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Interview: Eddie Argos of Art Brut (+ Quickfire Questions #4)

By on Friday, 8th April 2011 at 12:00 pm

Bombastic, genreless English/German group Art Brut are gearing up to release their fourth album, ‘Brilliant! Tragic!’ on 23 May. As a special treat, they are launching the album at the Buffalo Bar, Islington, on Saturday the 8th of April 9th, at a show sold exclusively through Pledge Music (tickets available here). There are only 41 tickets left as of writing, so act quickly. All pledges come with a live EP to be released later and a free download of the track ‘Unprofessional Wrestling’. It’s a great deal all around, and a portion goes to charity. TGTF caught up to lead singer Eddie Argos about the new album!

I’m sure you’ve been asked this 5 million times by now, but how was it to work with Frank Black again?
Loads of fun we know him really well now. So I think we can be a lot more honest with each other when recording. I feel his hand was a little heavier with us this time. I like that. We were totally absorbed with the record the whole time we were making it. Even more than last time which was pretty intense too. We were texting each other at night and first thing in the morning before we went into the studio making tiny changes at the last minute. I love making records with him.

I hear you had a full week and a half with him this time around, how did that help the creative process?
He taught me how to sing. He’d sing through the songs and then ask me to do the same. Sometimes we’d sing along together. We should have secretly recorded him then we’d have a version of our album with Black Francis singing instead of me. Haha. We could have used it as a bonus CD.

We also had more time to take the songs apart and tinker with them.

What was your general inspiration for the album? It seems much darker this time around compared to ‘Art Brut vs. Satan’.
Does it? Some of ‘Art Brut vs. Satan’ was quite dark I thought. Well maybe more ‘Grumpy’ I suppose.

With the last couple of albums I had been trying to write about mundane things like catching the bus, having a summer job, leaving home and living in squalor, reading comics, turning records up when you’re kissing. That sort of thing and inject it with the romance and excitement I felt it had. I think that probably reached its peak on the last album and now I felt like writing about slightly different things. Or some of the same things in a slightly different way.

You use a lot more vocal textures with this album – your voice is raspier, more adult (and sexy sometimes), and there’s singing! How did that happen?
Lots of encouragement from Black Francis. We recorded ‘Lost Weekend’ pretty early on and after that I realised I could do more than just speak/sing in the same old way. It was a nice freeing feeling to realise (with Black Francis’s help) that I could use my voice as an instrument.

Similarly, there are a few other choice differences – where before, the lyrics were very frank, it seems that the lyrics for this album seem to be more open to interpretation. What moved you to go in that direction with this album?
I just write. Maybe something has changed in me. In a way, I was writing about more personal stuff this time and a lot more true stories. I think maybe I wanted to muddy the water with some of that to keep a little back for myself.

Why was ‘Ice Hockey’ titled as such? It’s clearly not about ice hockey!
It is a song to be played at my funeral. When people ask “what do you want played your funeral?” I want to be able to say ‘Ice Hockey’.

The cover art by Jamie McKelvie is wonderful – the blue eyes and red dress are very striking. What was the inspiration behind it?
We let Jamie do whatever he wanted with the art work. I love it. I think what he has done is incredible. I think the idea behind the art is that this very brilliant girl has gone to a funeral. A mixture of ‘Brilliant’ and ‘Tragic’.

You’ve moved to Berlin. Is Sealand next?
Sealand is tiny. I definitely want to visit though.

And on to the TGTF Quickfire Questions…

What song is your earliest musical memory?
I remember dancing in the kitchen with my mum to the Specials song ‘Too Much Too Young’. She had me when she was quite young. So now I’m older I kind of see the significance of the lyrics, “you’ve done too much, much too young your married with a kid when you should be having fun’. We were having fun though, so it’s alright.

Actually that might be a false memory as she tells me about it all the time. I probably just think I can remember it.

What was your favourite song as a child?
I used to really like jumping around the living room to ‘Sally Maclennane’ by the Pogues with my little brother.

What song makes you cry?
‘The Ship Song’ by Nick Cave. Every time I hear it no matter where I am I don’t know why. Just something about the melody and his voice. It is a beautiful song.

What song reminds you of the first time you fell in love? (It’s up to you if you want this to be sweet, naughty, etc.)
I had a girlfriend when I was growing up and when we used go out we used to swing each other around and around on the dance floor to the song ‘Does Your Heart Go Boom’ by Helen Love. At the time that felt like being in love.

What song makes you think of being upset / angry? (Example: maybe you heard it when you were angry with someone and it’s still with you, and/or something that calms you down when you’re upset, etc.)
There is not one song. But the entire album ‘The Sunset Tree’ by the Mountain Goats. Which manages to be seething angry and comforting at the same time. I love that album. I think it is perfect.

Which song (any song written in the last century) do you wish you’d written yourself?
I always think this is a funny question when I read other people answering it. I don’t know really. When I heard The Divine Comedy’s song ‘Indie Disco’ last year. I wish I’d written that. I suppose because it is about all the things I usually write about. I felt I’d missed a trick. I think it is a brilliant song.

Who is your favourite writer? (This can be a songwriter or ANY kind of writer.)
I really like Saki he is an Edwardian satirist who writes hilarious and macabre short stories. I know it sounds a bit pretentious to say your favourite writer is an Edwardian satirist, but the stories are so funny and dark and easy to read even more than a hundred years later.

If you hadn’t become a singer/musician/songwriter/etc., what job do you think you’d be doing right now?
I used to work in care. Working with adults in sheltered living. I enjoyed that job and it was rewarding I would probably be doing that. I probably will again some day.

If God said you were allowed to bring only one album with you to Heaven, which would it be and why?
‘The Sunset Tree’ by the Mountain Goats [Editor’s note: The Mountain Goats are currently touring America. If you happen to be on our side of the Atlantic, you should go.]


Interview: Eddie Argos of Art Brut

By on Friday, 23rd October 2009 at 2:00 pm

eddie argos interview photoEddie Argos, lead vocalist and lyricist of art rock band Art Brut, was kind enough to sit down and chat with me before his band’s show at the Black Cat this past weekend. Eddie’s love of comics and milkshakes have now been immortalised in song (in Art Brut’s ‘DC Comics and Chocolate Milkshake’, a track from the band’s most recent album-length offering, ‘Art Brut vs. Satan’), so I just had to ask him about both. I also learned that he really likes playing at the Black Cat (score! [also detailed in his blog]) and Washington (score again!), and he and the band are raring to go on their month-long jaunt around this great land of ours. He is also a very frank and funny man – no surprise there. Have a listen.

**To save disk space, the audio file that originally went with this post has been removed.

‘Art Brut vs. Satan’, Art Brut’s third and latest album, was released in April and is available now from Cooking Vinyl in the UK and Downtown Records in America.


Live Review: Art Brut with Princeton at Black Cat, Washington DC – 18 October 2009

By on Tuesday, 20th October 2009 at 2:00 pm

On a chilly Washington Sunday night I, warmed by the beckoning Black Cat on 14th Street, was armed with the knowledge that something fantastic was about to happen. And that something fantastic was English/German band Art Brut.

b-princeton2But before we could get “Brut-alised“, we were entertained by a four-piece from Los Angeles, Princeton. If you like the Drums, I imagine you will also like the chirpy rock/pop sound that this quartet makes. Songs like the Beach Boys-esque ‘Martina and Clive Krantz’ and the surprisingly upbeat ‘I Left My Love in Nagasaki’ will make you smile. Very interestingly, their web site says that the band started when three of them were living in London in 2005. (I maintain to this day that there must be something in the Thames that causes the inner rocker in people to rise up and form bands.)

Cute as heck twin brothers Jesse and Matt Kivel traded off lead vocal and guitar duties effortlessly, and keys from Ben Usen and the backbeat provided by David Kitz complete the band’s sound. The brothers’ self-deprecating banter between songs charmed the crowd by the end of the set. And seriously, when was the last time you were asked by a band to clap along not just to one, but several songs in a band’s set and you did so without reservation?

h-artbrut3I had been recommended to see Art Brut by several friends on the Continent who insisted “Eddie Argos is a legend!” and “Art Brut are amazing live!” I was already interested in the band through their recent single ‘DC Comics and Chocolate Milkshake’, a celebration of the best things in life from Argos’s point of view. The song is from their latest album, ‘Art Brut vs. Satan’, released on Cooking Vinyl in April. I have a yet-to-be-shaken axiom that if a band is having a great time on stage playing their songs, it follows that the audience watching them will also have a great time being entertained by them. The Art Brut gig was further evidence for this. Jasper Future and Ian Catskillkin on guitars, Freddy Feedback on bass, and Mikey Breyer on drums were all having the time of their lives, playing with so much passion that at times I was worried their respective instruments might fly out of their hands. In particular, Future pulls these hilarious faces when he sings backing vocals; then he’ll stare out at the crowd as if waiting for a reaction. Comical!

g-artbrut2And then there was Eddie Argos. He had told me earlier (after an exclusive interview I did with him, forthcoming on TGTF) that he is a show-off and likes to be the centre of attention. However, nothing could have prepared me for what can only be described as stage shenanigans. During the third song, ‘Summer Job’, Argos skipped rope with the microphone cord; I think he broke it because then the roadies had to quickly set up another microphone for him. He introduced ‘Rusted Gun of Milan’ humorously with “let’s glamourise bad sex!” Completely randomly in the middle of the song, he jumped into the crowd, the microphone cord narrowly hitting my friend and me in the face. He then went on to describe to bemused concertgoers on the floor where the glass elevator in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory leads to: “the Bat Cave. And this is all entirely true“. What did he do next? He started pogo-ing, which of course led to everyone in the club following his lead. He detailed his disappointment finding out that Iggy Pop‘s song ‘The Passenger’ was not about riding on buses but taking heroin in the backseat of a limousine, and how he decided then that Art Brut would have to write a much better song about the joys of traveling on buses and trains around Britain. If that isn’t adorable, I don’t know what is.

Later on in the set, Argos explained that when playing ‘Alcoholics Unanimous’ (the first single from ‘Art Brut vs. Satan’) live, the band will play an extended outro so that he can nip off for a drink. It should also be noted that this is the same song that has the brilliant raucous chorus of “bring me tea! Bring me coffee!” So is it any surprise that one of the best-selling pieces of Art Brut merchandise was a mug with these words emblazoned on it in large letters? No, not at all. And this is all entirely true.

After the cut: photos and set list.


Continue reading Live Review: Art Brut with Princeton at Black Cat, Washington DC – 18 October 2009


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