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.]

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One Response

2:50 pm
14th April 2011

Interesting interview. Thanks for sharing.

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