The Cribs on gatecrashing the Top 10 with their first three albums: “It’s perverse!”

Frontman Ryan Jarman tells NME about going up against Beyoncé, the "indie sleaze" phenomenon", touring with Modest Mouse and what's next

The Cribs have spoken to NME about how “perverse” it seems that their first three albums have re-entered the Top 10, as well as sharing some thoughts on the “indie sleaze” phenomenon.

The Wakefield indie-punk trio are currently playing a run of intimate shows across the UK after re-issuing their first three records – 2004 debut ‘The Cribs’, 2005 follow-up ‘The New Fellas’ and 2007’s ‘Men’s Needs, Women’s Needs, Whatever’.

Now in the midweek album charts, their debut is at Number Eight, ‘The New Fellas’ is at Number Seven, and their breakthrough third album has crashed into the Top Five at Number Four – just beneath new releases by Maggie Rogers and Harry Styles, and Beyoncé’s latest effort ‘Renaissance’.

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“We’ve been so busy playing multiple shows a day and haven’t really had any days off, so we haven’t really had chance to process it yet – but it’s certainly not what we were expecting when we did these reissues,” frontman Ryan Jarman told NME. “The fundamental reason for doing these reissues was because the vinyl had been out of print for such a long time.

“We didn’t expect anything like this, but it’s amazing. We really appreciate it because it means that people still care about the records. That’s not always going to be a given, all this time down the line. It’s been a pretty crazy last couple of days. We’re so psyched.”

With even ‘Men’s Needs’ topping its previous chart high of Number 13, Jarman said that it was “surreal” to see the records at such peaks given their humble origins.

“The first albums came out right in the heart of the whole file-sharing era so they didn’t really chart at all,” he said. “It means a lot to see the first album in the Top 10, because that album was recorded before we had a record deal or anything. That feels really special because I never thought I’d see that record in the charts.

“That’s the only record in the Top 10 that cost £900 to record and was funded by working in a factory. The perversity of going up against Beyoncé and those big-hitters with a record that was made in that way is what means the most to us. It’s surreal.”

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The Cribs, 2021. CREDIT: Press

With their latest album, 2020’s ‘Night Network’, receiving widespread rave reviews, Jarman said that the band were enjoying somewhat of a renaissance – which just so happened to coincide with the “indie sleaze” social media phenomenon igniting a new generation’s interest in guitar music from the ’00s.

“The demographic at our shows has always been really healthy and varied, but we started noticing a lot more young people from 2015 onwards,” he said. “That’s important to us, because you don’t want to get to the point where you’re a nostalgia act. I don’t think any of us would be comfortable with that at all.

“We’ve never really stopped, so to define it as eras is just difficult. We just kept on doing what we were doing. The pandemic was a bit of a breakwater because we were forced to have time off. That coincided with a lot more interest in what is now known as ‘indie sleaze’ and people reassessing music from that era.

“It does feel timely that these niches are coming out now, but that’s purely coincidental.”

Reflecting on why the “indie sleaze” revival was happening now, Jarman put it all down to the “cyclical” nature of people’s tastes.

“If you remember the 2000s then you weren’t really there, but ‘Night Network’ did seem to scratch an itch for certain people,” he admitted. “It was serendipitous. Remember that 10 years ago everyone was going through a ’90s phase. Once it becomes long enough ago, then people immediately view it with dewey eyes.”

He continued: “As a decade, I do think the 2000s had a decadence and a recklessness to it that is always interesting to people. People look back on the era and see that it was somewhat of a more chaotic time. People find that interesting – for good or bad.

“There was a lot going on, and it was the crossover point where people really started to use the internet to meet people, to spread music, to book MegaBuses to shows – but they weren’t living their lives through the internet, it was just a connection tool. There wasn’t that jadedness. It was new, it was fresh, it was exciting. The world felt like it had opened up for the first time.

“I honestly think there’s a bigger cultural narrative around ‘indie sleaze’, based around people being properly connected for the first time and not taking that for granted.”

The Cribs
The Cribs, 2020. Credit: Press

Jarman admitted that they had grown to accept the “indie” label over time, despite their punk roots.

“In the 2000s, indie was the mainstream music style in the UK – that’s what you heard on the radio and saw on the TV,” he said. “When we were growing up in Wakefield, we were part of the punk scene and that’s where our allegiances lay. When people called us ‘indie’, we always thought that was a bit pejorative – like they were saying, ‘You’re just part of this scene that’s happening’.”

“We used to say, ‘Oh no, we’re a punk band’, because we were more interested in representing where we had come from, as opposed to what we had been lumped in with. I don’t see ‘indie’ as a dirty word at all, but you don’t want any tag for a mainstream style attaching to you.”

The Cribs supporting The Libertines at Wembley. Credit: Zak Watson
The Cribs supporting The Libertines at Wembley. Credit: Zak Watson

Before the pandemic, The Cribs were embroiled in a legal battle to get their rights and master tapes back for their first three records. They then spent three years “trawling through” hours of material on master tapes and mini discs before they decided to make it all available on reissues. As a result, they’ve had little time to consider a new album.

“The reissue campaign has been way more work than we thought it would be because we’ve been administering it ourselves,” said Jarman. “It’s been a lot more work than anything we’ve done in the past, and more labour-intensive than making a new album.

“Once we’ve got through this week and have done our touring in the US, we’ll have a bit of a break and figure out what we want to do next. We’re in a bit of a weird headspace at the minute, because doing these reissues makes you look back and feel more reflective. You really do start thinking about what comes next, and I think we’re going to have to take some time to figure that out.”

For now, the trio have a run of UK shows to complete before returning to the States to resume their US tour supporting Modest Mouse.

“That tour has been a complete pleasure,” said Jarman. “When we booked it, we thought, ‘Oh, we’ll do it our van and follow their bus’. We’ve done that before in the States when we did that with Death Cab For Cutie and Franz Ferdinand – and it was gruelling. We had a great time, but they’d finish the shows, get on their bus and sleep all the way to the next venue, while we’d be driving all night.

“We went into the Modest Mouse tour thinking it would be hard work, but it’s been really fun. Gary lives in Portland so we’ve known those guys for years and get on with them really well. A lot of the shows are outdoors in parks or in really pretty towns that we’ve never played before. We’ve just been looking forward to getting back on it. It’s one of the more enjoyable tours that we’ve done in a longtime.”

This comes after Modest Mouse frontman Isaac Brock recently warned NME against boxing with The Cribs, but did recommend the mind exercise of “push hands”.

“The night often ends with that,” added Jarman. “You’ve got to remain somewhat zen. Isaac took on everyone in the crew and in the band, but he said that I was the best because I remained the most calm.

“I didn’t know what I was doing, but I was assuming you’ve just got to let the other guy do all the work.”

The Cribs’ reissued first three albums are out now via Pias and are available here

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