The most under-rated front man in fop-pop-indie speaks to Getintothis’ Steven Doherty about albums, tours and gin.
Art Brut should be massive, but instead they are everyone’s favourite cult band.
Arguably, the closest they came to mass appeal was when their third single Emily Kane, a tale of woe about a lost girlfriend of the band’s singer and lyricist Eddie Argos, it reached number 41 back in 2005, missing out on the Top 40 by just 2 (two!) sales.
This would have led to a Top Of The Pops appearance, which was the whole reason for Art Brut’s existence back then, that’s how much of a big deal Top Of The Pops was to them. Alas, it wasn’t to be.
However, this has not diminished their majesty one little bit since then.
Five studio albums in, their material is of such a high level of quality control that’s there’s scarcely a duff track on any of them. There have also been other highlights, such as an NME cover featuring a nude Argos, countless memorable festival appearances and tours galore.
Away from Art Brut, Argos has written a memoir, a book of lyrics, acted in plays, written and performed on one of the great lost albums of the modern era, Fixin’ The Charts, Volume 1 by Everybody Was In The French Resistance …Now!, a duo consisting of Argos and his former partner, in which the album consists of ‘replies’ to well-known songs. Sadly there was never a Volume 2). Argos has also been involved in countless other projects.
Last seen in these parts at a riotous performance at Mojo back in 2011, apart from a 2013 Best Of, Art Brut have been missing, presumed dead, since then.
However, it emerged last year that rather than just slacking, the reason for their maintained absence was the serious illnesses Argos incurred, which kept him hospitalised for a month and the band on an unplanned hiatus. He did however get the inspiration for their new single Hospital out of the experience.
Now back to full fitness, and with a forthcoming UK tour to look forward to, including their long-awaited return to Liverpool, Argos chatted to Getintothis.
Getintothis: Hi Eddie, thanks for talking to us. Where are you and what are you doing?
Eddie Argos: “Hello! I’m at my desk taking some time out from painting.”
Getintothis: Ahh, the painting. (On his website, Eddie takes requests from people to paint them their favourite albums, he listens to said albums whilst painting them and attaches a review to the back of the finished article.) What made you decide to start painting other people’s album covers?
Eddie Argos: “I love painting and discovering new music, and the idea popped into my head one night as a perfect way to combine the two. Also I was sick of magazine lists of ‘best albums ever’ always being the same albums and was curious about what actual people – not journalists – favourite albums might be.
I did not expect it to be so popular. I’ve made more than 200 now and there is a bit of a waiting list. I thought I’d do it for a month but I’ve been making them now for 2 and a half years.
I’ve discovered some real gems. Wild Honey by The Beach Boys is one of my favourite albums now and there is no way I’d have discovered that by myself.”
Getintothis: With regards to new music, what bands are you currently into?
Eddie Argos: “At the moment, like pretty much everybody else I’m really enjoying Idles. Also, I’m loving all the new Hold Steady songs they are drip feeding us. The new Nightingales album was great, and Gurr are brilliant. Fightmilk are fantastic and we played with a band called Gaffa Tape Sandy at the Garage in London the other week and they are awesome.”
Getintothis: If they are your current loves, who are your all time favourites?
I love both these songwriters. Funny, charming, sincere and eccentric, what’s not to love? Between the two of them, they’ve written all of my favourite songs.”
Getintothis: Onto the new album then, Wham! Bang! Pow! Let’s Rock Out! Recording it with the new line-up, does it still feel like an truly ‘Art Brut’ record? Does it make a difference to the “gang mentality” of a band when they are in other bands? (Ian the guitarist is in Future Of The Left, whilst new drummer Charlie is also in The Wedding Present.)
Eddie Argos: “Well, Toby has been in Art Brut for about 5 years now so it absolutely feels like a gang mentality with him. Ian and I have known Charlie for about 20 years so he feels like part of the gang, and what we do is so very different than The Wedding Present so there is no conflict there.
Stu, who is standing in for Fred at the moment as she has just had a baby, also used to be our guitar tech and has always felt like a member of team Art Brut. What I love most about being in a band IS the gang mentality and we definitely have that.”
Getintothis: So, there feels like a big German influence on the record (with song titles such as Kultifigur and Schwarzfahrer.) I’m guessing this is due to you upping sticks to live in Berlin. What was the reasoning behind the move?
Eddie Argos: “I was living in London and it was shit and expensive and the Conservative government had just got in again so I knew it was going to get worse. I’m lucky as most of my income comes from painting so I can live anywhere. Well, anywhere affordable!
I knew the rent in Berlin was cheap and I’d always loved Germany so it seemed like the perfect fit. I love it now for lots of reasons. It is definitely now my home, I have a family and live on the outskirts. I’m also about to apply for a German passport because of Brexit.”
Getintothis: What’s your favourite Art Brut song? Do you have a least favourite? Are there any you’ll never play live again?
Eddie Argos: “I like Direct Hit but for me it’s a strange one, as it’s not about me, it’s a story about fictional characters so there isn’t the connection I have with the other songs, I love playing it live though.
I wouldn’t rule anything out, lots of our songs are true so sometimes I might not feel like playing one if, for example, it’s about an ex-girlfriend that’s not Emily Kane.
Time heals all wounds though I guess. My favourite at the moment is She Kissed Me (And It Felt Like A Hit), it has every single thing I love about writing songs in it: a talky bit, a reference to Top Of The Pops, it’s a love song, I drink gin in it…”
Getintothis: She Kissed Me (And It Felt Like A Hit), is that an answer song in the French Resistance vein?
Eddie Argos: “I didn’t even think about that until afterwards. Jim Moray (who produced our album) actually suggested the title to me. He wanted me to write a Eurovision entry with it and I saved the title in my phone. A year later I found it and thought that I’d thought of it! Spiritualized also have a song with the same name, but I guess he’s singing about another sort of hit.”
Getintothis: On the subject of your side projects, have you any plans on that front?
Eddie Argos: “I’ve not had one in a while. I am working on a little thing with someone at the moment, kind of Postcard based and hopefully I’ll find the time to start it soon.
I’d love to write another book. I’ve an idea about writing a book about trying to make a living as a cult figure, a second memoir really, it’s just finding the time. My friend Joe, who actually, I think, lives in Liverpool, has a great idea for a book for me to write too.
That is something I really need to get cracking on, something called the Argos Catalogue, obviously a reference to the shop that’s named after me.”
Getintothis: Any thoughts on a second spoken word show? (the first one was based around his first memoir Formed A Band).
Eddie Argos: “Maybe that will come out of the second book, the life of a cult figure one. That first spoken word show grew out of me wanting to tell some stories in a way that didn’t really fit into my memoir, so it may be the same for the second one.”
Getintothis: So your forthcoming tour. It’s the first time you’ve played Liverpool in over 7 years…..
Eddie Argos: “Yes, last time we played there we ended up at a weird house party, we’d gone there with the owner of the house, but it turned out she didn’t know them and everybody hated us for crashing the party and drinking everything. We didn’t know we’d done this as we thought she owned the house and the booze!”
Getintothis: Any further plans for 2019 as yet?
Eddie Argos: “Yes, we’ll be back with more singles, including a split single with another unnamed band who are friends of ours. We’ve also started writing our next album already, and we’re off on a European tour in April.”
Getintothis: Art Brut’s goal was always to get on Top Of The Pops, since it’s demise, what’s the new ambition?
Eddie Argos: “To bring it back and then appear on it.”
Getintothis: Your ambition for the new record?
Eddie Argos: “World domination.”
Getintothis: What makes Eddie Argos truly happy?
Eddie Argos: “Playing with my son, writing songs, playing shows and drinking gin. In that order, but not all at the same time.”
Getintothis: Tell us something we don’t know?
Eddie Argos: “Writing songs, playing shows and drinking gin is actually fun if you do it all at the same time.”
Getintothis: What will you do straight after this?
Eddie Argos: “I’ll be answering more questions.”
Getintothis: Do you have anything else to add?
Eddie Argos: “See you soon Liverpool, let’s rock out!!”
And then he is gone.
Art Brut play Jacaranda Records Phase One on February 19.
It will be fun. Cult figures usually are.