Interview with Gary Jarman of The Cribs (2012)
Below is my interview with Gary from The Cribs. The interview first appeared on the Australian events site Everguide, which no longer exists.
Hannah Joyner: Hi Gary, I understand you’re in the middle of a UK tour at the moment is that right?
Gary Jarman: We are yeah, it’s going good. We are heading off somewhere else tomorrow, right in the thick of it.
HJ: Being from the UK you obviously tour there a lot. Electronic music is getting so huge over there. What is it like being an indie band over there now?
GJ: Yeah, the whole climate has changed a lot, which is interesting. I haven’t noticed it so much because I don’t live in the UK anymore, I live in America, and have done for a few years. So luckily I’ve been kind of disaffected by it. We’ve also spent a lot of time over the years trying to distance ourselves from what was popular in the UK, because we didn’t really feel much affinity with some of the bands that were popular. The UK kind of went cuckoo for a lot of these guitar bands. I think for many people it proved quite lucrative but we tried to keep outside that. I mean the shows (in the UK) are just as good as they’ve ever been really, we haven’t felt any difference at all. Trying to keep out of what pop culture is after has served us quite well.
HJ: Obviously Johnny Marr (of The Smiths) used to be in the band, are you more influenced by the older British bands then?
GJ: That’s the thing. I was always into bands like The Smiths and Orange Juice, The Pastels and these kind of definitive, top quality guitar bands. They had a feminine element. What we were never interested in was what came later with the whole Britpop thing and these phony, kind of male-centric, kind of blokey guitar musicians. It was something we spoke with Johnny a lot about. We didn’t listen to that stuff at all growing up. All that kind of ‘regular bloke,’ football fan, Britpop music really rubbed me up the wrong way.
HJ: I noticed you had collaborated with Lee Renaldo before (from Sonic Youth), so American bands were a big influence on you as well?
GJ: Yeah they always were. My biggest influence, I mean, we were really into Nirvana as kids and they were a really great gateway band. All their interviews would turn you onto other bands. That’s how I discovered Sebadoh and Sonic Youth, and Sonic Youth led to Bikini Kill which led to bands like Heavens To Betsy. Nirvana were a really great band to do something like that, they were the big influence before the others, absolutely.
HJ: Speaking of Bikini Kill, I know you’re a big fan of the Riot Grrrl scene, where did all that start?
GJ: Well when I was a teen, what happened was I was growing up in quite a small town and I was quite disillusioned. So Riot Grrrl was a big thing for me. I was really into punk and in the 90s, Riot Grrrl was the modern ideal of punk, they had a message and the bands were very communal, it was really exciting. Later on I went to Ladyfest, which is a national thing now. I went to my first one when I was 19 and it was so empowering and so cool. When the next one came around, I became a member of the committee that was putting it on. There is so much spirit and community surrounding it, it’s just punk, it’s amazing.
HJ: So you don’t think the wider music industry has that same camaraderie?
GJ: Not on a mainstream level, that’s a completely different thing, but the scene that The Cribs came from and the scene that still exists now is probably akin to that. Riot Grrrl was the initiation into that kind of thing, I’ve never been part of an indie scene that was self-sustaining and independent like that, you meet so many people, male and female.
HJ: That sounds lovely. Well you’ve been touring pretty solidly since 2007, plus five albums, do you feel close to burnout yet?
GJ: Well, sometimes, but I don’t feel I can be too romantic about it. Luckily, I’m in a band with my two brothers. I get to travel with my brothers and just the thought that I’m having a conversation with someone on the other side of the world right now about what me and my brothers do, even ten years down the line I can’t be jaded towards that. The fact that anyone has an interest in what me and my brothers do means a lot to us, even if you got jaded there would still be that excitement and pride that someone cares about what you’re doing. You go through ups and downs really.
HJ: Changing the topic now, I noticed the recent album was a special edition where a golden ticket could be found that granted the finder free tickets to any Cribs headline show all over the world. The Cribs started out right at the beginning of digital sales so was the golden ticket an answer to declining record sales? GJ: Yeah, well, not in a capitalist way though. We just wanted to get people excited again about going out and buying a record. Obviously we aren’t the answer to that and it really isn’t to be seen in a financial way at all. I just wanted people to feel compelled and excited about buying a record again. On a cultural level, for people to not value records is a real bummer, I mean, I used to not eat for a week in order to buy records, they meant a lot to me. If you haven’t eaten for a week, you love that record, you value it you know? You spend time listening to it, getting in to it. I really don’t want records to cease to be a desirable thing. When I was a kid, records were just my favourite thing in the world. I’m starting to sound like an old curmudgeon but it would make me sad to see people not valuing records.
HJ: One of the upsides is that more bands tour. The amount of international bands coming to Australia in the past few years has just exploded.
GJ: Yeah that’s great. It does mean though that there’s a lot of competition between bands, but I guess touring is a lot of band’s bread and butter now. When we started out we thought of touring as just the best way to promote ourselves. We told our label ‘just send us on tour instead of wasting a bunch of money on adverts.’ It is good that bands feel that incentive but to me the record is the most important thing now. The record is important because it is what you leave behind. When I’m old I wont be able to tour, so the record needs to be the best it can be. It doesn’t have to be perfect but it needs to best encapsulate what you were trying to do at the time. Now that’s really compromised by the fact that people can’t really afford to fully realise what they wanted to do, but whatever, you find a way.
HJ: Your previous albums seem to be very aware and observant of trends and ‘scenesters.’ Does that still motivate your songwriting?
GJ: Well back then we were so angry. So angry all the time, that was the main source of our ire. People were corrupting the stuff that we held dear. Looking back I can’t believe we were so bilious about it but I guess we were naïve kids growing up in a small town. We were just trying to be honest and I’m glad we wore our hearts on our sleeves because it’s a good snapshot of where we were. I wouldn’t say that stuff is still a big influence but what we write now is more considered, whereas back then it was very knee-jerk. I don’t want to sound too pretentious though.
HJ: (Laughs) No That’s alright. We should end on a lame question then. I was going to bring it up before when we were talking about The Cribs golden ticket. I thought that was just the greatest thing ever. So if you could win a golden ticket to see any band, who would it be?
GJ: Oh wow! Any band? (Thinks)…This will sound weird but I saw Queen play recently. They were always one of my favourite bands and just the quality of the songs, I’ve never had such a good night in my life I don’t think. So I would follow them round, even with pop style vocals, I’m a big nerdy fan like that.