Tuesday, November 10, 2009

CB Q/A #22: Eddie Argos of Art Brut

Yesterday was one of those work days that you dread, meeting after meeting after meeting. From the moment I got to work until nearly 4 PM, I was shuffling from one room to another, trading brain cells for increased self-loathing every additional minute. Mere seconds after finally sitting down in my chair back in my dank big boy office, the alarm on my phone went off. I looked at it, wondering what it was I was reminding myself of, and did a double, nay triple, take when the message "CALL EDDIE ARGOS" beamed back up at me.

Call Eddie Argos. Huh? Eddi- OH! Yeah! The Art Brut frontman! That's right, I'd set up a phoner with him through his publicist and I was supposed to call. I pulled my home laptop out of my incredibly sexy red C-SPAN messenger bag (what amounts to swag in my line of work), called up the file with the questions I'd prepared for the conversation a couple nights before, and dialed up Mr. Argos.

I was at my most polite when Argos, answered, saying, "May I speak with Eddie Argos, please?" The response: "Yeah, man, yeah, of course, you got him."

And with that, perhaps the most fun, if brief, phone interview I've ever done with someone for this blog commenced. I was informed that Argos was doing really well, if a bit hungover, a statement which, for whatever reason, immediately put me at ease. Unfortunately for you, the reader, between the bad phone connection, Eddie's accent, and my own incredibly poor transcription skills, I missed some really great and interesting lines. Even so, what you'll find below promises to entertain and inform, and certainly to whet your rock appetites for TONIGHT'S Art Brut show at Oberlin. (Incidentally, to give a plug to my pal Matt's site and my own contribution there, this show is this week's co-selection for show of the week. In other words, something awesome Oberlin-way comes this evening.)

Before getting to the meat of the interview, I simply must remind you, Art Brut's latest album, Art Brut Vs Satan, is a thing of wonder as well as a continuation of the band's tradition of releasing albums that are simultaneously deeply hysterical and deeply sincere, both indie rock and somehow apart from it. Check out my previous review here for a bit more in depth on the last album. And now, I bid you, read onward. Please.

1) Your song “Mysterious Bruises” is one of my two or three favorites of the year, and “Good Weekend” from previous recording is, well, just one of my favorites period. You really have a knack for putting together a great, catchy pop song, but seemingly go about it in a less-than-traditional way. What is the process involved when you craft such songs?

I can’t play an instrument so I just write the words, and the band takes care of the music. I’m pretty much always thinking of things and typing words into my phone, which sometimes become songs. Everything about every song is different. But like I said, they write the music, I write the words.

2) Art Brut is a band where it is really easy for writers to be lazy about, focusing just on your unique vocal style and the humor of many of your tracks. However, a close listen reveals some really incisive social commentary on many of your songs. What do you want listeners to take away? Or, how would you like Art Brut to be viewed as a band and/or artistic endeavor?

It is funny, really – a lot of people assume I’m being satirical in my songs. People think I’m being ironic, but I’m not. I generally write about things I really do feel. For example, I love DC Comics! So, if I were to say that I wanted people to understand something about Art Brut, it would be that I want people to know I’m being sincere.

3) That being said, your comic timing is impeccable. I’m truly jealous of it. Is that something you’ve worked to develop and, if so, how?

Well, thank you. Not really trying to do it, but I’m out there all the time, every night it seems, and I like showing off, like playing all the time, so after a while you get a bit of a way with it.

4) Listening to “The Replacements,” I found myself wondering: What bands do you listen to? Old? New? If you could dream up an dream bill for Art Brut to play on, what would it be?

Well, actually, I really do like The Replacements. In fact, I was in a pub last night and the jukebox had no Replacements selections! Can you believe it? I had a bit of a row with the bartender over that.

Otherwise, though, I really like musicians like Jesse Lewis, Jad Fair, and Daniel Johnston.

As for a dream line-up for Art Brut to play with, I’d stick with Jesse Lewis, Jad Fair, and Daniel Johnston, but also add the Mountain Ghosts and Paul Westerberg. I just got a Paul Westerberg best of album and it is really amazing.

But, you know, if this is a fantasy, I may as well just say The Replacements. Yes, that’s what I’d like, I’d like Art Brut to play with The Replacements. It will never ever happen, but that’s what my fantasy would be.

5) I think your cover of The Cure’s “Catch” is really wonderful and, to be honest, a surprising choice. What drew you to that song?

“Catch” is simply one of my favorite Cure songs. I loved the album (Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me) growing up, and I spent a lot of time thinking about the album when I started writing songs years ago.

When the opportunity to record a Cure song for the album you mention [a Cure tribute album commissioned by NME magazine] I was immediately afraid that every other band would want to play "Catch," I was sure of it, actually. When no one else did, I was really happy, but just couldn't believe it.

6) Any other songs/artists you’d love to cover down the road?

We used to cover “The KKK Took My Baby Away” by The Ramones – that one was a lot of fun. But honestly, we’re not very good at covers. Personally, I’m rubbish at karaoke. We do play snippets of other songs live, but not a lot because I just can’t seem to remember others words.

7) What’s next?

I have an album coming out with another band, Everybody was in the French Resistence … Now, in January, and a new Art Brut record is planned for the summer.

8) Last but not least, any memorable Cleveland experiences?

Well, I got pretty drunk last time. Wait, have we been there before? Yeah, we were there a couple of years ago, but it was at the end of the tour and by that time you don’t want to spend any time in a city, but just get home. I’d like to come back and spend some more time there.

Be sure to catch Art Brut TONIGHT when Argos and company storm Oberlin's Dionysus Club (135 W. Lorain St - call 440.775.8471 for more information.) at 10 pm. Especially when considering that tickets are only $12 and with the 10 pm start, there'll be plenty of time for you to grab a tasty bite at The Feve.

And if you liked this Q&A, consider checking out others I've down with musicians like Tim Rutili (Califone), Brent Knopf (Ramona Falls, Menomena), Jeremy Barnes (A Hawk and a Hacksaw, Neutral Milk Hotel), Paleface, Seth Olinsky (Akron/Family), Andrew Kenny (Wooden Birds, American Analog Set), Andrew McKeag (The Presidents of the United States of America), Ken Seeno (Ponytail), Frank Funaro (Cracker), Brandon Welchez (Crocodiles), Clare Manchon (Clare & the Reasons), Nicole Atkins (Nicole Atkins & the Sea), Cale Parks (Aloha, White Williams), Jesse Elliot (These United States), James Elkington (The Horse's Ha, The Zincs), Matt Drenik (Lions), Lawrence Daniel Caswell (This Moment In Black History, National Suicide Day), J.R. Bennett (Unsparing Sea), and Leia Hohenfeld (Afternoon Naps).

Art Brut on MUZU.

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