Ahead of a performance now deemed one of their best ever, LS newspaper spoke to The Cribs about music’s digital age, new ventures and why it’s not always so great being in one of Britain’s best guitar bands.
LS: This is the first time The Cribs have played at Y Not… have you had a look around and seen any of the “interesting” fancy dress?
Gary: People would tear me limb from limb if I walked around here. It seems like a mod trend at festivals to have a fancy dress theme, maybe it’s cool… to me it’s a bit Men Behaving Badly.
Ryan: I’d rather that than the trend for people going to festivals really dressed up, like the kind of thing you see on the Glastonbury coverage: nice straw hats and really fancy sunglasses. I like people to look grotty and outlandish at festivals.
LS: Lots of fans were very surprised to see a Cribs-less Glastonbury line-up, what happened?
Ry: We had to go up against The Rolling Stones, that’s what! We were offered to headline another stage and luckily we asked who else would be on at the same time, when we found out who it was, we didn’t want to.
G: There’s only one band worse to clash with and that’s The Beatles.
LS: It was great to see tweets about working on a new album…
G: We’ve just started recently. None of us live in the same city anymore, so now we’ve come back to do lots of festivals it seemed like the right time to get started on something new as we’re all together at the moment. We didn’t have much downtime in between, but that’s the kind of thing we do. It’s very much in its early stages.
Ry: It’s very casual and laid back working on it. We haven’t decided if we’ll make it in the next year. As Gary was saying, we’re together in the same city for the first time in a while and that’s rare these days. We’ve just started it, it’s really casual.
Ross: We’re really just throwing ideas around at the moment.
LS: How do you find time to write with the amount of shows that are planned?
Ry: We’ve always written and then toured. Because of the amount of touring we do, especially on the first few records it’s meant we’re forced to. We write something and then tour it, but because we only have so much time until we’re doing a whole load of other shows, that’s the only time we really have for writing. The same kind of thing is happening at the moment. As long as the record doesn’t suffer then it’s okay. A band’s second record is often quite weak and I think it’s because the first is like a greatest hits of everything they’ve written before they got a record deal, and then when they get signed, because they have to do so much touring to actually break it, the next record is always written on the road, that’s where the cliché comes from. Even if we write quickly we make sure we have enough time to give to the album. You also have to be in the right mood.
G: Sometimes you want to forget about being in a band and need some normality.
LS: Is it difficult to balance working with The Cribs and side project Exclamation Pony, Ryan?
Ry: I wouldn’t say it’s difficult, I love what I’m doing, it’s just full on. When I was in New York we were only doing shows and I was writing with Jen. The way we wrote was so different and the dynamic was so different that it felt really refreshing and it was great. Then once I’d been making that record for a while I came back and started work with my brothers again. That felt fresh and exciting again. I spend all my time writing or thinking about writing anyway so it’s not like there’s only a few ideas to go round. The Cribs are writing through the day but Exclamation Pony still have an album to come out so I’m finishing mixing that on a night in Ross’ garage. It’s all day and all night work, its full on but good to be busy. I’m at my happiest now.
LS: Was the release of greatest hits compilation Payola earlier this year the mark of new things to come from The Cribs?
G: I wouldn’t say so. Wichita asked us for it and at first, we thought it seemed a little bit vain, it seemed like we were bragging or something. It seems like a different reality to when we started the band, we never thought we’d do that, it’s acknowledging that you have an overtly commercial side as a band, and for a long time we didn’t believe that that’s what The Cribs would be, but obviously we were.
Ry: We had 7 top 40 singles in a row, we didn’t take notice, but it’s quite rare that a band like ours would have that kind of chart success. They’ve asked for greatest hits for a long time but we’d said no, but because it was the end of 10 years it seemed like the right time. Gary had collected flyers throughout our time as a band.
G: Anything of any significance I’ve kept, so we have a huge archive of things we thought people would want to see. We’re quite obsessive people so it’s nice to have everything in one place. It’s 10 years’ memories condensed. It was left to us completely, the whole record was presented how we wanted to do it.
LS: You seem to be advocators for physical copies of albums, do you really hate downloads that much?
G: I just wish people cared about owning physical copies of albums more. An album or record can be a great piece of art if you put a lot of effort into it. Because there is so much music out there, people don’t see that anymore.
Ry: Downloads devalue the art of the music.
Ross: It just becomes a file on some hard drive, you could lose it.
G: How can you have any sentimental attachment to any file on your computer! Some of them might be important, but you can’t feel emotions towards them, you have them backed up somewhere. Its not the same if you lost a record. I have records that I’ve had since I was about 12 and I love that. I love that a record can be a companion piece that soundtracks a certain time of your life and everything about it is nostalgic. You remember the artwork. It’s a shame its lost tactility.
LS: Have downloads changed what it means to be a music fan?
G: I think so, it was a huge part of my youth saving up and buying records. It’s totally different these days, it’s such a shame for kids.
Ry: I still see the validity of downloads but on an artistic level, the record is so much better. It’s hard to limit what you create just to records though.
G: Downloads are fundamentally disposable. I’ve never downloaded a song, never illegally or legally.. actually.. I downloaded ‘In My Defence’ by Freddie Mercury late at night in a hotel room just because I really wanted to hear it, apart from that I have never purchased a record or required one illegally. I’ve done both things with in the physical world but I’m not sure I should talk about that.
LS: You’re arguably one of Yorkshire’s best bands around, what did you make of Yorkshire Day?
Ry: I didn’t even know it was Yorkshire Day! I wouldn’t know unless everyone told me it was a specific day. I’ve never felt a massive amount of patriotism towards anywhere because I don’t spend enough time here. I live in New York, I did grow up there and I had fun as a child but I don’t know I’d say I’m a Yorkshire-man.
G: The best thing is that wherever you go in the entire world is that drunk people come up to you at gigs and go ‘Yorkshire! Yorkshire! Yorkshire!’. It’s either the best or the worst. It’s quite strange. I love that people feel invested enough to do anything at gigs, any form of interaction is good, it means people are inspired to do something, but it’s not to my personal taste.
LS: How about Brudenell Social Club? There seems to be the odd Jarman-sighting there.
G: Brudenell is such an institution in Leeds – its incredible. We came up at the same time in some ways and I’m really proud of that whole thing. I don’t go often anymore there are always so many people there.
Ross: I went the other night, I’d say it’s probably the best thing about Leeds, maybe Yorkshire too.
Words: Charlotte Stones