Does Rock ‘N’ Roll Kill Braincells?! – The Cribs

In Does Rock ‘N’ Roll Kill Braincells?!, we quiz a grizzled artist on their own career to see how much they can remember – and find out if the booze, loud music and/or tour sweeties has knocked the knowledge out of them. This week: The Cribs

Sonic Youth’s Lee Ranaldo appears on The Cribs’ 2007 track ‘Be Safe’. Name four things he hates according to its lyrics.

Ryan Jarman: “Myself, the world, the complacent, the happy”

Gary Jarman: “The rich..”

Ross Jarman: “TV drinkers…”

Ryan: “(Correcting him) Beer drinkers – not TV drinkers! That would be abstract even for Lee!”

CORRECT. What was it like working with Lee on ‘Be Safe’ and the 2020 track ‘I Don’t Know Who I Am’?

Gary: “The first time, I was pretty terrified. We didn’t know him, but our manager worked for Sonic Youth and Nirvana back in the day. We’d already had tentative discussions about having Lee produce some stuff. We’d recorded the album ‘Men’s Needs, Women’s Needs, Whatever’ bar this one song [‘Be Safe’], and said we want Lee on this track. Lee was a hero to us, and it was the best day of my life. It was so fun, and I felt good we could hold our own in that situation.”

Ryan: “The whole track, including Lee’s vocals, went down completely live. He said: ‘Shall we try improvising something?’ and we only did two takes. Hence why you hear me at the end say it wasn’t my best one, because on the first one, I played better.

Ross: “Between us, I think we’re going to get 10/10 on this quiz!”

Famous last words…

Name either number The Cribs reached on VICE’s controversial Top 50 Greatest Landfill Indie Songs of All Time list last year.

Ryan: “Fuck knows!”

WRONG. ‘Men’s Needs’ reached  Number 17, while ‘Hey Scenesters’ was Number 7 – despite The Cribs being the antithesis of landfill indie

Ross: “We were calling that stuff out at the time. At Glastonbury 2007, during the time when [‘landfill indie’] was at its golden period, Ryan said onstage that these bands are a bigger concern than global warming!”

Gary: “The latter part of the decade was different from the first half, which had been typified by independent labels and promoters, and it seemed like a shift towards an exciting way of doing things. It’s a shame the corporate major labels jumped onboard in the latter half of the decade which we were always trying to separate ourselves from. Our self-titled debut came out in 2004…”

Ryan: “It should have come out in 2002, but we had to wait for 18 months because Ross wasn’t 18 and if we’d signed then, it would have cost us £2,000 to rewrite the contract. We were working in a factory, so that wasn’t going to happen.”

The Cribs were dismissed for talking about #MeToo and mental health in the music industry years before they became concerns or hashtags…

Ryan: “We were a principled band, and in the sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll mythology-obsessed climate at the time, we were branded dogmatic, which stuck in the craw. You’d try to raise these issues in broadsheets and they’d just want you to wear aviators, leather jackets and smoke cigarettes while regaling them with clichéd stories.”

In the ‘You’re Gonna Lose Us’ video, what does The Word presenter Terry Christian describe The Cribs as being “as northern as”?

Ryan: “Killing your brother’s kestrel.”


Gary: “As kids, we used to watch The Word on Friday nights, and had the idea of doing that video [a spoof of The Word] for ages. Our tour manager knew Terry and asked him to come down. He wore the same purple suit he’d used to introduce Nirvana.”

Apart from Terry Christian, any other memorable or unexpected fans of The Cribs?

Ross:Harry Styles was spotted on either his first date with Taylor Swift or meeting Taylor Swift’s mum. In the paparazzi shots, he was wearing a Cribs T-shirt. So he wanted to make a good impression!”

Gary: “Tom from MySpace was a massive Cribs fan and tried to sign us. He flew us to Los Angeles and made a huge pitch – it was global takeover stuff. And he wanted Ryan to teach him ‘Another Number’ on guitar, so we have a covert video of that! He said to us: ‘If you sign to MySpace, I’ll make it so that everybody who signs up is automatically friends with Tom and The Cribs’.”

Ryan: “We thought: That’s an awful idea! That’s a way to make people hate you!”

Talking of Harry Styles, weren’t The Cribs asked to write for One Direction?

Gary: “There were definitely conversations between our managements, and me and Ryan were supposed to go to Los Angeles and London to do some writing, but our schedules clashed. We actually had ‘Burning For No One’ and ‘An Ivory Hand’ earmarked for One Direction on a demo, but when the sessions never happened, we used them ourselves.”


Who was presenting an award when Ryan famously hurled himself onto their table at the 2006 NME Awards?

Ryan:Peter Hook.”

CORRECT. You punctured your kidney and almost died.

Ryan:Russell Brand, who was hosting, refers to that incident in Booky Wook 2 as the scariest thing he’d ever seen in his life – and that’s Russell Brand! He’s seen some shit!”

Did it feel scary?

Ryan: “No, I didn’t realise what had happened.”

Gary: “Ryan was blasé about it, but it was scary as fuck to us. Alan McGee looked at him and said, ‘That guy’s dead’ – and that’s fucking Alan McGee! When the doctor took off the padding and got sprayed with blood, the look on his face was the moment I thought: ‘Holy shit, this is serious’. For me, it was the last straw. I moved to Portland the day after the NME Awards. I had to get out of England. Everything had become too intense. That was Ryan’s little breakdown at the end of ‘The New Fellas’ period.”

Ryan: “But it [the leap] was born out of embarrassment. We felt uncomfortable at award ceremonies and whenever the spotlight went on us, doing something ridiculous seemed like the answer.”

Gary: “We’d toured ‘The New Fellas’ for over a year which had been chaotic and we were burned out. The UK scene was getting mainstream to the point where tabloids were writing about people. I needed to escape that pressure cooker. That felt the time.”

The band’s motto for gigs used to be “Three songs then off to casualty”…

Ryan: “That quote was used in our first NME interview. People started showing up to gigs wanting something to happen. You go through a short phrase of feeling like you have to live up to that.”

Gary: “When we started, we were so self-conscious about people looking down their noses at us for being a band from the north and lo-fi. We had low self-esteem and would drink to get the confidence to play.”

Ryan: “We always wanted our gigs to be the most intense no matter who we played to. We lived and died by that – and didn’t think about anything else.”

You launched the Night Network hotline last year that fans could ring to talk to you. Can you remember its number?

Ryan: “Ah fuck!”

Gary: “I use the T-shirt as pyjamas, so I was wearing it this morning. Is it 0800 4298005? I’m trying to imagine Stephen Malkmus’ voice saying it because when he sent through the recording I listened to it a million times.”

WRONG. It was 0-204-509-1126

Gary: “It was therapeutic for us because we’d been away for so long and then the first lockdown happened, and it was the first time we’d reconnected with people. You’d have these intense, candid conversations about how people’s lockdowns were going.”

Which icon’s head did The Guardian make you sculpt out of clay at 2015’s Glastonbury?

Lionel Richie.”


Ross: “They didn’t expect us to take it so seriously. It looked like him in the end!”

Ryan: “We spent two hours doing it. They said they were going to show it to him, so we thought: ‘Shit! We better do a good job that doesn’t insult him!’”

Gary: “As a result [of trying not to insult him], I didn’t get his jaw right. He’s got a prominent jaw but I spoiled it but trying to be sympathetic to him and not giving him a complex!”

Which NME Godhead once pierced Ryan’s ear?

Ryan: “Johnny [Marr].”


Ryan: “He was saying over dinner one night about how [Smiths bassist] Andy Rourke pierced his ear when he joined The Smiths. I said: ‘If you’re joining our band, then you’ve got pierce my ear’. It didn’t hurt when he did it but when I woke up the next day, my ear was so swollen and infected, I couldn’t find the stud he’d put in! It was like out of a cartoon!”

Johnny Marr was a Cribs member from 2008 – 2011…

Gary: “It’s hard to explain to people how close we were. We essentially lived with him in his house in Manchester. He was like family. His kids grew up around us and we’d walk his dogs. It dampened down our past nihilism and self-loathing, because having someone else around made us more reflective and self-aware, whereas before we’d been in a fraternal bubble that was unsustainable and reckless.”


In 2011, The Cribs were honoured with a pavement plaque in your home city of Wakefield. Can you name any two of the other Wakefield Stars inducted that year?

Gary: “Henry Moore.”

Ross: “Barbara Hepworth.”

Ryan: “John Godber.”


Gary: “We were proud of that. We’re big Queen fans and Freddie Mercury had just got his pavement plaque in Feltham, so it felt like we were following in his footsteps! We got to open for Queen at the Isle of Wight festival in 2014 which was important to us. I can’t think of many bands that have opened for both Sex Pistols and Queen. Those bands were chalk and cheese in the ’70s, and we became the connecting line.”

What was supporting Sex Pistols like in 2007, then?

Ryan: “Their audiences were awful! We did four dates with them, and we started gradually becoming more hostile to the crowd to the point where we’d run onstage and throw things at the crowd and give them shit before they had time to do the same to us!  We went out against the audience and by the fourth night, we’d won them over – their fans appreciated that we’d fought back and we’re beaten down by it.”

Ross: “Both our management and label tried to persuade us not to do it, but they were a big influence on us.”


In 2007, Ryan reached Number Four on NME’s Cool List. Name any artist that beat him.

Ryan: “Was Lovefoxxx from CSS above me?”

CORRECT. She was at Number 3. Frank Carter topped the list and Jamie Reynolds from Klaxons was the runner-up.

Ryan: “Everyone was always sneery about it, but all bands secretly wanted to be on the Cool List, and were vaguely competitive about it. I loved the perversity of it and how bands were built up into big characters with their own soap operas, and how cartoony and day-glo it was.”

What is the name of the silent film that’s included in the ‘Roses’ extended edition of The Cribs’ 2009 album ‘Ignore the Ignorant’?

Ryan:The Serpent and The Peach.”


Ryan: “Which is a reference to a lyric in ‘City of Bugs‘ . I shot it on Super 8 camera and we got people emailing our label saying: ‘There’s something wrong with my DVD. There’s no sound on it!”

Gary: “In the early days, we didn’t want anything recording so we avoided the camera. That’s a regret for us because you lose the self-loathing over the years. We also had the idea that you shouldn’t be able to re-live stuff as you weren’t living in the moment. You should just remember it.”

The verdict: 8/10

Ryan: “That’s our mean average!”

– The Cribs’ latest album, ‘Night Network‘, is out now