HELL IS OTHER BANDS Art Brut

Eddie Argos is in a
hades of his own making-and it sounds great.

 

BY HAL BIENSTOCK

 

Since their 2005 debut, Bang
Bang Rock and Roll
, Art Brut have concerned themselves with the important
things in life: music, girls and alcohol. And they’ve done it with three-minute
punk-pop songs that mix humor with a touch of pathos. The band’s latest album, Art Brut vs. Satan, adds a fourth
subject to the band’s oeuvre: crappy bands and idiots who like them. In singer
Eddie Argos’ world, U2 and the acts who ape them are Satan, and Art Brut, is
well, Art Brut. Eddie used his standard mix of sarcasm, sincerity and
self-deprecation to talk about his battle with the devil, why Germans know him
as The Depressive Dandy and embarrassing himself in front of their producer
Frank Black.

 

***

 

BLURT: There’s an old
saying that hell is other people. According to you, Satan is other bands?

 

ARGOS:
Other bands and the people who buy their records. The record buying public are
idiots. There’s a song on our album about The Replacements. I can’t understand
why they weren’t most famous band in the world, or why someone like Jeffrey
Lewis isn’t more popular. Why are The Wombats, The Kooks and these other
terrible bands on the [UK]
charts?

 

 

Isn’t it dangerous to
insult the record-buying public? Aren’t you talking about some of your own
fans?

 

No. Its people who don’t like Art Brut that I’m talking
about. If you don’t like Art Brut you are Satan and I’m against you.

 

 

Do you ever run into
the bands you insult?

 

I got in a fight with Bloc Party. I said Bloc Party was
rubbish, and Kele Okereke punched me. He went on TV and called me fat. Then I
saw him at a London club and he punched me. We’re friendly now. After all, I
don’t want to get punched again. (laughs)

 

 

Any other incidents?

 

Not yet. I’ve been slagging The Wombats off and they’re
rehearsing in same studio as us. I have to sneak out the back door.

 

 

You seem to especially
hate bands that sound like U2.

 

It’s mainly because those bands, like The Killers, only
sound like U2 to make a lot of money. I guess the problem is that I don’t like
U2, so I hate bands who sound like them by default. Their music can be made by
robots. There’s no emotion. Listen to The Mountain Goats, who are really good,
and you can hear the difference.

 

I hate bands whose songs are about nothing. The Replacements
were a good band because their songs were about something. Jeffrey Lewis is a
great lyricist. Every indie band at the moment doesn’t sing about anything.
Their songs are just words, yet they’re on the charts.

 

 

Do I detect some
jealousy? Do you hope to be on the charts someday?

 

It’d be nice. But I doubt I’m going to get there by going
around saying I hate everything. (laughs)

 

 

It’s not like Art Brut
are wholly original. People might say you sound like a lot of 70s punk bands.

 

They do say that and maybe it’s true. But those bands are a
lot better than U2, aren’t they?

 

 

When people heard your
first album, a lot of them suspected that because you had a sense of humor,
you’d be a joke band without a long career. Did you ever have those fears?

 

No. I didn’t really we think we were a joke. A lot of the
songs that people thought were funny weren’t supposed to be. When I sing
“Modern art makes me want to rock out,” it’s because I genuinely find modern
art exciting. I thought it was strange that people were finding it funny.

 

 

On your last tour, you
eventually became miserable singing the breakup songs from your earlier albums.
Is that why you wrote less about girls this time?

 

There are still some songs about girls, but there were just
different things on my mind this time. Some of those songs are quite miserable.
In Germany, Berlin University has a lecture on my songs. They call me The
Depressive Dandy.

 

 

How did you get Frank
Black to produce your album?

 

We wanted to do the album in one or two takes to give it an
immediacy. That’s how he does his albums, so we figured he’s the expert at
recording things in one take. We asked him and he said yes.

 

 

What did he add to
your sound?

 

He just gave us added confidence and enthusiasm. We wouldn’t
have a seven-minute song [“Mysterious Bruises”] if it wasn’t for him.

 

 

I was surprised you
did that.

 

I had to be convinced of it. I’m a punk. I like three minute
songs. But we played it a few times and he was excited about it. He’s the dude
from The Pixies, so it’s not like you can really argue with him. (laughs)

 

 

As a Pixies lover, did
you have any embarrassing moments where you turned fanboy on him?

 

People call him Charles in real life [Black’s real name is
Charles Thompson], so we talked about who would be the idiot who slips and
calls him Frank first. Of course, it turned out to be me.

 

 

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