Interview: The Ninjas


Until very recently, garage-rock quintet The Ninjas were probably Brisbane’s best kept musical secret, but the release of their excellent new single ‘Yeah Yeah’ may be about to change all that. The band already have support slots for the likes of The Cribs and Sticky Fingers under their belts and with more recordings in the pipeline, the future looks bright for the group. I spoke to Pat Ferris (guitar) and Josh Stewart (vocals).

How are things in The Ninjas camp? What have you been up to recently?

Pat: Things are going great at the moment. We are currently recording some new songs with Sean Cook (Big Scary, Jeremy Neale) at his studio The Plutonium, and experimenting with an old Beta-movie camera and a green screen for our next video to go with our follow up single, ‘Kill ‘Em All’.

You’ve been thrust into the spotlight fairly suddenly with the release of ‘Yeah Yeah’. What’s it been like so far?

Josh: It’s been pretty rad; Ford choosing it as the soundtrack for their new Ranger commercial has been awesome for us. It’s sort of weird though; its not like we haven’t heard our music played back before, but when you’re watching your favourite show on TV and your song randomly comes on it feels kind of rewarding.

Describe your song-writing process. Is it a collaborative effort?

Josh: Our song writing process begins with ideas Pat and I have, then we jam them out with the rest of the band to work out and finalise the structure.

Supporting The Cribs was a pretty big deal. What are your memories of the gig?

Josh: Supporting The Cribs was definitely our favourite show. My memories from the gig are pretty hazy but I remember watching them side-stage and thinking “winning”.

Your music gets compared to a lot of different bands, from The Rolling Stones to The Stone Roses to Oasis to The Vines to The White Stripes. Which or any of these is most accurate?

Josh: They’re all awesome to be compared to, and they’re all pretty accurate in regards to our band’s underlying influences.

What would you rather be: a poor but revered cult band with heaps of critical acclaim, or a stadium-filling international juggernaut that nobody admits to liking?

Josh: Stadium-filling international juggernaut definitely has a nicer ring to it.

What would be on your ideal rider and why?

Josh: Budweiser; the king of beers. Plus some Captain Morgan Spiced Gold.

What are the band’s plans in the short term?

Pat: We’re looking forward to unleashing our next single ‘Kill ‘Em All’ around mid-January, with launches in Brisbane and Sydney around the same time. We have also been in talks with some peeps in the U.S., so another trip over there is looking likely soon as well.

When can we next see The Ninjas live, and what can we expect from the show?

Pat: I believe a sneaky little show at Rics Bar on Friday 13th of December with a special guest appearance by Jason on tambourine.


Check out the video for ‘Yeah Yeah’:

Live review: The Cribs + The Ninjas + Filthy Jackal – The Zoo, Brisbane – 25/10/13

Gary Jarman

Gary Jarman

Reading articles about Wakefield indie guitar trio The Cribs recently, I was somewhat surprised to learn that this current tour marks their tenth anniversary as a going concern. When the turn of the millennium brought the downfall of Britpop and a resurgence in New York hipster bands influenced by the lo-fi guitar lines of Television and street threads of Johnny Thunders, certain U.K. music press – panicked by the thought of their watery scene being left behind – sought to crown a new generation of bands as the great white hopes for British guitar music. Enter a thrown-together group of bands of varying quality and style, consisting of The Libertines, Razorlight, the Jarman brothers of The Cribs, and others. Amid the haze of a million indie bands, the time has passed quickly since their 2004 debut, but are The Cribs still a force, or should they fade into the dark, as so many of their contemporaries have done? Today’s gig would be the only way to tell.

First up in Fortitude Valley’s The Zoo is Filthy Jackal, who despite seeming quite isolated in a sparsely-filled venue put in a decent effort, culminating in their heaviest song of the set, ‘Bereft’.

Following them is Brisbane garage rockers The Ninjas, who immediately up the quality many fold with a quality set of groovy, sleazy, danceable, fat-riffed tunes. Sounding tight rhythmically from the off, their swagger-y songs – including the excellent ‘Yeah Yeah’ – ooze globular hints of Manchester circa 1990 (think Happy Mondays if they could play) and early 2000s indie like The White Stripes; making them a perfect choice for what is to come next.

Releasing a greatest hits record and embarking on an anniversary tour are indulgences for many over-the-hill bands, but within seconds of The Cribs taking the stage, it is clear that the three Jarman brothers (plus touring member David Jones) are anything but past it, and they are pretty damn tour-tight for guys who now live thousands of miles apart. The obvious focus is on singer-guitarist Ryan, who these days could pass for a Dee Dee Ramone look-alike, and bassist-vocalist Gary, but it’s their solidity as a unit and energy that are most impressive throughout the set. Taking songs from each of their five albums, including the excellent ‘Hey Scenesters!’ from Hey Fellas and ‘Come On, Be a No-One’ from In The Belly of the Brazen Bull, the band slash, bash and crash their way through an hour of top quality guitar rock, before heading off stage amid a maelstrom of belly-up drum-kits, dropped guitars, and sweat.

The lesson learned here tonight? The Cribs are in no way a spent force; no f**king way.

Interview: Gary Jarman of The Cribs

gary jarman

Having recently celebrated ten years in the business of making top-notch punk-tinged indie-rock and with a new record full of songs spanning the band’s career, Gary Jarman, the refreshingly down to earth bassist for The Cribs, is looking forward to coming to these shores for a run of shows next month.

What can fans expect from a Cribs show in 2013?

Usually when I’m asked this question it’s a pretty tough one to answer, because we’ve always hoped that, idealistically, it’ll be somewhat unpredictable like it always used to be when we first started out. We always thrive off the idea that we never really plan stuff too much, and we’re never a particularly slick prospect, as that was the thing that used to drive us and keep things interesting. With these tenth anniversary shows we’re trying to mix in a bunch of the older stuff for people who didn’t see it the first time round, as we never toured the first album in Australia. The shows will be smaller, and I think that’s the right way to do it, and will hopefully be the best representation of where the group is coming from and from where we first started out.

If someone told you ten years ago that you’d be touring Australia for your tenth anniversary, how would you have reacted?

It would have been a real thrill, you know? But that never goes away; we’re still the same band that we were when we started out. We still have the same motivation and we have the same feelings about things. I think that comes with being in a band with your brothers; we’re still kind of amazed to be able to travel that far away from where you’re from and have people be interested in it. We never lost that sense of disbelief that a project you started with your kid brothers will be something that people will not only care about, but care about for a decade, and then to travel pretty much as far away from Wakefield – where we’re from – as possible, and have people come and be excited to see you play. That’s something we’ve never taken for granted, and being in a band with your brothers has been key to that. If I’d been in a band with other people I might have become jaded over the years, although it’s never been plain sailing for us – far from it. But the fact it’s a family thing makes us such a close and tight unit, and it makes us so honoured that it’s resonated in some way with people, no matter what level.

Some bands with several family members end up hating each other over time, but it obviously works well for The Cribs?

I think so, because the key thing is that we trust each other, and we grew up with the same stuff, and when we formed the band it was out of necessity as my brothers were the only people who had the same tastes as me, because we grew up with the same music. So it was basically a really convenient and ideal scenario for us. Over the years, we’ve managed to retain that, even though we all live in different places thousands of miles apart, and that’s been really good for us as we can all bring different things to the table from our different experiences. Rather than being alienated, it helps us.

Obviously Johnny Marr is no longer in the band, so what challenges does that bring when playing live?

Well, as far as live goes, we never expected to be a four-piece when we started the band, and we never expected there to be a fourth person there, as we didn’t have a fourth brother! Johnny coming along was like a really surreal and exciting thing for us, so we had to adapt to being a four-piece rather than re-adapting to being a three-piece, so it was really natural to go back to being a three-piece. But we do have another person playing guitar with us, who is like a live member, so we can add extra things to records and still pull them off live.

What do you miss most about having Johnny in the band, besides his guitar playing?

The camaraderie. While it lasted, it was a good way of dissipating the intensity in the family dynamic. Everything becomes really extreme in that sense; when the shows are good they’re really good, but when they’re a bit off they can be destructive. So having another person there makes it easier to reduce that intensity. There’s a different dynamic with your brothers or with your family than what you’ll have with anybody else, and you can often forget that unless there’s someone else in the room. It’s easy to forget how full-on it can be and how differently you speak to people you’ve grown up with. It was nice to have someone, not necessarily to mediate, but to see things a bit more rationally, instead of the emotionally-charged way we would always do things.

You won the Outstanding Achievement Award from the NME, and just released what’s essentially a Best-Of album. How do you feel about reaching milestones like these when you’re still so young?

Winning the award was such an amazing thing for us. When you can step away from things and look at them from a distance, it’s really a crazy kind of scenario. To get a lifetime achievement award like that, and to have a greatest hits record – if you started a band aiming for things like that, it’d be an egotistical and cut-throat thing. We never set our sights on that sort of stuff; we came from more of a punk-rock background, but it’s nice to be able to sit back and look at all the ups and downs of the last ten years and lay them all to rest and move on, in some ways. We’ve been playing a lot of these songs for ten years now, and that’s a kind of insane proposition, so this is a nice way to wrap it all up and move on to the next chapter I guess.

You’re known for having a DIY and independent approach to things. Is that something that will change as the band gets older?

If anything, it’s got a lot more pronounced. Initially, it wasn’t something strange to us, as we had no choice. But when the band started doing well, we didn’t feel the need to deviate from that, and we enjoyed doing a lot of things that way, and we took satisfaction from it. For example, we used to love playing on the main stage at the Reading Festival, and we’d be the only band who had a van; there was something perverse and appealing about that. But, from a different point of view, we’ve never been signed to a major label in the UK, so there was never a great deal of money flying around. We’re actually a really efficient band, you know? We do things on a level that avoids all that rock-star shit, and even when we’ve had top-ten records it’s been business as usual, and that’s possibly why we’re still here after ten years. We get a lot of satisfaction from adversity; we’ve always been so independent and nothing’s changed. Nobody makes money from record sales any more, and it doesn’t bother us at all; we’re used to existing on a shoestring anyway. We’ve never been dependent on anything and although it sounds like a bit of a cute statement, the only people I’ve ever depended on is my two brothers. If we get offered a show and we want to do it, we find a way to make it happen one way or another. It’s an idealism thing. I hate the idea of being dependent on things that other bands depend on to make things happen.

What are you most looking forward to about coming to Australia?

We had such an awesome time last time. We came out there in January, and it was one of the most fun tours we’ve ever had, so it’s not that I’m looking forward to one single thing, just the knowledge that we had such a really awesome time last time is enough to be really exciting for us.