In celebration of Eddie Argos‘ birthday this week, on the 25th October, here’s an interview Mary Boukouvalas did with Argos ten years ago!
Art Brut’s lead singer, Eddie Argos, gets excitable with Mary Boukouvalas
Eddie Argos decided to use the name Art Brut because it was his favourite form of art. “I went to the museum and I just loved it. It was mad. All these people making carousels out of record players, some unknown that probably died and they found it in their house. I thought we could end up like that. I thought if we at least formed a band, no one would buy it, and someone would find it for 50 p at a charity shop and say ‘What’s this?’ and it would actually be Art Brut. That was my plan really. Didn’t work out that way.
“The name is about mental outpatients, people that can’t play and stuff. The rest of the band didn’t know what it meant. I’d go out on stage every night and say “Hello, we’re Art Brut” basically saying they don’t know how to play, and that they’re from asylums and stuff without them realising.”
The name may be a reflection on Argos’s wit, but not on the band’s talent. Art Brut’s first major hit “Formed a Band” reflected on this. Argos said: “I was just excited ‘cause I’d not been in a band for years and I loved being in bands and I felt lucky that they let me in. They didn’t know that I couldn’t sing. I told Chris when I met him at a party that I could sing like Frank Sinatra. Obviously I can’t. Actually I can. I just decide not to. Formed a Band -I was grandstanding really, saying what I thought we could achieve. Trying to convince them to let me stay. That’s where it all came from.
I met Chris at a party and then I got a text from him about three months later -we had swapped phone numbers: ‘Still up for that band?’ I went ‘Yeah.’
‘Well I’ve been teaching my next door neighbour the bass.’ He taught Fredie how to play the bass just so she could be in the band.
“Then when I was in the Art Goblins, people wouldn’t put us on ‘cause we were terrible, but I had a friend called Ian in a heavy rock band called Orco. He’d always put us on to play with his band. He just moved to London so I sent him a text and said: ‘Come and join my band. You’re not going to like it; it’s not rock or anything, none of us are into heavy rock music, come and join anyway.’ And he did.
“Mike. We didn’t have a drummer for ages. My friend Nick was coming home from a party and he heard this German man on the bus shouting about how he could play the drums and works in a clothes shop, Merc, and wants to be in a band. We went down to Merc, to the clothes shop where Mike worked, and left a note saying: ‘We don’t know your name; we know you’re German and play drums. Phone this number and join our band.’ And he did. Mad. Fate.”
Coming from different walks of life, each had their different musical influences. Argos’s was Jonathan Richman. “He’s my hero. Sometimes I’m just listening to him. I’m obsessed with him. He’s my main influence, I’d say. I want to be like him. Jonathan Richman loved the same girl for years and years and years. She got married and had kids. He wrote a song and won her back with it.”
Considering the song Emily Kane, Argos’s romantic life may be parallel to Richman’s. “Emily Kane came to see us. She had a boyfriend so I thought ‘That’s fantastic.’ I’m like: ‘Definitely love her. Gonna see her, gonna be married, gonna have kids, I love her, Emily Kane. You’ll see. This song will get her back. I love her.’ And then she came to see us play and we had a drink, and she’s cool, but I don’t love her.”
Emily Kane and Good Weekend, with those fantastic lyrics: I’ve seen her naked twice, are Argos’s favourite tracks on Art Brut’s new release: Bang Bang Rock & Roll. About Good Weekend, Argos said: “You know when you meet someone at the weekend and then you got on really well with them and you see them again. The beginning of a relationship, it’s so exciting. Nothing’s gone wrong as yet, she hasn’t cheated on you, it’s all so exciting. I’m just excited really. I’m quite an excitable person. Bad though, ‘cause I had written that song and my girlfriend at the time thought it was about meeting her, which it was a bit really, but she found an old notebook where I had some of the words: brand new girlfriend but it was song called Dirty Song to Mary. All the other words were the same.”
While I’m still fixated on the original title of Good Weekend, Argos talks about the song Bang Bang Rock & Roll and how he hates indie-snobbery and actually likes Velvet Underground but hates how bands, such as The Strokes and others, use it as a “get-out-of-jail-free card” to make it big. Openness is Argos’ integrity, as he talks about his fight with Kele from the Bloc Party. “I was drunk and I was speaking to someone I forgot was a journalist. I tried to apologise. Kele started telling me off. After about 5 minutes of him lecturing me, I said: ‘Look Kele I’m sorry I said it to a journalist but I’m not sorry I said it, it’s true, you are a bit moany, leave me alone.’ And then he punched me. But I didn’t punch him or anything. I don’t like fighting. Bloc Party: they’re not too bad. There are other bands I’d rather lay into. I shouldn’t do it anyway. I’ve just got a big mouth. I’m just not used to people writing down what I say. I get all chatty and then end up saying stupid things that get written down.”
Argos hasn’t had to get used to too many changes. “I used to be a social worker, people must have read about it and I get people emailing me – people who had brand new girlfriends: ‘I loved your song, Brand New Girlfriend six months ago when I had a brand new girlfriend, she left me and taken the children and the house’ and I’m like: ‘hahahaha.’ I don’t know what to do –I’ve done a counselling course luckily. I don’t mind really. It’s hard sometimes. We were playing a gig in London and I went outside and there was this girl crying cause she hadn’t got to see us and I said: ‘Don’t worry bout it, we were shit.’ And she’s like: ‘No, and my dad hits me and …’ Arrrrrrhhhh! I’m like fuck, what do I do?”
Argos is happy for me to email him with any problems I may have. Maybe I’ll tell him personally. The rumour is that Art Brut will be playing at a festival in Australia, in the first week of December. In the meantime, Art Brut Bang Bang Rock & Roll is out now on Shock Records.
ART BRUT split with their guitarist. Chris Chinchilla has decided to leave, citing personal issues. [Rumour has it he’s now living in Melbourne]. The group have issued a statement to NME.COM describing the split as “amicable.” Chinchilla – who has been with the group for two years – will be replaced with Jasper Future.
First published in BEAT magazine, 2005.