The Cribs - Biography
By Scott Feemster
In just the space of a few years, The Cribs have gone from a scrappy post-punk band known for their raucous live appearances, to a band that now has three albums under their belt and recently added ex-Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr to their line-up. The future looks bright indeed for the group built around the Jarman brothers.
It’s reported that the three Jarman brothers, twins Gary and Ryan, the bassist and guitarist, respectively, and younger brother Ross played their first show together on New Year’s Eve 1989 at their home in Yorkshire, England. The two nine year olds and their younger five year old brother had just received instruments for Christmas, and reportedly ran through a mean set of (mimed) tunes that included Stevie Wonder’s “I Just Called To Say I Love You”, and ended in a flourish with Queen’s “We Are The Champions”. With a rapturous reception from their audience, (their family), the brothers were hooked, and they spent the next fifteen or so years perfecting their chops and trying to find a sound. Different incarnations of the band included a stint as a Bee Gees tribute band, the self-explanatory turn under the group name Queen 2, and their stint being called the Black Rats, whose repertoire consisted of playing themes from computer games. By the time the brothers had reached their late teens and early twenties, their musical influences ran the gamut from such classic British rock bands as the Beatles, The Kinks, Sex Pistols, and the Smiths, to more obscure fair like Orange Juice, Sonic Youth, Bobby Conn, and Beat Happening. The trio, now calling themselves The Cribs, became part of the burgeoning music scene that was developing in Leeds around 2002, (which included such other bands as the Kaiser Chiefs), and started gaining a following and started to get noticed by the British music press. Building upon their success, The Cribs released their debut single, “Another Number”, independently in 2003, followed by two more singles, “What About Me” and “You Were Always The One” the same year. Late in 2003, the group were signed to the independent Wichita label, and spent the early part of 2004 recording their debut album, called simply The Cribs (Wichita), at the semi-famous Toerag Studios in London, a studio known for its completely analogue set-up which mirrors studios from the 1960’s. One of The Cribs’ musical heroes, Chicago-based musician Bobby Conn, helped produce the record and even provided some background vocals. ( The group had spent most of the previous summer in Chicago with Conn readying their songs and doing some preliminary recording.) Once the album was released, the group toured heavily through the rest of 2004, playing over 100 live gigs that year in the U.K., Europe, Japan, and the United States, and opening for such bands as The Libertines and Death Cab For Cutie. The group built up a reputation for its raucous live shows, which frequently involved the band throwing themselves around the stage, and quite often ended in one of the members of the band crowd surfing.
After all the touring, the group repaired to West Heath Studios in London to work on their second album with another one of their musical heroes, Edwyn Collins, the former leader of Orange Juice. The New Fellas (Wichita) was released in 2005, and the group followed the release with another year or so of heavy touring, which included stops in Japan, Australia, and the United States. The touring paid off, though, as three singles off of the album charted on the British charts. The sound of The New Fellas was a very unadorned, ‘lo-fi’ sound, similar to their first album. The group decided they needed to change up their sound and recording process for their next album, so they got Franz Ferdinand frontman Alex Kapranos to produce, and ended up traveling to Vancouver, Canada to record. The result was the 2007 album Men’s Needs, Women’s Needs, Whatever (Wichita/V2), which found the band on a major label for the first time, Virgin’s sister label V2. Kapranos managed to reign in some of the band’s more shambolic tendencies in favor of a cleaner, more straight-ahead approach, which highlighted what good songwriters the brothers had become. Highlights from the album included the single “Men’s Needs”,“Our Bovine Public”, “I’m A Realist”, and “Be Safe”, a collaboration with Sonic Youth’s Lee Ranaldo. The group again toured heavily in support of their album, including a stint opening for the reformed Sex Pistols. In 2008, after his commitments with Modest Mouse were completed, former Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr, an avowed fan of The Cribs, made contact with the band, and was made a member soon after and began writing songs with the Jarman brothers for an album that should see release sometime in 2009.