Interview with Eddie Argos of Art Brut

Art Brut have returned with a new album that’s both witty and bold. ‘Brilliant! Tragic!’ exemplifies the band’s practice of mixing smart, incisive societal critiques with punchy delivery and off-kilter humor. Tracks such as “Clever Clever Jazz,” “Sexy Sometimes,” and “Axel Rose” showcase the stylistic variety that the new effort offers. Quick and to the point, ‘Brilliant! Tragic!’ rewards repeated listens.

Vocalist Eddie Argos was kind enough to speak with Rock Edition on the phone while relaxing at his home in Berlin. Head below to see what he had to say about the new record, Black Francis, and Indie Disco.

Your new record is coming out soon. How does it feel to finally get it out there?

It’s nice. We’re four [albums] in now, like a real band. [laughs]

[laughs] This will be Art Brut’s second album produced by Pixies frontman Black Francis. Was it easy to go into the studio with him again and whip another release out?

It was a bit like that. We also knew each other better this time. Last time, he was sort of conducting us, whereas this time I think we were braver with each other. I didn’t mind him taking out some parts a little bit. He didn’t mind saying “change this” and I didn’t mind saying “no.” [laughs] It was more placid this time.

Were a lot of the songs written before you headed into the studio?

We had most of the songs finished, but that didn’t stop [Black Francis] from fiddling around with stuff. I don’t think he likes the idea of us editing ourselves; he wants to do it. We played different versions of the songs and we went through a lot of parts. He would point out different things, then we would have a discussion about it, and he would get his way. [laughs] It worked out well in the end.

You’ve stated multiple times that this is the first album where you actually sing.

Well, maybe attempt to sing it should say. [laughs] One day, Black Francis said, “Everybody go home except for Eddie.” He locked me in a room with him and taught me to sing. I’d given him my lyrics and he would say, “Try it like this.” I would sort of imitate him. It was quite a nice way to learn to sing really.

Were you hesitant at all or were you completely up for the task?

I was into the idea, I was just more aware of my limitations than he was. I was a little worried that I couldn’t do it. It was nice to find out that I could use my voice as an instrument, I suppose. It worked out for the best.

You guys started up a campaign on Pledge Music not too long ago to try and raise some money for touring. What kind of stuff are you offering supporters?

You get the things you buy. People have often asked us to play their house party or come and do some funny thing. There’s never really been a way of working those out. With Pledge Music, we can help enable that. We’ll play a party in their house or me acoustically in their bathroom. It’s a fun thing to set up.

You have some great lyrics in your new song “Bad Comedian.” Can you tell us what that track is about?

It’s about every one of my ex-girlfriends’ new boyfriends. [laughs] You know, you see your ex-girlfriend with a boyfriend and even if you did the breaking up it sort of makes you angry, especially if the boyfriend is an idiot and not funny. It’s like, “Oh, you like that prick as well?” That’s terrible. I’ve seen some bad comedians. I kind of hate those guys.

“I Am the Psychic” is quite crazy. What’s that one about?

When I started writing it, the lyrics were a little bit different. Frank Black kept saying, “Eddie, you are the psychic. You’re powerful, man.” He’s like telling me how powerful I was. So, it’s about being powerful really. It’s just about being psychic and how I know what everybody’s thinking.

The band has a residency coming up at London’s The Lexington, as well as a short North American run. Have you had a chance to try out the new material live yet?

Well, we did an album launch not too long ago in London. We did it through Pledge actually. We played the whole album in its entirety for the first time. Then we did a greatest hits set after. It was kind of scary because normally when you play new songs live, you don’t play them all at once. You’re thinking, “What if it goes wrong?” It went really well actually. Overcoming that [feeling] by playing everything in one go was kind of nice. I’m totally ready to go on tour and play them all.

Lastly, I hear that you’re quite the Indie Disco expert. Is that true?

Yeah, I think I am. In Berlin, I’ve started DJing an Indie Disco night now and again. It’s fun, you know? When you’re on tour, every night you end up going to the disco, especially if it’s Thursday. If it’s a Thursday, then it’s like, “Let’s go to Panic” or “Let’s go to London Calling.” So, yeah, I’ve been to so many now. I’ve been in a touring band for five or six years now, and I’ve been to a million Indie Discos. Even though I was drunk at them, I figure I’m an expert at Indie Disco.

Pick up Art Brut’s new record Brilliant! Tragic!

For the band’s upcoming tour dates, check out their official website.