JUST THREE BLOKES Archie Bronson Outfit

 

 

 

 

JUST THREE
BLOKES Archie Bronson Outfit

 

They’re really not all that mysterious. It’s
just that they’re not very good at writing happy music.

 

BY JONAH FLICKER

 

Without getting
too hyperbolic or melodramatic, British trio Archie Bronson Outfit is kind of a
mysterious band, though it’s not like the members are intentionally shrouding
themselves in myth and enigma. In fact, a recent conversation with drummer and
lyricist Mark “Arp” Cleveland, a fellow prone to bursts of laughter and
self-effacing commentary, proved that the band is rather open to exploring
exactly what makes it tick. Still, there’s something menacing on ABO’s new
album, Coconut (Domino), a record
full of repetitive grooves made up of equal parts psych-rock and post-punk.
There’s something lurking behind singer and guitar player Sam Windett’s heavily
affected vocals and minimal, meandering guitar lines. There’s something
forbidding about Arp and bassist Dorian Hobday’s rock-solid dance rhythms. And
what’s with that name, anyway? (There’s no one named Archie Bronson in the
band.)

 

Arp would
probably laugh at all this hubbub about mystique and obscurity. They’re just
three blokes who have been making music together for about a decade, while also
working in the arts and finally getting around to doing some normal person
things. Coconut is their third album
as Archie Bronson Outfit (Windett and Arp also play in Pyramids), and their
first since 2006’s Derdang Derdang.

 

“I can’t believe
it’s been four years,” says Arp on the phone from London. “We actually wrote a lot of this stuff
in 2007. We ended up recording it in May 2008. We were twiddling our thumbs for
a while. But at the same time, we’ve been doing other things. Sam has had a few
exhibitions – he paints. I’ve been having a kid and getting married. Dorian is
getting married too. We’ve been doing life things like that.”

 

Hobday and Arp
have also been working on videos over the past six months or so, one for each
track on the record, which are streaming
online
at the moment. They will also be available as a DVD release
accompanying the album. Some, such as the video for the album’s danciest number
“Shark’s Tooth,” are almost silly, an alternate-world, Flash Gordon-style
cut-and-paste job. “We don’t want to be presented as these dark, bluesy dudes,”
says Arp, further dispersing the shroud of mystery. “We’re just not very good
at writing happy music. That’s not really how we are all the time. We’re old
friends who enjoy it. It’s easy when you’re making videos to step away from the
music and be a bit more lighthearted.”

 

Lighthearted is
not the first adjective that comes to mind when describing the band’s music. Coconut often recalls dour forefathers
like early Cure, PIL, and Joy Division, as well as contemporaries including
Clinic, Wilderness, and Sons and Daughters. And yet ABO makes music that is
decidedly unique. This time around, former DFA-head honcho Tim Goldsworthy, who
recently split with the label, helped craft the robotic un-disco that comprises
the album’s ten moody tracks. Domino label head Laurence Bell introduced the
band to Goldsworthy, who, according to Arp, gave the production a much more
“modern” sound. “He made us approach [recording] in less of an organic, analog
way, which is what we’re used to doing. The drums are a big thing that he
influenced – the rhythm side of the album. We wouldn’t have written or recorded
a song like [“Chunk”] had we not been working with Tim. His production was
really important.”

 

Not many bands
employ their drummers as lyricists. Genesis occasionally asked Phil Collins to
pen the lyrics for some of their gems, but Arp provides all of the written
words for ABO. This might seem like a tricky process, having someone else
enunciate and vocalize lyrics that you write, removing them from the presumably
intensely personal sphere in which they are created. On the other hand, that
can be liberating – if someone else is singing your words, you can pretty much
write whatever the hell you want to.

 

“It would seem
weird if I were to start a new band and hand [my lyrics] over like that,” says
Arp. “I’m used to it now. That’s what we’ve always done. I guess I can get away
with more because I’m not the one singing… I don’t have to ever explain them to
him. He very rarely asks me what anything’s about, which I like. He brings his
own thing to them.” Arp pauses before expressing concern that he’s on the verge
of sounding overly pretentious. “They’re not very clever, really,” he laughs.
“[Sam] never knows the words. I’ll be in the control room, like, ‘Jeez, I can’t
hear one word of it!’ I spent a week sweating over a lyric, and he’ll sing them
like one word. What is the fucking point? I put my heart and soul in them!”

 

Then there’s the
matter of the name – Archie Bronson Outfit – a question the band has surely
been asked countless times before, but one which Arp is game to explain again.
It turns out it was the name of a group of outlaw cowboy hustlers from an old
comic called Buffalo Bill. “[It] seemed like
a really funny thing to us at the time,” he sighs, resigned to the fact that
many people are probably unfamiliar with its source.

 

Coconut may have been a long time coming, but come it has, and it’s
one of the better records of 2010 thus far. The band is getting ready to tour
Europe, and hopes to get a US tour together sometime in late spring or
early summer. Arp seems ready to take it all on. “Archie Bronson has sort of
been slowly happening in the background while we’re doing other things,” he
says. “We keep going back to it. We lived together for 8 or 9 years while we
made the first two records. Then right after the second one, we all moved out
and settled down in different spots and got on with catching up with what most
people have been doing over the past eight years.”

 

Of course,
somewhere in the midst of all this, they found the time to write and record
this intriguing new album, certainly something most people have not been doing
over the past eight years. Mystery solved.

 

[Photo Credit: Dom Garwood]

 

 

 

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