by Joanna Orland
Eddie Argos is a genuine man (and possibly the heir to a catalogue shopping empire?). When you speak with him, he looks you in the eye and tells it like it is (ie that my recording equipment looks like a guitar pedal). Then how, despite blatant genuineness, does he create such musical confusion amongst Art Brut listeners?
Having listened repeatedly to their album, I can vouch for the fact that it’s not easy to be sure if the band is being ironic, or if they are sincere in their music and lyrics. Especially when Eddie sings, “It’s not irony”, you just have trouble believing it. To be honest, Eddie seems just as confused and in awe of the whole process himself. One cause being that they were discovered by putting their demo ‘Formed a Band’ up on the Internet, having Rough Trade come across it and presto chango – instant record deal.
According to Eddie, Art Brut’s inception began at the end of a party. Eddie had gone round from person to person asking if anybody would be in a band with him. “I can’t sing or play an instrument so everyone was saying no to me. By the time I got to Chris (who’s since left the band) I was really really drunk and saying I sing like Aretha Franklin and I’ve had albums out before and all this nonsense. He believed me and said he’d be in a band with me.”
Chris then got his friend to play bass. Feeling outnumbered, Eddie got his friend Ian to play guitar. They found drummer Mike drunk on a bus. Eventually Chris left due to conflicting aspirations. “My plan was to go on Top of the Pops, his what to meet girls. And he met a girl and he left.” Eddie’s friend Jasper joined in Chris’ place. And apparently he’s a dead ringer for Crispin Mills of Kula Shaker.
Their songs seem to come about in as random a way as the band itself. Their first song Formed a Band was born out of a studio session. Even lines such as ‘Yes that is my singing voice’ were completely improvised. “When we were recording it, the producer in the studio said, are you ok? Stopped the record and stuff. And I was like yeah, this is my singing voice.”
Their other songs seem to have been a bit more traditionally created with the band writing the music, and Eddie constantly writing lyrics in his head. So the music… my chance to find out once and for all – is it irony or sincerity? It’s Britain vs. America. “People here think I’m joking a lot I think. And in America they kind of take me at face value. Like Emily Kane, say, over here people say aw that’s a really funny cynical song about your writing an emo song. No, I genuinely loved her. And in America people just say to me, aw that’s a nice love song, you obviously loved that girl a lot.”
Hating the question ‘where did the band name come from’, the band used to make up answers for shits and giggles. The name Art Brut did not come from an Arthur Brut Scientist Convention as their bio states, but rather from Eddie’s favourite form of art – French painter Jean Debuffet’s definition of raw art – ie art by untrained people and mental patients, to which Eddie often compares the band.
“The rest of the band didn’t know that, what it meant, so every night I’d go on stage and go ‘ah we’re art brut’ and I was basically saying they were mental patients that didn’t learn their instruments.’
This isn’t the first time Eddie has worked with ‘mental patients’. His previous job was as a social worker, which is something he’d still love to do if he ever tired of music. You’d never guess – a compassionate rock star, eh!
One word to sum em up? “Drunk. And Confused. Hmm, Confused.” See! Plague of confusion! Logic’s overrated.
Art Brut’s new album will be out on Mute Records in March 2007. In the meantime, you can get Bang Bang Rock & Roll at a record shop near you!