who are just hearing about us now to be able to go out and pick up as kind of an introduction to the band.
You seem to have picked up this status as a real band's band; legendary British musicians always name drop The Cribs as one of their favourite bands. Why do you think that is?
I don't know, maybe they just see a band that are doing things their way and not compromising their ideals for the sake of fleeting success? I hope the reason why is because they like the music and respect the way we do things and conduct ourselves. We have always done things our own way and not cared one bit about what is in fashion or what is played on the radio etc. It's fun though to be a band like us and still find mainstream success, like when the records go into the top 10, it feels like we are gate crashes or something and I love the perversity of it.
One such musician who obviously rates you very highly is Johnny Marr (The Smiths), to the extent where he joined the band! Was it the case where Marr turned up and was like; 'Right, I like you lads, I want to be in the band!'?
No that was never the case. We met him and he told us how much he liked the band which was cool, as we'd always been fans of The Smiths, especially when the band first started. So naturally, being friends, we decided to get together to jam and we just wrote so many songs so quickly it seemed a little stupid to stop. There was never a formal decision made to ask him to join or anything, after a while it was just like he became part of the band.
I'm proud of how that album came out, so many collaboration records, especially ones involving people from such beloved bands as The Smiths never work out, but I think ours really did. The way me and Johnny played together as guitarists was very natural as well, we both played lead lines that would weave in and out of each other.
While other indie bands were going into studios and trying to find a massive stadium sound, The Cribs always retained that gritty lo-fi sound. Was that something you always swore by or was it coincidental?
We didn't necessarily swear by it, but we've always been most comfortable when recording ourselves, in the early days especially. Whether that was on cassette 4 tracks or our very basic Springtime Studios we used to have in Wakefield. I just like records to sound raw and to have personality, and the idea of going into the studio with a 'safe pair of hands' who is recording everyone else couldn't seem any more boring to me. Often, the rough demos you do of a song have so much more charm than a polished, produced version, so it becomes the definitive version.
I also love the juxtaposition of a great pop song recorded in a raw fashion. If a song can stand up on its own with a really stripped back recording, then it's a good song. You don't need all that over produced studio trickery if a song is good and can stand up without it.
You were originally signed as the UK's answer to The Strokes, but it became evident early on that there was something a lot more catchy and infectious to your sound. Are you big on hooks?
Yeah, I guess it's always been an integral part of our songwriting process, I'm always looking for the hook and trying to get as many hooks into each song as possible. I'm not sure why, I suspect it may have come from being such a big Queen fan as a kid, their songs were so hooky, so I guess I just find a good hook to be really important. And it's not something that we struggle with either, it's something that comes really natural to us.
Are you looking forward to playing in Sunderland? We don't get a lot of big bands playing up here you know!
Yes, I don't believe we've played in Sunderland since our first tour back in 2004! We played somewhere called Bar 36 I think and it was quite a strange gig. There was a shop next door that sold nunchucks and ninja throwing stars and stuff like that from what I remember. Will be fun to come back and play again, finally.
I hear you have some mates in Sunderland, and they own a record shop or something...
Yeah the Frankie & The Heartstrings guys are great. They've been on tour with us a few times and they always put on a great show. I love what they are doing and the spirit they have. I haven't been to their record store yet but hope to soon, sounds like a great thing for the city, especially in this day and age.