WHEN THE CRIBS' fourth album, Ignore the Ignorant, came out last fall, a special edition with a bonus live disc and DVD was released in three select areas: Yorkshire, UK, the home county of the band's founding trio of brothers; Lancashire County, UK, where the band's newly adopted guitarist Johnny Marr (yes, that Johnny Marr) grew up; and Portland, Oregon, the current hometown of both Marr and Cribs bassist/vocalist Gary Jarman. That special edition had alternate artwork that featured a rose on the cover, in reference to all three places—Yorkshire and Lancashire are also signified by roses—and suggests that Portland is currently as integral a location to the band as their native land.
"We don't like to finish songs without the rest of the band," says Gary when I ask him how he's still able to make music with his brothers Ryan (guitar) and Ross (drums) despite the distance between them. "When we get together, we have to really value our time now. It's like starting from scratch."
But the preparation for Ignore the Ignorant came relatively smoothly. "Those guys came out to Portland in the beginning of 2009 and spent a little time out here," says Gary. "We rented this barn in Oregon City—we just found it through Craigslist, this guy had this big old barn out there—and we were really out in the sticks in the middle of winter. We would play there every day and we finished a bunch of songs we started in the UK but couldn't finish.
"I think changing our scenery like that was really good," Gary continues. "It was the first time my brothers had been out here for writing and it's nice to know we have that option now. It was a totally different feel than what we'd been doing in Manchester—there is almost something about changing the scenery and making things a bit more difficult on yourself sometimes that really works. It really counteracts complacency, and I think being apart so much has actually galvanized us in that way because when we get together we want to write."
The resulting album is the most confident and mature album the Cribs have recorded yet, one that maintains the youthful brashness of their earlier work while indicating new directions like the stretched-out shoegaze squall of "City of Bugs" or the gentle pace of "Save Your Secrets." Of course, the hoarse-voiced sing-along anthems like "We Were Aborted" are never far behind, and the band sounds newly unified, despite—or because of—their newest member: Johnny Marr, the legendary Smiths guitarist who'd recently been doing duty as a member of Modest Mouse.
"He started chatting with me, telling me how much he liked some of our songs." says Gary, who first met Marr—an idol of all three Jarman brothers—at a friend's house in Portland. "I was kind of blown away. It definitely defused any potential nerves I might've had about meeting him, because his first words were so complimentary to me. We would meet up at the Tao of Tea on Belmont and chat about music. It's funny, it makes us seem like such Englishmen, meeting up for afternoon tea and talking about old punk rock records. Johnny lived, like, 20 minutes away from where we grew up. I can't believe that it took 5,000 miles for us to meet!"