It’s fair to say The Cribs‘ Ryan and Gary Jarman have something of a love affair with guitar manufacturers Fender. They’ve played various models from the company for years, both on stage and on record, helping them bring their melodic hooks and punk noise to life.
Now, they’ve had the honour of being asked to make their own signature guitars by Fender. Ryan’s is a Burgundy Mist “Mus-Uar”, Gary’s an Ocean Turquoise bass inspired by an old, discontinued ’60s model. Produced by Fender’s affordable arm, Squier, they’re far cheaper than you’d expect to have to shell out on a signature model, with RRPs of £330-345.
Last night (September 1), they played them live on stage at London’s Oval Space as they ran through some old tunes for a special “old school” set. Like most of the band’s endeavours – including aspects of these guitars – it was a night with the fans at its heart. NME caught up with the brothers between working on “lots of new songs” to talk about Fender, designing their signature models and why its important to make instruments accessible.
How did the collaboration with Fender come about?
Ryan: “We’ve been endorsed by Fender for years now as we’ve always played Fender guitars, and over the years the top guys there have come to know us as having an encyclopaedic knowledge of their more obscure instruments. They asked us to do signature models a few years ago based on the Mustang and Precision Basses we were known for using, but we wanted to do something different and offer brand new models. We went to a party that they threw after we played Reading 2012 and I showed them my rough design and they were really enthused on it.”
What were the ideas and inspirations behind each design?
Ryan: “When I was a teenager my first real guitar was a Fender Jag-Stang which was a Mustang/Jaguar hybrid designed by Kurt Cobain. That naturally lead to me doodling ideas for my own guitar at college, trying to come up with my own hybrid, so essentially my guitar could be described as a Mus-Uar.”
Gary: “Fender had a very short-lived and much maligned bass called the Bass V back in the 60’s. It was really unpopular. I always thought it was cool and wanted to try and give it a new lease of life.”
Did you look at other artists’ signature guitars when working on your own or was it more a case of figuring out what’s worked best for you on other guitars over the years?
Ryan: “Well there’s the rough influence I mentioned above but really, over the years I’ve figured out what I like and need the most and combined all these elements. The main things for me was having a humbucker at the bridge, a proper Jaguar tremolo for behind the bridge playing, and constantly tweaking the design to get as much sustain out of the instrument as possible.”
Gary: “Yeah, like Ryan I just wanted to make something that worked for me to be honest. I don’t really have any ‘bass heroes’ – I like songs and ideas much more than I like players or technique.”
You’ve kind of selected components from various models to make these guitars. Can you explain a few of the aspects of each signature guitar and what impact it has on the finished instrument?
Gary: “I had always played Mustang Basses, which are short-scale instruments. But once The Cribs started touring heavily, these vintage guitars would start to fall apart on the road, so I moved onto a full size Precision Bass. My bass design is my attempt to combine the two together to make my ideal bass. We met in the middle at medium-scale, so it kinda feels like them both ultimately.”
You’ve said having your own signature Fenders are a dream come true – what’s so special about the brand and why does it mean so much?
Ryan: “Just cos when we started playing as kids we really desired Fender guitars and used to pore over the Fender catalogue deciding which ones we would get if we could afford it. I worked the whole of the summer after leaving high school in a kitchen for £2 an hour to buy my first Fender.”
Gary: “Fender are just the best. I have never played anything else and have never been tempted on anything else, so for them to ask us to make a guitar for them is very flattering.”
A lot of signature guitars are very expensive. Why is it so important to you that yours are affordable?
Ryan: “Because we want kids to play them, start bands with them, modify them and love them.”
Gary: “These guitars are meant to be PLAYED. We are a punk rock band, so we want these guitars to be accessible and affordable to everyone. In my experience I have always found that you love your first guitar the most, or the one you have the most memories with. If these guitars were really expensive it would limit them to the ‘Sunday polishers’ crowd. They weren’t built for that… though they are pretty!”
Can we expect to see you playing these designs on stage in the future?
Ryan: “I’ve been playing my prototype Mus-Uar live for the last year or so at every show, it’s been my main guitar since I got it and will continue to be my main live guitar. I love it.”
Gary: “Yeah, I use my bass pretty much exclusively live nowadays too. Never thought I would move away from the Precision Bass, but it happened.”
NME have one of each signature guitar to give away. Head here to enter the competition.