Portland's Cribs are back in good voice 

For Cribs bassist-vocalist Gary Jarman, 2009 was a banner year.

It opened with his childhood idol, ex-Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr, not only joining his sibling trio in the studio for its latest punk piledriver, “Ignore the Ignorant,” but signing on as a permanent member as well.

Then the Brit — who brings his band to San Francisco next week — relocated to Portland, where he wed his longtime girlfriend, Jicks/Quasi bassist Joanna Bolme, in a low-key ceremony.

“We had a pretty good wedding band, I must say,” he recalls. “Johnny played, my [guitarist] brother Ryan’s girlfriend Kate Nash sang, and [Jicks leader] Stephen Malkmus jumped onstage, too. It was terrible weather, but it was cool to have all our friends in town.”

Jarman, 29, was even enjoying how gravelly his singing voice had gotten, never suspecting there might be a medical reason behind the rasp.

But last summer, his career in The Cribs ground to a halt. Diagnosed with nodes on his vocal cords, he underwent a throat operation that literally left him speechless for nearly a month.

“Even before the surgery, I already couldn’t speak properly,” he says. “I could sing, all guttural and shouty, but talking would be pretty bad the next day. But after surgery, not speaking for several weeks was a very weird thing, like some strange experiment.”

Jarman says he used spiral notebooks to communicate at the time: “I mean, why would you ever write down that you wanted a strawberry milkshake or a pop tart?’ Or ‘I guess you have practice today’ and ‘Are you getting too hot?’”

Yet when he got his voice back, he says, “I was singing in this new clear style, and it sounded terrible.”

With a world tour booked and looming, he had to relearn his craft with a vocal coach.

“There I was, in the living room of this posh, 60-year-old woman, shouting lines like ‘Manic depression and hyper-sexuality!’ from our song ‘Cheat on Me’ — I felt ridiculous,” he says. “And at first, I thought it just wasn’t going to be possible. But I think I figured it out in my own time.”

Today he is taking creative vocal chances.

He recently subbed for his pals Franz Ferdinand on tour when their bassist flew home for a wedding.

And thanks to a slew of non-Cribs material he’s been composing, he and his missus are considering their own surreal side project. “Two bass players, playing bass in a bass-off!” he says. “I think that would be amazing!”

The Cribs

Bimbo’s 365 Club, 1025 Columbus Ave., San Francisco
When: 9 p.m. Wednesday
Tickets: $20
Contact: (415) 474-0365, www.bimbos365club.com, www.ticketfly.com

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Staff Report

Staff Report

A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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