The Cribs tell us about the influences behind new LP ‘Night Network’
It's been a tough couple years for The Cribs. Right after the release of 2017's Steve Albini-produced 24-7 Rock Star Sh★t, The Cribs found themselves without a label and without rights to their own back catalogue. They spent the next two years fighting legal battles and red tape, and Gary, Ryan and Ross Jarman came very close to calling it quits because of it. But an opening slot for Foo Fighters at Manchester Stadium in 2018 -- which was almost their final show -- ended up being a new start, thanks to encouraging words from Dave Grohl who offered his Los Angeles 606 Studios for their next album.
They took him up on the offer and the resulting album, Night Network, is out this week and finds them sounding rejuvenated and very much in the style of their early albums (which are, along with the rest of their catalog, back under their own control). You can listen to "Running Into You," "Never Thought I'd Feel Again" and "I Don't Know Who I Am" (featuring Sonic Youth's Lee Ranaldo) below.
We asked twins Ryan and Gary, who live in Portland and NYC respectively these days, to tell us what influenced the new album. They each offered up five examples, from classic pop, to their classical upbringing, to their pets and more, all with informative, thoughtful commentary. Read that below.
THE CRIBS - 10 INFLUENCES ON NEW ALBUM 'NIGHT NETWORK'
1. Nilsson - The Point!
I wasn't particularly aware of Nilsson's music, outside of the songs everyone knows of course, until my wife recommended this album to me. I sort of immediately fell in love with it -- the combination of very innocent songs, coupled with complex progressions and harmonic devices is just right up my alley. It reminded me of being a kid in a lot of ways, which is strange as I had never encountered this album before -- it just elicited a very surreal feeling. And that one song, "Me and my Arrow," about a boy and his dog...ugh, it just kills me. Kills me. I listened to this album a LOT in the early days of writing for Night Network. A really magical album.
It may sound pretentious to say this, but I spent 2018 listening pretty much entirely to nothing but opera. Particularly the romantic stuff...which predictably meant a lot of Puccini. It was just pure escapism -- I was so burned out on music in general due to the bands experiences fighting over the rights to our catalogue, that I couldn't enjoy any records that reminded me of that world.
Not many people know this, but me and Ryan were/are classically trained grade-8 violinists, so I just sort of started to re-engage with the classical world, and then opera. It's such a different discipline, so precise and perfect and dynamic. I grew to resent playing in orchestras due to that level of specificity and lack of spontaneity, but all of a sudden, that discipline held a lot of appeal to me...I was even considering applying to join the Portland Opera at one point...might have been a little ambitious! I (unfortunately) can't say this album is operatic, but the attention to dynamics and the simplicity and focus on melody of the aria form was inspirational. My wife just bought me a beautiful violin for my birthday, and I have been really enjoying re-discovering that discipline amid the chaos.
3. The Carpenters
Not sure my brothers will necessarily agree with me here -- and again, not really something I had paid much attention to over the years -- but back at the start of 2019 I had to go into hospital for a procedure on my stomach, and when I came around from the anaesthetic I was pretty out of it. For some reason, my reaction to that type of medication tends to manifest itself by making me really weirdly open and unguarded, and overly emotional. Anyway, I was pretty out of it and my wife and I went out to get food at some hipster place...and in amongst the typical Portland indie rock and modern over-produced pop playlist that was on in the background of this establishment, "We've Only Just Begun" came on...and for some reason it just stood out diamond bright. It was weird, something I had never really cared for before just sounded so amazing in that context. My altered emotional state, the warm, mid-rangey 70's sound, the lack of histrionics - it was just such a contrast and really resonated with me. It influenced me to try writing more songs on the piano for this album, and also was a sonic touchstone for the production. There's just a strange and undeniable purity to their songs - totally un-dressed up, but still warm and lush...cheesy but somehow still so sincere...just great songwriting, no gimmicks.
4. "The Locomotion"
The greatest pop song ever written. So simple, so hooky, so dancey. Kylie's version was Ry's first-ever favourite song when we were kids, and it's stuck with us since then. We've always wanted a song like that -- but trying to write one is a confounding experience -- it seems like it would be so easy to write something like that, but when you actually attempt it, you realise just how complex it is. It's so hard to sound so effortless.
5. My dogs
My dogs meant the world to me. One of the songs on the album, "Earl & Duke" was written about Earl -- my wife's dog, who became my dog too when we moved in together. He died in 2017 when I was in the UK promoting "24-7 Rock Star Shit." I was devastated and Ross tried to get me writing to take my mind off things. And that was where this song came from, so I guess it was the first song written for the new album.
Gracie, my little girl dog, was my true soul-mate and helped me through the difficult days of legal limbo and then later, the early days of the pandemic, by making me laugh and getting me out of the house twice a day, her enthusiasm for life just being so contagious. I adored her.
She passed away in July, and I wrote a new song for her called "Taken To Tualatin," which I think could be one of the best songs I have ever written. Janet Weiss was one of her favourite people, and she contributed backing vocals to the song, which is really nice.
Both of my dogs just inspired me so much, and helped me more than they will ever know.
1. British Caravan Holiday
Just as we started writing the record we were over in the UK and went for a week with Ross’ kids to a caravan on the east coast.
It was my first holiday since 2012 and gave me a chance to think about what kind of music I wanted to make. I realised that what we had started working on was exactly the kind of thing I wanted to be doing, and we should scrap the five or so songs we’d written the year before and just follow this new path. Also, we made the conscious decision to write the full album in the UK this time as opposed to transatlantic, because we wanted our more British eccentricities to come through again.
7. Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer
When we first started this was the sole pedal I used for the first five years. When we were writing I decided to do away with all the other pedals that had found their way onto my pedal board (which is still minimal) and just use this, because it’s easy to get off on the sound of your guitar, but you should be getting off on the riffs you are playing.
I think now with there being SO many boutique pedals out there (honestly, I see so many bands whose pedal boards pretty much fill the stage) that there’s an idea anyone can just be a ‘noise’ guitarist or whatever. Not true. Leave the toys alone for a bit and concentrate on the parts.
Just cos...you know. Queen. I’m not gonna STOP listening to them cos I’m making a record!
9. Ayrton Senna
Cool dude. I think we were all digging a bit of Senna whilst writing this record.
10. Robert Palmer - "Johnny and Mary"
I heard it in a club in Wakefield and realised that I’d always loved this song and never bothered to find out what it was. Then I listened to it so much during the second writing session I never wanna hear it again. Except I do, I wanna hear it right now actually...from Yorkshire too, which is cool.
The Cribs' Night Network is out November 20 via Sonic Blew / [PIAS]. Pre-order it here.