Stephen Taylor / Daily Yomiuri Staff Writer
|The Cribs outside Le Nouveau Casino, Paris, in September 2009|
"Well, I add my guitar playing, it's as simple as that, but I think as an overall concept, what I think I'd like to add is just enthusiasm for what The Cribs already mean," Marr recently told The Daily Yomiuri.
The 45-year-old guitarist from Manchester and his new bandmates--brothers Ryan, Gary and Ross Jarman--sat down to talk a couple of hours before starting a tour that arrives in Japan next week, where they will open for the Arctic Monkeys at the Budokan in Tokyo on Monday, before embarking on their own tour two days later.
It will be the first visit to Japan for The Cribs as a four-piece, having briefly dropped in to play at last year's Fuji Rock Festival. Drummer Ross Jarman is looking forward to the tour.
"I feel like the Japanese fans are similar to our English fans, you know. They're really loyal and they don't forget. For me, it's the one country that I feel fans have got more in common with the English fans," he said.
Bassist and singer Gary Jarman, who, with twin brother Ryan, turns 29 on Tuesday, sees the introduction of Marr's distinctive guitar sound as a very positive move, but is aware of the fine line between maintaining The Cribs' sound and employing Marr's talents to the full.
"[Johnny] doesn't want people to think that he's one-dimensional and [foster] the assumption that he's gonna put all these jangly pop riffs on there, but we definitely don't want to suppress Johnny's characteristics. We want them to be evident on the record because he's such a good player, and it'd be really a waste to not do that," he said of Marr, whom Gary first met at a party in Portland, Ore., where the Yorkshire native now lives.
Guitarist and singer Ryan Jarman sees Marr's recruitment as a progression.
"It's been an important step in the evolution of the band, from not just a three-piece but to becoming a more textured band," he said.
Marr's contribution to The Cribs' new album, Ignore the Ignorant, has elements of his jangly past, but it never overwhelms the listener, and gradually reveals itself after repeated listenings. Was Marr conscious of trying not to play in his trademark Smiths style?
"I would have done in the '90s...It was a process that I had to go through that poor old [bandmate in Electronic] Bernard Sumner had to kind of go along with. But these days, I'm not at all hung up about it. If it calls for it, it's there and everyone's cool.
"It's whatever's appropriate and if sometimes that sounds a little bit like something that I've done in The Smiths, then that's just the way it is, because that's who I am. It's who I am, I'm not f---ed up about it either way," he admitted.
The three Jarman brothers formed The Cribs in West Yorkshire in 2001, recorded their eponymous first album in 2004 and followed it up with The New Fellas a year later. Both albums made it into the Top 100 in the British album charts.
While the single "Hey Scenesters" sparked a buzz in the British music press, it was not until the release of Men's Needs, Women's Needs, Whatever in 2007, and its Top 20 single, "Men's Needs" that The Cribs started getting some widespread recognition.
One of the family
As brothers in a band, the Jarmans are by no means the first siblings to walk on stage together. So, with this summer's rift between Oasis' Gallagher brothers in mind, how is the brotherly love in The Cribs?
"I've been thinking about this recently, and I don't really know what difference it makes being brothers, 'cause I don't know how it'd be different being in a band with your friends. I guess we're probably a little more open with with each other," Ross said.
With Marr on board, it seems that he has been granted honorary Jarman status.
"We talk to each other in a certain way but Johnny's just one of us now--and sometimes we forget that--but Johnny's such a nice guy that he totally understands," Ross said.
For Marr, working with The Cribs in the studio appears to have been an invigorating experience and he is unequivocal over where Ignore the Ignorant lies in his recorded output.
"It's as good as anything I've ever done--and I'm really proud of a lot of the stuff that I've done--so nothing beats Ignore the Ignorant," he said, which is quite an endorsement from someone whose guitar playing on Smiths classics like "This Charming Man," "How Soon Is Now" and "There is a Light That Never Goes Out" defined some of the most memorable pop moments of the '80s.
Nevertheless, Gary hopes that the presence of such an iconic guitar hero does not result in any misunderstundings on future recordings.
"I've written a couple [of songs] for the next record and I'm a bit worried about them, 'cause people are just gonna think Johnny wrote it.
"As much as I want Johnny to get credit for what he's done and for what he's doing, I also don't want people to credit him with doing everything," Gary admitted.
However similar any guitar parts become in the future, there are a few moments on Ignore the Ignorant when old Smiths fans will get a twinge of recognition at some vintage Marr, a fact that the composer is happy to acknowledge.
"If I came up with a riff and the other three guys are smiling, I wouldn't censor it for any reason whatsoever because it's about how music hits you in the solar plexus. And in fact, I wasn't aware that the verse of 'Cheat On Me' sounded like me at all. But I remember distinctly that when I started to play it Ryan and Gary were really smiling and I was like, 'Oh, that's a good riff,' and it's since then that Ryan's said that really sounds like me--but I had no idea," he said.
While "Cheat On Me" is a good track, this writer's favorite number is "City Of Bugs," which has become quite a crowd-pleaser live. Ross also likes the song.
"That was like opening a new door for us, really. We've done similar stuff, but we're really proud of that door that we opened," he said.
Marr echoed those thoughts.
"Right now, we're really buzzing off 'City of Bugs,' for many, many reasons. It feels so good playing it and we thought we'd done something quite original but [it still] manages to be terribly obscure, but is still a progression for the band, and me--I would have only really done it with this band," he said.
While The Cribs' songwriting is a collective process, Marr's presence has energized Ryan as a guitar player.
"Because we've done three records as a three-piece, I was actually thinking, 'Ah well, I don't really know what else I can do as a guitar player, you know what I mean,' and I were thinking, 'Should I have lessons or something, What do I do next?' So, to play with someone else is the perfect way of learning. I've learnt loads this last year," he said.
Marr agreed with this need to progress.
"I always want to develop as a guitar player. I'm not talking about technically, just in terms of going down some new vistas.
"In my personal life and my creative life, and certainly as a guitar player, it's been this horizon with some curve in it and I'm always looking towards it and stuff is falling at my feet as I go towards it, so I'm very, very forward-thinking and it amazes me when some older guitar players would say, 'You get to a certain level and then you plateau.' As a songwriter, that sounds like a really depressing prospect to me, so I'm always looking ahead," he said.
The Cribs play on Oct. 19, 7 p.m. at Nippon Budokan in Tokyo. (03) 3462-6969; Oct. 21, 7 p.m. at Blitz in Akasaka, Tokyo. (03) 3584-8811; Oct. 22, 7 p.m. at Club Quattro in Nagoya. (052) 264-8211; Oct. 23, 7 p.m. at Club Quattro in Shinsaibashi, Osaka. (06) 6281-8181.
(Oct. 16, 2009)