Art Brut : Q&A

<img src="" alt=" " />In the states only a couple of days to play Highline Ballroom and <em>Late Night with Conan O’Brien</em>, much of English alt-pop/punk sensation Art Brut...

  Singer Eddie Argos took up much of the time, along with drummer Mikey B. and guitarist Jasper Future (with guitarist Ian Catskilkin interjecting), and covered festivals vs. regular shows, the main difference between American and European festivals, how their latest, It’s A Bit Complicated (QRO review), differs from their debut, Bang Bang Rock and Roll, the song they don’t play anymore, their unloved home town, Art Brut franchises, and what the subjects of “Emily Kane” and “My Little Brother” think of having songs about them…

Ready, Art Brut!?

QRO: Other than [Highline Ballroom – QRO venue review] and Conan, this is for American other than the festivals in September?

Eddie Argos: Yeah.

QRO: You’re doing a lot of European festivals [in between].  Why specifically – do you like those?

EA: I love ‘em – actually, I love American festivals more.  We did so much in America last year, we missed out.  We just signed to a French label, a new label for us, and they sent us out.  But it’s warmer here, than in Holland.

But we’re going on tour with The Hold Steady (QRO live review) in October.  They’re my favorite band at the moment.

QRO: There’s some similarity between you and The Hold Steady’s singer.

EA: That’s a massive compliment.

QRO: Just in the way, with almost the storytelling…

EA: I think that’s what I like about them.

QRO: Wednesday you’re doing Conan.  You’ve ever been on American TV before?

EA: We did Jimmy Kimmel, and that freaked me out a little bit, because American telly, I mean, it’s huge, millions and millions of viewers.  Strange.  I got so freaked out on Jimmy Kimmel that I thought I was like having a dream or something.  Tried doing really, really unusual things to jolt myself awake.  I think I got over it now, so it should be okay.

I love 30 Rock, so it’s exciting that I get to go 30 Rockefeller Place.  My girlfriend’s American [Dyan Valdés of Blood Arm], so she’s been downloading it for me.  Tina Fey’s brilliant.

QRO: How do you feel about playing festivals, vs. regular shows?

EA: I like them both in different ways.  It’s way different.  I love playing gigs like this, ‘cause you get people that see you on purpose.  But I love festivals, where you can like, win people over.  They’ve never seen you before, people turning around, gathering around you.  I love that, winning people over.

QRO: Other festivals you are/been doing, how close were you to the head of the bill?

EA: Depends where you play, really.  We played Germany recently, and we were quite high up.  But I like lower down, winning people over, surprising people.

QRO: You said that you liked American festivals better than European ones?

EA: Maybe I shouldn’t have said that…

QRO: What about British ones?  Compared to…

EA: They’re good – they’re all different.  The weather’s much better here, obviously.  We played Coachella and Pitchfork Festivals – best I’ve ever been to.  The Mountain Goats played Pitchfork; love The Mountain Goats.  Pitchfork Festival was amazing – that’s what I think of whenever I think of American festivals, I think of Chicago.

I just like festivals – you get to meet other bands and stuff.  Bands you like you get to meet.

QRO: With all these festivals on the Continent, are you going to any places you’ve never played before, like Germany?

EA: We’ve played Germany quite a lot.  We’re playing more France now.

QRO: Are you playing in St. Petersburg?

EA: Yeah, next… 15th.  That’s why we’re running around, freaking out, trying to get passport photos.  We’ve played Moscow before, with Maxïmo Park, and I’ve been to Russia before.  St. Petersburg’s supposed to be amazing.  We fly back from America; we go to Turin, fly from Turin to Moscow to St. Petersburg, and then we fly from St. Petersburg to Rome the next day.

QRO: Weren’t you guys just in Barcelona?  Do you guys get all jetlagged?

EA: I live on untraditional time; I go to bed really late, and wake up late.  I’m like a normal person here.  It’s brilliant; it balances out.

QRO: How’s it been, now that It’s A Bit Complicated has come out?

EA: It’s good.  I was really proud of it.

QRO: Was the recording process different for It’s A Bit Complicated than for Bang Bang Rock and Roll?

EA: We had jobs when we were doing Bang Bang Rock and Roll.  Different producer.  Those songs we’d been playing live; we wrote these songs in the studio pretty much.  Massively different.  I gotta say, I love this one.

QRO: How do you avoid the sort of 'sophomore jinx' with the second album?

EA: Don’t worry about it.  We’re a bit different now; I think our songs are a bit different, poppy-er.  Our sound has changed a little bit.  So I don’t worry about it.  I like it; I’m very proud of it.

QRO: Did you do anything particular like, "Okay, we did this before on Bang Bang, let’s not do it this way"?

EA: I wanted to talk more about relationships and stuff, more human.  There’s lots of things on the first album about Italian terrorism.  This is what we’re into at the moment.

We could have remade Bang Bang Rock and Roll, like moved to Berlin or something, but it would be cheating – that’s not what we’re like anymore; we play different things.  We’d be lying to make the same album again.

QRO: Now that your life is different, can you still find material in your life?

EA: Yeah.  It’ll be years before I run out.

QRO: Do you get any blowback from people you mention, like Emily Kane, or your little brother?

EA: Emily Kane got in touch – she’s got a boyfriend, they’re engaged.  She’s scared of everything.  He’s nice, so yeah, that’s kind of weird.

QRO: What about your little brother?

EA: He thinks that song is patronizing.

QRO: How old is he?

EA: He was 22 then, so he’s 24 now.

QRO: Calling your 22-year-old brother, ‘little brother’…

EA: And ‘he just discovered rock ‘n’ roll’.  “That’s patronizing, I’m not…”

I should have called it “My Little Brother Just Discovered Drugs”.  But my mom would have killed him though, so I couldn’t do that.

QRO: So you could just listen to the whole thing, and just replace “rock ‘n’ roll”–

EA: With “drugs”, yeah.  Basically what it’s about.

QRO: Have you gotten any blowback from the modern art community, considering your name and your advocating of ‘rocking out’ in their galleries?

EA: I love it; it’s a nice space in an art gallery.  I was thrown out of the Tate, you know.  We played the Tate as well, years ago.  My two favorite bands when I was growing up, David Devant and His Spirit Wife and Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine, we played with them in the Tate.  It was just after “Formed a Band” came out, years ago.  It was loads of fun, covering “Modern Art” in the Tate.

People gave me loads of shit, “You can’t be in an art gallery and be ‘Art Brut’!  You’re cheating; you’re cheating, when you say you want to be ‘outsider art!’  You can’t take them too seriously.

QRO: How did you get John Moore from Jesus and Mary Chain to play the bowed saw?

EA: Just a friend.  I just started a band with him, we’re called, ‘At Last, The English Traveling Wilburys’.  Me, him, a man called Frank Cyclon, this terribly scary character with a big cardboard head, David Devant, Luke Haines from the Auteurs, hopefully Lawrence Folk – a lot of very old English bands.  We’re just going to cover Traveling Wilburys songs.  I’m going to be George Harrison, Frank Cyclon’s Del Shannon.

QRO: You’re from Bournemouth?

EA: Me & Ian.  Jasper moved there – I met him when he moved there.  We all live in London now.

QRO: How was it like, living there, in a tourist destination known as ‘God’s Waiting Room’, [for all its elderly residents]?

EA: It’s not like that anymore.  It’s like horrible dance parties.  Nobody lives there; it’s all students and old people.

QRO: There was a recent survey cited it as ‘the happiest town in the U.K.’

EA: Really?  That’s just ‘cause everyone’s on E.  It’s a horrible place.

I said a thing – I think it’s in Rolling Stone over here – “I hope it sinks into the sea.”  Somehow, the local paper found out about it, waged a vendetta against me.  “Art Brut is terrible, they don’t sell tickets here…”  I hate it there; I moved away as soon as I possibly could.

QRO: But you haven’t moved to L.A. yet…

EA: Soon, soon.  Next couple of years…

QRO: Are there any songs you particularly like playing live?

EA: I love playing them all live, I really do.  I really like “Post Soothing Out” right now.  I like playing “Moving to L.A.” a lot, “Bad Weekend” – the songs that change.

QRO: Do you have any new, postComplicated material?

EA: Not yet, but we will pretty soon.

QRO: How much do you think out the mid-song rants beforehand?

EA: Bits and pieces.  It changes pretty much, all the time.  I’ve got ‘back-up’, in case I get stuck.

QRO: Are you yet Top of the Pops?

EA: We haven’t played it yet.  It’s gone now.

QRO: You released a split 7” with We Are Scientists (QRO album review), where you covered their “The Great Escape”, and they covered your “Bang Bang Rock and Roll”.  How did that all come about?

EA: My ex-girlfriend was touring with them and The Kaiser Chiefs in Europe.  I played with Keith Murray, he said, “Oh, I love Art Brut”, and I was, “Oh, I love We Are Scientists”.  We were bit shy with each other, but we became really good friends.  We talk with them a lot.  I like to cover them; they like to cover us.

QRO: How many franchises do you have?  How far & wide are they?  Where did the idea for that come from?

EA: We’ve registered about forty or fifty, but I think there’s more than that.  ‘Cause I often meet kids, and they go, “Oh, hey Eddie, I’m Art Brut 100” – they all think they’re Art Brut 100.  “Oh no, you’re not, they live in Reading.  I’ve met them.”

QRO: Where did the idea of that come from?

EA: I love the name ‘Art Brut’, felt guilty that we’d taken it, thought we should share it.  Put it on the Internet, and the next thing, that was it, took off like mad.  I love them, they’re like my children, but they’re out of the house.  No responsibility for them – they’re trouble, those kids.

QRO: You never get blowback from a bad cover?


Someone wrote “I Hate The NME”, and people thought that was us.  I don’t hate the NME; it’s a magazine.

QRO: Do you all dress the same for outdoor festival as you do for indoor concerts?

EA: Yeah, pretty much.  I like to wear my safari jacket, even in the heat.  I’m ‘Glam-Casual’ – not a lot of make-up, but painted fingernails.  I’m pretty sure I invented it.

QRO: Are there any places you particularly liked playing?

EA: I loved Chicago, Berlin…  And New York, obviously.

It changes all the time.  Last time we did a good show, I’m like, “Oh, I love it there.”

QRO: I don’t know if you can answer this, but are there any places you particularly didn’t like playing?

EA: Umm…  I love playing.  Maybe I shouldn’t answer this, ‘cause then some Italians will read it…

QRO: How do you know what songs are going to be singles?

EA: I don’t know.  Mike tells me.

QRO: Do you have any great tour stories?


We played with Oasis, and Liam Gallagher was dancing on the side of the stage to “Modern Art”.  He was like, “‘Modern Art’ is my favorite.”  He’s very nice.  I had drinks with him.

QRO: Really?

EA: I think he doesn’t want people to know he’s very nice.  Uh-oh…

QRO: How do you know when the album is finished?

EA: I don’t think any of ‘em are finished.  It’s changed already.  Our songs are already changing.

QRO: Are you sick of playing “Formed A Band” as the opener?

EA: We don’t do it anymore.

QRO: You don’t play that song anymore – at all?

EA: Maybe a little bit.  But the song’s a lie really.  We formed a band five years ago.

[editor's note: In the middle of “Good Weekend”, Art Brut’s last song of their set at Highline Ballroom, Art Brut transitioned into and out of “Formed A Band”]

QRO: How did you all meet?

EA: Jasper and I were mates.  We used to be in a metal band.  I met Chris [Chinchilla], the old guitarist, and lied to him, “I can sing like Aretha Franklin, be in a band with me”, and he was like, “Yeah, alright.”  He taught Freddy [Feedback] the bass so she could be in the band.  And then I needed a friend as well, so I got Ian.  We found Mike on a bus; he talked about how he played drums.  He worked at a record store called Merc on Carnaby Street, we went down there, and left a note, saying, “There’s a German fellow who plays the drums.  If you work here, come and join our band” and left our number.

And then Chris left.  He didn’t like being in the band.  I don’t know, I think he didn’t like our songs, I don’t know.  He lives in New Zealand now; I hardly ever see him.

QRO: Have you ever played a show in New Zealand?

EA: We’re playing there in December, for the first time.  We’ll see him there, I’m sure.

QRO: How was the Wrangler thing in Barcelona?

EA: Loads of fun.  It was meant to be outside, for the kids, for free, but then they moved it in at the last minute.  The mayor made them move it inside the fashion compound, so we played to like bloody fashion people.  It should have been pretty shit, but ‘cause we didn’t really care about that, we got really drunk that day.  “Go outside and spread the word to the kids!”  Made up loads of new tricks, had loads of fun, playing for the fashionistas.

QRO: How do relate to European fans who don’t speak English?  Or do they all speak English?

EA: I think our lyrics are quite simple.  They can go and work it out.  I’m sure I could learn how to say “My little brother just discovered rock ‘n’ roll” in French, “Mon petite fair…”

An Italian band did cover “My Little Brother” – a proper, famous, Italian band, as a single.  I’ve heard it in Italian.

QRO: In Italian?

EA: Yeah.  They’re like a proper Italian band, quite well known.

QRO: What band?

EA: I can’t remember what they’re called.  But they’re a famous Italian band.

QRO: Are you looking forward to the festivals?

Mikey B: Yeah, good.

Jasper Future: We saw pictures of Red Rocks.

QRO: How’s all the travel?

MB: It’s a nightmare, because we lose all our instruments.  Three days ago, I lost like half my drum kit between Barcelona and London, so I had to go on with a new drum kit.

JF: Some of the drum pieces did appear, briefly, in California.

If the flight was between Barcelona and London, how did it get to California?

MB: “Where’s our stuff?”  “Oh, it’s in California.”

JF: It wasn’t even at an international airport.  It must have gone and changed

QRO: Did you guys go back to London first?

MB: Just to change planes.

QRO: There’s no direct flight from Barcelona to New York?

Ian Catskilkin: [from across the room] There is, but you don’t want to be on it.

QRO: How do you feel about playing indoor festivals vs. indoor shows like [Highline]?

JF: It’s kinda different. 

At festivals, you get a really big crowd.  It’s a way different experience.  Obviously, at our shows, people came to see us, but at festivals, you get to win people over.

QRO: Do you prefer one or the other?

JF: Not really.

MB: Yeah, it’s just different.

QRO: Do you think American festivals are different than European ones?

JF: I don’t think so.  It’s way hotter.  We played Siren and Pitchfork last year, and both were unbearably hot.  I thought I was going to pass out.  It was a nightmare.

QRO: How was it like [Jasper], joining the band, after Bang Bang?

JF: It was good.  I worked it out.  I had like two days to learn the songs.

MB: And still hasn’t, after two years…

QRO: Are you looking forward to playing Conan?

JF: We found out that the other guest is Daniel Radcliffe – ‘Harry Potter’.  So I’m gonna to make friends with him.  He once said ages ago that he liked us, so I’m going to pin him down.

[editor's note: Daniel Radcliffe on Conan about Art Brut – "I saw them at Reading two years ago, and hadn't really heard much of their stuff, and I saw them, and they were the most entertaining thing of the whole weekend”]

QRO: Is there any differences between your British fans, or American fans, or continental European fans?

MB: It’s all quite similar, really.

JF: They’re all quite drunk.

QRO: When Eddie does his long rants in the middle of songs, do you get like tired?  Especially for you [Mike], drumming on and on?

MB: No, that’s the thing.

JF: Doing the same thing, over and over again, we’d get bored.

QRO: Do you change things too?

JF: Yeah, we change things quite a lot.

QRO: How’d you end up doing Russia?

MB: We’d played Moscow once before.  Now we’re playing St. Petersburg.


We’re big in Eastern Europe.  Huge, like a metal band.

QRO: You guys just got a French label?

MB: No, it was a while ago.

JF: It’s weird; we’ve got so many labels.  We’ve got one for the U.K., French label, American…

QRO: Were they the ones who wanted you to play all the continental European festivals?

JF: We would have played in them anyway.

QRO: [Mike,] you’re from Germany originally?

MB: Yeah, yeah.

QRO: And [Jasper,] you’re from Bournemouth?

JF: Yeah, yeah.  Unfortunately…  I wouldn’t go there on holiday.

QRO: When you [Mike] were making It’s A Bit Complicated, how much did you look to the stuff they had done previously on Bang Bang Rock And Roll?

JF: I didn’t really.  We played some of the songs live anyway.

QRO: So were the songs written on tour, or in the studio?

JF: Some of them on tour.

MB: Some of them we’d had for ages.

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