The Cribs are only a short hop over the Pennines from their home city of Wakefield when the YEP catches up with drummer Ross Jarman.
The band are in Manchester on the final night of an eight-gig tour organised to break in songs from their soon-to-be-released sixth studio album, For All My Sisters, and it seems that Ross and his brothers Ryan and Gary have thoroughly enjoyed showcasing their new material in sold-out intimate venues.
“We’ve actually weighted the set heavily towards new songs,” says the 30-year-old sticksman. “On previous campaigns we’ve done four new songs a night; this one we’re doing up to seven tracks a night, which is a lot – most of the record – but the reason we have been doing so many is because they’ve just been going down so well. That’s just a real positive for us.
“And also that was the idea behind doing smaller venues, to give some of the more hardcore fans a chance to hear the new stuff.”
It is 18 months since The Cribs released a ‘best of’, Payola, and a full three years since their last studio album, In the Belly of the Brazen Bull, and anticipation for the indie rock group’s new record – out on March 23 – is high.
For All My Sisters is the sound of a band entering their thirties with perhaps fewer jagged edges than in the past.
“On previous records there’s always been pressure from the label to write and deliver a record quickly whereas because we had a change of set-up on this one it gave us a bit of a luxury to take our time with it,” explains Ross.
“We moved from Wichita to Sony Red on this new record so we had a bit more time, we were just a bit happier making it, maybe that’s come through on the new record.”
It may also have something to do with the fact that they’re more comfortable showing their poppier roots too, he adds.
“We’ve always been known for having some kind of pop sensibility but we always felt guilty about it. We’re known as three punk rock kids from Wakefield but there’s always been a balance in the band. It’s like those devils over your shoulder, one saying ‘you’ve got to me more punk rock’ and the other saying ‘you’ve got to be more pop’. I guess the pop side’s come through a little more – but our version of pop is a lot different from Mr Whatever on the street.
“It’s like punk rock guilt we’ve got, we can’t go too pop, but around the time of the record Gary was listening to a lot of 80s pop stuff – he really liked Martika’s Toy Soldiers, he got obsessed with that song, and I think there’s been an 80s pop side that has seeped its way into the writing.”
After a turbulent period in his personal life, singer and guitarist Ryan now resides in New York City; bass player and singer Gary lives in Portland, Oregon; drummer Ross remains in Wakefield.
“Maybe it’s a bit more settled,” Ross says of the band’s home life, “but I think what is is after all this time, especially after Payola, we realised what the band is nowadays. It seems weird to say that but for this new record it was, ‘let’s just be us, let’s not try and make anything different’.
“If you listen to all the records they all sound very different but that’s because we always go off on tangents because of what we’re into at that point or we never want to make record twice. I think after doing five records and they’re all slightly different when you make your sixth it’s just like, ‘let’s just do what feels natural’. I think that’s what’s come through with For All My Sisters.”
After being part of a fiercely independent set-up for so long, Ross admits there was some hesitation about them signing to a major label. Nonetheless, he says: “It hasn’t felt that different. All the team around us – and even on the road with us now – we’ve just got these people that have been with us for so long. It’s only one part of the team that’s changed, really, and Wichita went a different way – I think they’re getting more into management – and it just felt like the right move for everybody.
“Also when you’ve been working with somebody for such a long time stuff can become a little stale in some ways. We wanted to freshen things up and that’s just where we’re at now, but actually it hasn’t felt that different, it’s only one part of the massive jigsaw with The Cribs, other people who work with the band.”
The new album was recorded in New York with Ric Ocasek of The Cars. “Me and Gary and Ryan always go on about this dream list of producers we always had,” says Ross. “We wanted Ric from the first album but then Dave Fridmann was on the list and Steve Albini, he was kind of like one of the last. When we were making this record we were, like, ‘should we just ask anyway?’ I think we’d asked previously and it hadn’t worked out.
“With Ryan living in New York now, he just said ‘let’s meet up’ and then they did and went out for dinner and they hit it off. Ryan played Ric the demos and he loved them and that was really nice to have somebody really enthusiastic about the project. We went to him and it was good fun.”
The Cribs were entertained by Ocasek’s eccentricities. “He’s just a classic 80s rock star,” Ross explains. “He’s got like a supermodel wife. I guess he was in a band when bands used to make a load of money. Even at the studio he’d show up in his car and I think his house was like a 15 minute walk away but he’d still show up in his car anyway, park it on the street and get a parking ticket every single day. It just showed you a different reality.
“I’ve painted him in a bit of a bad light but he’s one of the classic old guard.”
The Cribs play at the Brudenell Social Club on March 22 and at Live at Leeds on May 2. For tickets visit http://www.liveatleeds.com/. They will also perform at Leeds Festival on August 28. Visit http://www.leedsfestival.com/line-up/artist/cribs