When a band is looking to add a new member, the search usually consists of an audition process or, on a less professional scale, just adding a loyal friend on rhythm guitar. Wakefield, England’s The Cribs somehow managed to add one of the greatest living guitarists to bump the trio up to a quartet.
In early 2008, Johnny Marr, the former guitarist/co-songwriter of seminal ’80s indie band The Smiths, joined The Cribs after serving a tour of duty with Modest Mouse.
Maybe it’s become normal for him over the last two years, but the way drummer Ross Jarman explains it, the addition was like any member really.
“Fundamentally it’s still like the Cribs,” he says with a laidback tinge to his Northern accent. “But it’s exactly how you’d expect it — us with Johnny’s distinctive playing in there. So we changed the dynamic but not radically.”
Jarman fully admits that when he and his twin brothers Gary and Ryan first played with Marr, they acknowledged it was indeed their hero standing before them. But it took no time for the four of them to become a solid unit.
“Maybe the first time we practiced, we thought, ‘Aww f—, it’s Johnny Marr, he’s playing with us!’” Jarman admits. “But five minutes after writing the first song it all went out the window.”
More songs eventually came and in only three weeks the band recorded its fourth album, Ignore The Ignorant. While the presence of Marr distinctly tidies up the band’s slushy, lo-fi sound (the title track has an undeniable Smiths tone), the groups’ scrappy anthems and derisive nature still remain intact.
Jarman says that despite Marr’s illustrious career, the guitarist wanted be one of the boys.
“I think Johnny just likes the real simplistic, DIY ethics of the band,” he says. “He doesn’t want to change any of that, so we definitely don’t feel like we have to step it up playing with him.”
Embarking on the band’s first North American tour as a four-piece, Jarman says the newest member is free to do as he likes on stage. “He listened to the old records, and there are parts that Ryan laid down that he can’t play live, so Johnny’s been weaving in and out of them,” he says.
“We let Johnny come in and do what he thinks is right. There are all of these cool, new parts coming out of Johnny. We have total trust in what he plays.”