Eddie Argos of Art Brut [Interview]

I arrive at the Independent’s box office window a little after 6pm. I hear the melding sounds of drums, bass and guitars booming from outside. I tell the man behind the box office window that I’m there to interview Eddie Argos of Art Brut, and ask if that is who I can hear doing soundcheck. He tells me it is so, and to walk right in. At some point after entering, they play “Bad Comedian,” one of my favorite tracks off the current album, Brilliant! Tragic!.

At another point, I make an awkward attempt to introduce myself in between  songs at the front of the stage. After soundcheck, Argos spots me and walks over.

“Sorry about earlier,” alluding to said awkward introduction. “It was a bit loud. I couldn’t hear you.”

A comic book maven whose heart belongs more to DC Comics’s characters than Marvel’s, Argos’s song lyrics are inspired largely by stories from his own life. A comic book fan myself, I was just as excited to talk comics as I was excited to talk about music with him. In fact, Jamie McKelvie, who did the album art for Art Brut’s Brilliant! Tragic!, is one of my favorite comic book artists. After leading me behind the stage and into the green room, Argos and I sit down on a comfy couch, and that’s where we start.

Brilliant! Tragic! front cover artwork by Jamie McKelvie.

How’d  you get Jamie McKelvie to do the artwork for Brilliant! Tragic!?

I review comics for a website (http://www.playbackstl.com/) in St. Louis. I liked Phonogram, and was a bit vocal about it. He (Jamie) was drinking at a pub near my house, and since we’re friends on Twitter, he asked “Do you want to come meet me for a drink?”

I was a bit nervous because he quite cool, you know? I was a bit shy, but he’s so easy to get along with, and we became friends. I really love his artwork, but again, I was a bit shy about asking him.

“Should I ask him?”

But he immediately e-mailed back saying “I’d love to do it.” And we’ve since become good friends.

Brilliant! Tragic! back cover artwork by Jamie McKelvie.

What about for the Art Brut comic book. How did you get Bryan Lee O’Malley (creator of Scott Pilgrim), Hope Larson and Jeff Lemire?

I reviewed Scott Pilgrim, and said it was amazing. He (Bryan) mentioned Art Brut in Scott Pilgrim 3 (Scott Pilgrim & the Infinite Sadness) in the back of the book, and was listening to “Fight” while he was doing it. I love Mercury by Hope Larson, too. We sort of became friends on the Internet (through Twitter), but again, I was too shy to do it (to ask) because I really admire every comic book artist in the book.

I thought it’d be easier to say “No” to them than was for them to me. I didn’t want them to do it out of charity, like “Oh we can’t say no to Eddie.” So I asked their art managers, and they all said “Yes.” I really thought only one or two of them would say “Yes.” They are all pretty busy, so I was kind of flattered that everybody said “Yes.”

Panel excerpt from "I Am the Psychic" in the Brilliant! Tragic! Art Brut comic book. Artwork by Jamie McKelvie.

Towards the end of the interview, Argos mentions that O’Malley and Larson were coming to the Los Angeles show the following night, and that he was particularly excited because he had not yet met the two in person.

You guys have a very distinct style and sound, and most all of the songs tell a narrative. How would you describe it all?

They’re all kind of true stories, but the first album is less true stories. I wrote “Emily Kane” about my ex-girlfriend, and I wrote about some lad being impotent (“Rusted Guns”). It was enjoyable being that honest. It didn’t make much point in writing something if it weren’t true in some way. It’s all true stories about me, although that sounds pretty vain writing about myself, but you make friends out of it. It’s how people know me.

Argos talks of how some fans would approach him, asking how his brother is doing, talking to him about a recent comic book from DC Comics, or giving him Replacements bootlegs.

Later in the evening, while Art Brut was performing “My Little Brother,” Argos told the crowd he wrote the song when his brother was 22 years old, and that now his brother is 29 and a teacher.

“He’s not the son my parents worry about,” Argos joked, which incited a roar of laughter from the crowd.

“Bad Comedian” is one of my favorite songs off the current album, and it’s the song you guys were playing during soundcheck when I first came in. Is that song based off of anything?

Every girlfriend I’ve ever been with then has a new boyfriend after me. When I look at them, I think “Why do you laugh at his jokes for? He’s rubbish!” It started out writing about comedians, and it all changed as I was writing it, and became something else.

What about your whole writing process in general?

We write separately. I can’t play an instrument or anything, so I’m always kind of writing lyrics in a book, and we rehearse, and I try to make them fit.

Art Brut's Jasper Future and Eddie Argos on stage at the Independent. Photo by Joey Pangilinan.

Frank Black was your producer on your last two albums. What was that like, working with Frank Black?

It was awesome. Again, the power of the Internet. We saw somewhere on Canadian television that he liked our song on our second album “Jealous Guy.” So we asked him to produce our next album, and he said “Yes,” and we thought, “Wow, that was easy!”

Do you see yourselves working with him again?

I think so. We really love working with him, but we’ll see what happens. He’s like a friend now. Working on the first album he produced was kinda intimidating, but this time around we were mates. It was just like we were hanging out, and it was loads of fun.

Back to comics. What are you reading currently?

I love Jeff Lemire’s Sweet Tooth. On the SyFy channel back in the UK, I got sucked back into Buffy the Vampire Slayer, so I’ve been reading Angel Season 6 and Buffy Season 8 comics. It’s a long flight over, y’know, so I bought all of those just to read on the way over.

Argos then alluded to some titles that are part of the major DC Comics reboot.

I wasn’t really happy with the last issue of Booster Gold, but looking forward to reading Justice League International and Jeff Lemire writing Animal Man should be cool.

Kieron Gillen and McKelvie got me into Marvel Comics, and Grant Morrison’s X-Men. I didn’t really understand the X-Men growing up, but I read that and thought that is amazing! I like for my clad people to punch out criminals, but the X-Men don’t do that, do they? They sit around and worry about themselves.

He says this jokingly and with a smile.

But I understand that now. I’m in, and I love them.

I don’t love Superman, but Morrison’s All-Star Superman is one of my favorite comics, and Superman: Red Son I liked, which is mad, because Mark Millar is a terrible writer. But Red Son is really good.

Who would win in a fight between Batman and Superman?

I prefer Batman. I think really Superman would probably win, but I’d like Batman to win because I prefer him. He’s more bad-ass.

You guys played Coachella in 2006. What was that like?

We got in a bit of trouble actually, because we over-ran our set time. Luckily, we over-ran the same time Tool did. A band called Dungeon played before us, and they over-ran. So we only had been given twenty minutes, so we over-ran on purpose. They (the promoters) were yelling at us, screaming “turn it off!- da-da-da-da” from the side of the stage. We thought we were gonna get fined like $20,000 a minute or something. Luckily, Tool paid it because Tool also over-ran, and they were like really loud, so we just kind of hid in their sound. I’d love to go again. It’s weird, because it’s so hot you can’t get drunk there. It’s like the soberest festival I’ve ever seen.

Art Brut's Jasper Future, Eddie Argos and Ian Catskilkin. Photo by Joey Pangilinan.

Do you have any surprises for tonight?

I think we might surprise ourselves. We’re still a little bit jet-lagged, so there might be some unfortunate surprises.

Argos then lets out a hearty laugh. Of course, the band sounded pretty great during their performance that night.

RELATED LINKS

Art Brut Official Website

The Eddie Argos Resource Blog

Art Brut Official Facebook

Eddie Argos Official Twitter

What do you think of Art Brut? Who would you root for in a fight between Batman and Superman? Follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook for updates on what we’re covering. You can stay on top of exciting events from around the world by downloading the eventseekr app for Android or iPhone.

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About Joey Pangilinan
I like comics. I read comics. I like movies. I watch movies. I like music. I listen to music. I like to write. I like to write about all this stuff I just mentioned as well as other stuff, too. It's a sick and vicious cycle, but I wouldn't have it any other way.

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