Maybe it was the doings of an inept thief or maybe it was the hand of fate that led to the formation of post-punk trio The Cribs, because when the three brothers’ childhood home was burglarized, they found themselves with nothing to do besides play a guitar that had miraculously been left behind.
Whatever the case, it certainly seems like time well spent. Fast forward to the present and the band, comprising twins Gary Jarman on bass and Ryan Jarman on guitar, and younger brother Ross Jarman on drums, has released albums through Wichita/Warner including 2007’s Men’s Needs, Women’s Needs, Whatever, and picked up plenty of praise for its rollicking live shows.
And while the Jarman brothers are hardly strangers to critical acclaim (The Cribs was recently dubbed the "biggest cult band in the U.K." by Q Magazine), they’re quick to point out they didn’t start off with superstar aspirations.
In fact, it may have been the Jarmans’ determination to stay true to their DIY ethic that led to the rise of The Cribs in the first place.
Gary Jarman told Pollstar that, from the beginning, the trio knew they didn’t want to put too much money and effort into promotion and what they considered to be "trivial channels through the media … we thought it was more important to put that money into being able to go out on the road."
So after touring in support of its first record, The Cribs agreed to come home and write a second album for Wichita.
The plan worked – for a while.
"During the writing of the second, we just started booking our own gigs … behind the agent’s back really," Jarman said. "If kids e-mailed us and said they wanted us to come play their town in a local pub, we’d always just go out and do it.
"If people want to hear you play, you owe it to them to go out there and do it. … We couldn’t understand why bands didn’t operate in that way."
Despite the Jarmans’ tendency to go about things their own way, co-manager Mark Kates said he wouldn’t have it any different.
"They don’t just say yes to every little thing," Kates told Pollstar. "They’re very much influenced by punk rock and the American indie aesthetic. Having said that, I can’t think of a single instance where I really thought that they were in error in their judgment."
Kates, who previously worked at Geffen with acts including Sonic Youth, Nirvana and Beck, said although The Cribs hasn’t reached its current U.K. levels of fame in the U.S., he’s certain it’s only a matter of time because the band is willing to put in the work.
Agent Matt Hickey at High Road Touring agreed.
"Being darlings of the indie scene over there and becoming club headliners and rising up through the ranks, I think their style of live performance shows that they’re a band that’s built from the clubs and taken each step along the way," Hickey told Pollstar.
After initial club dates and support slots for Franz Ferdinand and Death Cab for Cutie in the U.S., the band and its team set about building The Cribs here.
"One of the main goals for this project was that we wanted to establish this band as a headliner in North America," Kates said.
But doing that meant taking small steps at first.
"I think what they’ve figured out on this record was that if you can’t become a club headliner in the U.S., then it’s difficult to grow from there," Hickey said. "You have to achieve that place in the world where you can take the step into larger, 1,000- to 1,500-capacity venues after you’ve proven that you can go in there and have the audience to sell out the 500-capacity venues."
Jarman, who now lives part time in Portland, Ore., doesn’t seem to mind that the band has had to start over a little bit in order to build a U.S. following.
"In places we’ve played before, like New York or Boston or Chicago, every time you come back there’s more people at each show," he said. "That’s like organic development and that’s the way that we always went about stuff in the U.K. Even though these things take longer and it’ll be a much longer journey out here … it’s just so exciting to see it progress in the same way."
Jarman’s residency in Portland led to another exciting development when he happened to meet Johnny Marr, the former Smiths guitarist who currently plays with Modest Mouse. The two became fast friends, and talk turned to collaborating.
"We wrote a bunch of songs really quickly and at the end of that, Johnny wanted to come out on the road," Jarman said. Marr ended up touring with the band on its last round of U.K. dates.
As for what’s to come, Jarman explained "we’re just seeing where it takes us. … He’s kind of intrinsically linked with what we’re going to do next."