Anybody who was worried that when iconic ex-Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr left The Cribs things might change for the worse had their fears assuaged by In The Belly Of The Brazen Bull. The band’s 2012 album featured a couple of their best songs, ‘Chi-Town’ and ‘Come On, Be A No-One’ (maybe the best-named of their songs, too). Recording as just the original lineup of the three Jarman brothers obviously worked, and after ten years together that’s how they’ll be carrying on – right now, they’re working on not one but two follow-up albums simultaneously. The plan is for one to showcase their grungy garage rock side, while the other will be more melodic and poppy. Singer and bass player Gary Jarman explains: “Our newer stuff’s always more harmonies and layers and stuff, and I think that rather than putting a record together that’s trying to balance between the two, I’d rather have one record wallow in its own filth and the other record try and make something a bit more pretty, maybe.”

Prettiness sounds like getting back to what The Cribs were like in the pre-Marr era, especially on their self-titled first album. “The first record we did was really quite – I’m hesitant to say ‘twee’, but it was definitely more pop-oriented. We were really reacting against the idea of being in a rock’n’roll band at that point. There was a lot of new rock’n’roll bands coming through and although we’d come through ourselves as a garage band, we wanted to be more in the tradition of garage bands who were like teenagers who were trying to be like The Beatles, rather than a Stooges sort of garage rock.”

The Jarman brothers were never quite comfortable being a part of the British music scene. Three brothers from west Yorkshire, they didn’t identify with the laddish Manchester of Oasis or the detached and hip London scene represented by Blur. “I was never a kid who grew up listening to Britpop or anything like that,” Jarman says. “I fuckin’ hated it, man. I don’t want to be too vitriolic about it but to me it represented – like, I liked some of the precursors to Britpop, bands like Teenage Fanclub and The Pastels and some of those early Creation bands, but by the time Britpop was really big in the mid-’90s I was a 14-year-old kid who was into grunge, really, and the lessons that those bands would teach us, like, ‘You shouldn’t be co-opted by the mainstream,’ or whatever – it seemed like a lot of the Britpop bands were really complicit with that. So that’s what really turned me off, growing up.”

Jarman lives in Portland now, much closer to his musical influences. Portland is where proto-grunge band The Wipers came from, and was part of the Pacific Northwest flowering of ’90s alt-rock. “I’m so happy here,” he says. “I grew up as a kid in a small town in northern England and I was always really fixated on the Pacific Northwest, like a lot of my favourite bands are from Seattle or Olympia, and Portland too actually. The Pacific Northwest was a place that held a lot of romance for me, really, growing up. Growing up, I used to want to move to Olympia when I was a teenager and I think that it’s funny – now I’ve moved here it pretty much rings true, it’s exactly what I thought it was gonna be. It’s like a time capsule from 1994 in some ways.”

The music of The Cribs isn’t stuck in the past, however, with Jarman suggesting some of their new songs will be more layered and complicated than what we’ve heard from them before. “I think it’s just a case of we’re better at it now. You get kind of bored with simplicity after a while.”

BY JODY MACGREGOR

The Cribs play The Small Ballroom, Newcastle on Wednesday with support from The Guppies and The Owls, and Upstairs Beresford, Surry Hills on Thursday October 24 with support from Glass Towers.

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