Far Out Meets: The Cribs, back from the brink with a bang
The last three years since the release of their seventh album 24/7 Rockstar Shit has seen The Cribs face an infinite line of obstacles and, whenever they felt like they had managed to swim ashore, they were met by another mile of water. But their dogged spirit prevented them from being defeated and today their emphatic new album Night Network has arrived against all odds.
The problems began when The Cribs split from their long-time management just one day after the release of their last record in 2017 and, after they started to get their accounts in order, they realised that the rights to the music which they have spent the entirety of their adult lives creating no longer belonged to them. There were several points when these external issues made their job almost impossible but, not ones to give up, they instead kept fighting. It wasn’t until this February when the issues were finally resolved and for the first time in years The Cribs could finally look forward again. After every stream of shit that they’ve been faced with and expertly navigated, somehow they have emerged more united than ever and with a record to be truly proud of.
The three Jarman brothers from Wakefield decamped to Los Angeles in April last year to make the record after being convinced by Dave Grohl that they couldn’t let the industry get the three-count on them. The Foo Fighters man was left despaired when they supported his band at Manchester’s Etihad Stadium in 2018 after they told him that the show could well be the end of the line for The Cribs. Grohl told the band to use his Studio 606, which they dutifully accepted, but even after completing the record, whether they would be able to release the material still remained uncertain as a legal cloud still loomed over the Jarmans.
Legal issues would prove to be the hardest obstacle for the band to overcome. They had defied the odds already by making the album but being able to release it would be the final hurdle they needed to jump. Gary Jarman was the driving force behind The Cribs surviving this unbelievably dark period and he wasn’t prepared to throw away the iconic career he and his brothers had built. In true DIY spirit, the bassist took it upon himself to take on the music industry’s most powerful lawyers and ended up beating Goliath.
“It’s weird being a professional musician, but not doing any music stuff,” Gary painfully told Far Out over the phone from his native Wakefield. “It actually got to a point where you’re trying to avoid it and I stopped listening to music together. I would still listen to opera or classical music, but I wouldn’t listen to like any contemporary music.
“It just felt like work,” he continued. “I became resentful. If I heard a song I really loved or a band that I really loved then I would be frustrated that I would be on the shelf. That’s like the psychosis of the whole thing is that it made us resentful of the thing that used to be the thing that we were most proud of and the thing that we cared about the most.” It’s a situation that could easily send a band into an unavoidable downward spiral and it was a very likely outcome at one point.
Jarman continued: “The main fear that me and my brothers had was that if we didn’t get it dealt with properly, we would have never looked back on the band as having been a positive or satisfying thing,” he honestly revealed noting the band’s famed punk ethos. “We’d have looked back on it with regret and we’ve always operated in a manner that we hoped would preclude us from ever having any regrets.”
After feeling as though his life couldn’t have been further out of his own hands a year ago, The Cribs are now in complete charge of their own destiny. Night Network has been released under their own independent record label, Sonic Blew, with distribution provided by PIAS and the liberation that this has awarded the band is something they are grateful for. Even though releasing music in the current climate is far from ideal, the pandemic is yet another hurdle that has been thrown their way and, after everything else they have been through, The Cribs have become used to coping with uncertain times.
The trio has been itching to finally get the chance to perform the new songs live and had hoped, like many within the industry, to take Night Networkaround intimate venues this month — but those plans have now been postponed until 2021. Jarman, who now lives in Portland, is waiting patiently in the UK in order to play two socially distanced shows in London early next year before returning home. To regain their flair for live music, he and his brothers will partake in a live-streamed performance from Liverpool’s The Cavern on November 21st.
“Me and Ryan, have come over to the UK during a pandemic. We’ve flown international flights and left our partners behind. We’ve quarantined two weeks in the UK, then will have to quarantine two weeks to get back in the US just to play The Cavern then try and play these two shows at Banquet Records. We’re really doing everything we can to be able to do shows but it’s extremely frustrating,” he resigned.
It’s safe to say, the music industry has been treated like dirt on the government’s shoe throughout the pandemic. Their initial reluctance to help a sector which has given the country so much cultural wealth has angered Jarman. “The venue bailout was really welcome but, having said that, it was something they needed to step up and take care of. I tend to not give them much credit for that, it’s great that it happened but I don’t get why they kept everyone waiting that long because it obviously needed to happen.”
For a man who has spent most of his life working in the music industry, the efforts of the government were paltry at best. “The lack of value that the government is showing towards the arts is really depressing. The UK has an outsized reputation worldwide because of its cultural export and for the government to be so laissez-faire about that is so short-sighted,” Jarman lamented.
The Cribs were a band who built up their reputation on being a riotous live-band who would play anywhere and everywhere with the same unstoppable ferocity. The fact that this opportunity has been stripped away from an entire generation of artists disheartens Jarman, “Bands who are breaking out right now, I’ve thought about them a lot. I’ve got a lot of sympathy for that because it’s just sort of like they are getting robbed of that unique experience, and that makes me sad.”
The Jarman brothers released their self-titled debut album in 2004 and lived on the road for the majority of the early to mid-2000s. This whole period of time evokes warm memories from the bassist who feels immense pride in the part that The Cribs played in a time he describes as when “the kids took the power from the music industry for like five years.”
“Obviously the major label soon commodified that and took that back but that first five years of the 2000s the power had been taken away from the labels and the labels didn’t have a clue what to do, it was so great.” The singer continued to reminisce: “If you lived through those early 2000s, nobody would have a cynical word to say about it because you didn’t have to deal with big companies, you don’t have to deal with big promoters and you didn’t have to deal with the corporate side of things who were completely frozen out. It was almost like it was happening without the industry’s permission,” he proudly recalled.
The self-produced Night Network has seen The Cribs go full circle by operating once more without the permission of the industry. They may have been through hell and back to get to this point but the Jarman’s DIY spirit has only grown the more they’ve spent in the belly of the industry.
“We were so troubled at the time we were making it but you don’t really hear it on the record and I think that’s what I’m most proud of, it’s not a cynical or bitter record,” the singer confirms. “We enjoyed writing and recording it more than any of our records since the first one, probably because it was a distraction from all the bullshit. It felt like the early days that when we used to record ourselves at Springtime Studios in Wakefield,” Jarman said, before expanding: “I think this record has something in common with that first record because we’d been away for a while we said when we came back let’s make the album we wanted to make on our first record, but didn’t have the chops to do.”
Even though the album was ready to go, the hardest mile was still to come in late 2019 when The Cribs were on the cusp of signing a deal for the album. At the final moment, when they were about to put pen to paper, a larger label then came in to tell them that they couldn’t because of yet another licensing issue: “That was the hardest point because I was mentally so shot from the first round that the second round I just couldn’t imagine fighting,” Jarman explained. “It’s like running a marathon and then realising at the end of it like that you’re only halfway through. It was so mentally really hard and my wife knew how much I’d been suffering and there was a part of me that was like I can’t face it.”
Thankfully. Jarman didn’t back away from the project and he knew, deep down, that it simply wasn’t in him to throw in the towel, especially as The Cribs had Night Network ready to be unleashed into the world.
The album is an uplifting reminder that there is nobody quite like The Cribs and how they made such a euphoric record despite the backdrop of misery is nothing short of a miracle. This experience is the stuff of nightmares and nobody would blame the brothers for not having the stamina to keep going. Despite the best attempts of the industry, The Cribs made it and now they’ve stuck two fingers up at the industry yet again almost 20 years later.