BEING a member of The Cribs certainly requires commitment. The band have just returned from a long, gruelling tour of Asia that was not for the faint-hearted.
“It was hard work,” admits drummer Ross Jarman. “There was a lot of flying, a lot of travelling, but it was worth it. It was very rewarding.
“We went to Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Japan, Australia and Hong Kong. It was one big blur. We spent more time in the air travelling than we did in bed. It was quite intense. Then everybody got ill. It took a week to get over it.”
The brotherly trio’s next shows are rather closer to Ross’s Wakefield home. For two nights they’re taking over the O2 Academy Leeds for an event dubbed ‘Cribsmas’.
“We did something similar a few years ago at the Brudenell Social Club,” says Ross. “At that stage we’d only done three records and we played one record each night. People were asking us if we were going to do anything like that again.
“It was one of the best experiences of being in a band for me, there was such a good atmosphere. Rather than do the same thing again we thought we would do something in a slightly different format so we booked a big Christmas gig there. It sold out in half a day, which was pretty cool, so we put on another night.
“The first one is for the old school fans, it will be all of the first couple of records, the second one will be more like a normal gig.”
It’s a decade since the Jarman brothers – who comprise Ross on drums, Ryan on vocals and guitar and Gary on bass – signed to Wichita Records. Ross includes Leeds Festival among the highlights of the past 10 years. “It’s the one we used to go to as kids. The power cut off [during our set] but it was a pretty special memory.”
He also remembers being “blown away” when they performed in Japan. “We’ve had some great experiences out there. We headlined a festival there earlier this year – that was amazing.”
“It’s difficult to choose,” he adds. “I’ve had some great memories of being in the band. We’ve been doing it for so long. It’s been a big part of my life. When we signed to Wichita I was 18; now I’m 29.”
Working with their boyhood hero Lee Ranaldo, guitarist with Sonic Youth, also ranks as a high point. Ross explains he’d recently been sent a YouTube link to a video that somebody had made themselves of Be Safe, the song they recorded with Ranaldo. “I was reading the comments underneath; there were some really nice things people were saying. It’s one of my favourites as well.
“When we recorded it we did not know what was going to happen. We booked a studio in New York. Gary had the chorus he’d been working on for a while. He liked Lee’s poetry so we asked him to come down. As soon as we started playing we thought, ‘This works amazingly’. It was totally worthwhile.”
The three brothers may now be more scattered – Gary has lived in Portland, Oregon for a number of years; Ryan recently moved to Brooklyn, New York – but their fraternal bond is as strong as ever. “We’ve put as much distance between us as we can,” notes Ross, “but it was not intentional. It’s one of those things. We’re cool about being in the band. When we come off tour it doesn’t matter where we retreat to.
“It’ll be good to see Gary and Ryan at Christmas. That’s the hidden purpose behind it all [the Merry Cribsmas shows],” Ross jokes. “We wanted to hang out.”
The Cribs have always been a band who operated on their own terms. Ross admits it has “definitely been tough” at times yet it has earned them respect.
“It’s good that people notice that. We’ve not been a band who had overnight success or massive commercial support. It’s one of the reasons why we have been together so long. We’ve played every toilet venue for a crate of beer and a crate of water. We put all the groundwork in. A lot of our fanbase was built through word of mouth, it’s good solid foundations. Some other bands had mainstream radio support but we prefer our way, it’s more organic. I think we don’t have any casual fans of our band, which is good.”
A strong family understanding “that we could not possibly have with anybody else” has seen them through the ups and downs. When Johnny Marr, the former Smiths guitarist who joined The Cribs for two years left in 2011, they regrouped as a trio. “We’ve played with friends in the past but we don’t know any other way now,” says Ross. “Even the reference points – we grew up listening to the same records. Songwriting is easier; you know what the other person is going to do.
“We’re not the Gallagher brothers,” he laughs. “We get on really well. Even on the road nobody understands us like we understand each other.”
When the NME magazine awarded The Cribs a prize this year for their outstanding contribution to music, Ross was particularly proud. “We’ve been to a few NME Award ceremonies before; to finally get one with such gravity was amazing,” he says. “We paid a lot of dues to music – sleeping on people’s floors, travelling in vans with no heating, lifting our own gear, to get some recognition. I’ve sacrificed a massive proportion of my life for music.
“[The award] is not about how many records or people come to our gigs; it’s to say, ‘We appreciate what you’ve done; things that certain bands would not have done.’”
After these shows, the brothers plan to finally relax for a while. “I don’t feel there’s as much of a rush to get the next record out,” says Ross. “Stylistically I don’t know where it’s going to be. It will be the first time we’ve written songs in our own time rather than have to get a record out. We’re having a bit of time in our own places at the moment. If we are all happy it comes out in the music.”
December 18 and 19, O2 Academy Leeds, Cookridge Street, Leeds, 7pm, £17. www.ticketweb.co.uk