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The Cribs

Although it wasn’t specifically so, one might surmise that the three locales used to record The Cribs’ latest album, In the Belly of the Brazen Bull, were chosen one for each brother. Tracked in London, New York City, and Chicago, the trio’s latest collection of indie-rock songs may have started their little lives in the band’s hometown of Wakefield, West Yorkshire, England – but they quickly started logging frequent flier miles as rapidly as the bandmates themselves.

“All of the studio experiences were radically different,” explains The Cribs’ Gary Jarman (brothers Ross Jarman and Ryan Jarman make up the rest of the band). “Tarbox Road (studio), where we made the majority of the album, is a secluded place in upstate New York. We would decamp there for a couple of weeks at a time, and have relatively few disctractions. We mostly just built fires and hung out at the studio.”

Dave Fridmann (Mogwai/OK Go/Phantom Planet) was on production duties for the Tarbox sessions; Jarman calls him “very creative and interactive.”

“Dave is always looking for a different sonic texture and interesting stuff to create a wall of sound,” he explains.

E.A.R. – Manic Street Preachers/Sparklehorse producer Steve Albini’s facility in Chicago – was the second locale, which was a solid 180 from Tarbox’s rural feel.

“The E.A.R. studio itself is a pretty incredible complex,” Jarman says. “It’s comprised of a couple of studios and electronic workshops, with living quarters for the bands. There is a crossover when one band finishes and the other band starts, so you get to meet some pretty interesting people. We worked really fast at E.A.R. – four songs in three days – and Steve is ideal for that.”

The third and final studio carries legendary status all its own: it was the well-known recording home of The Beatles, for starters.

“Abbey Road was kinda just an interesting whim,” Jarman chuckles. “We made some money on a show, and decided to invest it back into the record, like ‘hey, you’re only here once, let’s just do whatever we want’ kind of thing. We were self-producing and it was pretty incredible having these top flight engineers on hand to work with you. We went in there with a specific agenda, and again we kept it pretty short and quick – three days.”

So – who wins the triple-studio round?

“Well – I really enjoyed all 3 sessions, and can’t pick a favourite to be honest,” Jarman says. “I just like recording, and when you choose people and places that you have a feeling you will work well with, it’s pretty awesome. Dave and Steve are different in mindset, but not too dissimilar in their initial approach – they both believe very strongly in getting the band in the room playing together, and fundamentally starting with the strongest take you can get.”

“Dave is an amazing producer for making you experiment and try different thing – he likes to create a large sonic scape with rich textures and subliminal effects,” he continues, “While Steve is happy to facilitate these things if you want them on a band, but by and large he tends to let you make the decisions on how much stuff you want on there. If it already sounds good and isn’t missing anything, he would not add anything superfluous just for the sake of it.”

These three diverse locales and pair of producers are each represented distinctly in …Brazen Bull’s songs. The edgy punk spirit and deft guitar work of “Chi-Town” contrast sharply with “Anna,” which focuses more on its romantic, restrained hook and pleading sentiment, while the regimented rhythms and ’80s FX of “Stalagmites” contradict the wittily-titled, Broadway-ready, choral-accompanied “Arena Rock Encore with Full Cast.”

This is definitely not a predictable or linear album, nor does it seem to follow any one particular storyline.

“I’m not sure if there is a specific thread running through the record,” Jarman ponders. “The lyrics were written by myself and my brother, and though we share relatively similar experiences, I can’t vouch for exactly where he is coming from on his songs. My songs are only tied together by the fact that I wrote the words and I never really set out with a specific idea in mind – I just try and write about what I am interested in or thinking or feeling at the time.”

Music critics and magazine features aside, it’s touring that will be the real litmus test for the new batch of tracks. The Cribs have shows booked in NYC (6.6), Austin Texas (6.12), Los Angeles (6.15), Osaka Japan (6.21), and at the UK’s famed Leeds Festival (8.25), among other places – a schedule that will keep them on the road through the end of August so far.

“I am looking forward to seeing how we deal with some of (the songs) live,” Jarman says, “we were pretty ambitious with some of the songs in their arrangements and different instrumentations, so it will be interesting to formulate ways to interpret those.”

“Some of the songs are more stripped down, and it is always fun to play in that way – but we always like playing the newest stuff best,” he smiles.   – Kristi Kates