The Cribs: Looking back on their first three albums
It was a real fun time to be at those early shows. The danger was real, but the excitement was equally palpable. They looked like they were going to implode any minute, but the intimate up-close nature made you feel part of the band, an extension to the ensuing chaos, a conduit to everything Cribs.
The Cribs return to their roots by celebrating the re-release of the first three albums, bringing the same intimate chaos to venues in London and Yorkshire. I spoke with the band to get an insight into their early 00s mindset whilst the band were honing their skills, recording to minidisc and setting down the first album at Toe Rag Studios
You’ll be celebrating the re-release of your first three albums by playing them all in full at the Brudenell Social Club. The venue has always been touted as your ‘spiritual home’. What are your fondest memories of playing the Brudenell?
Ross: I think most bands have a particular venue that they look fondly upon or have an association with. CBGB’s NY, The Cavern Club Liverpool, The Crocodile Cafe, Seattle. The Brudenell was completely different back in 2002 when we first started and feel that it grew alongside us. Fondest memories would have to be the original Cribsmas shows back in 2007 and the residencies in 2017.
Gary: My fondest Brudenell memories would date back to 2001/2002. It was a genuinely kooky and totally unconventional place back then. You genuinely never knew what you were gonna get when you arrived. But the community in that DIY world was just so exciting and we felt very much a part of something for the first time ever. The GoJonnyGoGoGoGo shows were always amazing, just killer band after killer band. Sharing a bill with Calvin Johnston was amazing. Watching the Bongoleros destroy the place was equally terrifying and exhilarating.
This isn’t the first time you’ve revisited or re-released Men’s Needs. Why do you think the album has such an enduring appeal and how do you feel about the album looking back?
Gary: It’s always impossible to know how anything you do will be viewed when you are in the moment, especially so when considering how it will be remembered. I think the period that album was released into was a perfect storm in hindsight – we were three albums in, so were experienced and totally in our stride at the time that we made it, plus the UK had fully embraced that whole sound by then, so I guess that’s the album of ours that most encapsulates that for people. Personally, my feelings have evolved over time. I was proud of it when we released it, then spent a few years sort of trying to move on from it, and then around the time of the 10-year anniversary shows I had an epiphany when re-listening to it. It was the soundtrack to some of the best times of my life, and so I began to feel very attached to it again. It helped me to realise why a lot of people have it as their favourite.
I recall when The New Fellas was originally released, you mentioned deliberately sabotaging the tape with scratches and I believe shooting it with a taser, in order to make it sound ‘scuzzy’. Did that happen and if so did that present any issues when remastering or cleaning up the tapes?
Ryan: Yeah, we did all that. A lot of the stuff we recorded at our studio, Springtime, was on really old reels of tape that would shed and drop out and stuff so we weren’t precious in that respect at all.
It didn’t cause any issues with the remastering process though as we only degraded the grand master reels, and they were all mixed down to 1/2in tape after that and the remasters only dealt with the final mixes, not the grand master tapes.
Will the re-release shows have the B-sides as you did at the original Cribsmas shows?
Ryan: The re-release shows will just be us playing the albums all in one day. If we were doing the B-sides too we’d literally have to start in the morning so that wouldn’t be much fun for anyone!
As a band revisiting their past, what from that era is the defining moment for you?
Ryan: For me, it has to be before we were signed. That’s when you’re at your purest and as the music world had just changed at the time, all of a sudden garage rock was very en vogue so that was peculiar and pretty exciting. It also meant we were pretty busy playing decent shows really early, so that period and recording our first demo at our own studio seems like an era in its own right. I think we’re all nostalgic for that period, to be honest, and that ended when we started recording our debut at Toe Rag. We were all still working at the time and self funded it, but by the time it was done we’d pretty seamlessly transformed into a signed band out on tour.
Gary: If I had to say what I feel most closely represents what I believe The Cribs to be, it would be the first Springtime demo. It’s just so pure and unpretentious. It was exactly what we wanted to be as a band. And around then we were doing all those Strangeways shows at the Brudenell and places like that. We were very much living in the world we wanted to be in. Recording ourselves, getting our own shows, playing with kindred spirits. Plus, that demo got us signed and lit the touch paper for everything that came after. It just feels like it embodies something special.
Men’s Needs Women’s Needs Whatever almost had a very different sleeve art. Is that now lost to time or did you consider using it for this release in any form?
Ross: As grateful as we were that Jamie Reid (Sex Pistols artist) had done the original sleeve for Mens Needs Womens Needs Whatever, we just felt that it wasn’t necessarily representative of how the band wanted to be portrayed, due to the graphic nature of some of the images used. As much of a thrill it was to have him make a sleeve for us, sometimes you have to go through various processes when making songs/ album sleeves before you end up at the final version.
Ideally though, we did want an image from the movie This Sporting Life, that was a movie shot in Wakefield, for the front cover of MNWNW. The licensing became complicated though, so we found an image that evoked a similar feeling, which is how we ended up with the final sleeve. There is still a reference to This Sporting Life in the track Ancient History though.
Of the three releases, which is your favourite per band member? Do you all favour one or do you have differing opinions based on your own experiences.
Ross: Product wise, I’d have to say The New Fellas. Just think the yellow Vinyl looks really nice, and its been out of print for such a long time. If we are talking about the overall records, it does change from week to week. Right now I’d say MNWNW, just because it randomly came on my Spotify suggestions recently, so thought I’d take a trip down memory lane, and by the end of it, I had really enjoyed listening to the album again.
Ryan: I’ve always had a soft spot for The New Fellas, but it’s the first record for me.
Gary: The debut, as I say, just seems so pure to me. The second album was almost like a documentary made on the road, totally written and recorded on the fly, in the middle of what was a very vibrant and chaotic scene. And the third album was the soundtrack to the most intense and exciting part of my life. It’s hard to choose, and my favourite changes depending on how I am feeling. Right now, probably the debut.
The CD reissues have a wealth of cuts from your vault. What was it like listening back to tracks that are 15 or 20 years old and are there any tracks you tire of or wish you’d approached differently?
Gary: It was a really fun process going back to the tapes, minidiscs, old hard drives etc and seeing what we could find. There are so many rehearsal tapes with embryonic versions of the songs on. We really documented so much, which was really cool to hear 20 years on. For example, a jam that turns into Another Number, hearing that riff come through for the first time, all that kind of stuff was really nostalgic.
We actually found a lot of stuff that we had forgotten about, demos we had made of songs which we hadn’t remembered demo-ing, stuff like that. In The Room was a song found on the end of The New Fellas 2in master tapes. Edwyn Collins (producer) had been recording us jamming, with the intention of building a song out of it later. but we did not like working in that way, so it was shelved and forgotten about. We literally heard it for the first time when we got the tape transfers done. It was so strange to hear a 17-year-old Cribs song that none of us had ever heard before. Same thing with Lost in The Crowd, that’s another unheard cut from The New Fellas which we recorded at our studio in 2004 and forgot about when we went back out on tour. It’s sort of a bridge song between the debut and the second album.
I’m not sure we would’ve done anything different, we aren’t perfectionists or anything. Music should live in the moment, be recorded as quick as you can whilst it’s still fresh. We don’t believe in tinkering and editing and sterilising things. I would take a field recording over a big production any day.
I personally own seven different releases of The New Fellas including cassette, however Men’s Needs and your debut never got a cassette release before now. It seems some of your work has been given more prominence than others. Are these band decisions or were these mandated by label/promotion?
Ryan: The way the records were released in the past wasn’t really much to do with us at all, at the time CDs were by far the most prominent format so we were just happy to have one of those out. All the singles would come out on vinyl though of course. When it comes to cassette, there were still certain territories in the world where cassette was still really big in the 2000s believe it or not, so albums that did well like The New Fellas would come out on that format. Our records were licensed worldwide though so we wouldn’t know how it came out until we went to those countries, if we went there at all. I think that New Fellas cassette you have is from Indonesia actually, somewhere we always did particularly well but have never been.
As fans, nostalgia draws heavy for any band, but for a band who vehemently say ‘no encores’, is this a book end to the era and when will we hear new material again? Is there a new album on the horizon?
Gary: It’s certainly a good way to put all the s*** of the last few years behind us. The business dealings that led to us getting our catalogue back were very turbulent and in a lot of ways distressing. Now we have them back we really appreciate and value them, which is why we have put so much effort and care into these editions. It’s a good way to put that to rest, totally emptying the vaults. It’s all going to be out there.
We will be going away for a while after this for sure. What comes next, we’re not so sure at this point. We have a US tour with Modest Mouse to finish in the fall, but no plans after that.
The Cribs play at the Brudenell Social Club, Leeds on July 30 and August 4.