Art Brut’s Eddie Argos: “Seeing Yard Act was like looking at some weird Ghost Of Christmas Future”

Art Brut’s Eddie Argos has spoken to NME about his band’s new compilation and box set, the spats and breakthroughs of the indie sleaze years, his recent near-death experience and how Yard Act are his Ghost Of Christmas Future.

READ MORE: Does Rock ‘N’ Roll Kill Braincells?! – Art Brut’s Eddie Argos

Last month saw the indie veterans announce the compilation album ‘A Record Collection, Reduced To A Mixtape’ and the five-CD box set ‘Yes, This Is My Singing Voice!’.

“A nice landmark,” Argos told NME of the releases. “It’s 20 years of Art Brut. I feel that our music makes a bit of sense at the moment. Shouty talky indie in music is fashionable again, right?”

The double LP compilation gathers together key tracks from the band’s initial run of four albums from 2005’s debut ‘Bang Bang Rock & Roll’ to 2011’s ‘Brilliant! Tragic!’, and their 2018 fifth album ‘Wham! Bang! Pow! Let’s Rock Out!’, plus live tracks and rarities. Tracks including first single ‘Formed A Band’ and subsequent favourites including ‘Emily Kane’, ‘Nag Nag Nag’, ‘Axl Rose’ and a live version of ‘Modern Art’.

The box set, the first part of a comprehensive two-box series, focusses on their early era from 2003-8, collecting the debut album and 2007’s follow-up ‘It’s A Bit Complicated’ alongside bootlegs, B-sides, demos, alternative mixes and unreleased live recordings. The releases are due to be accompanied by a tour of the UK and Germany in September and October.

“It’s nice how excited people get that we’re going to play again,” Argos said of the band’s return. “There was a gap between the first set of records and ‘Wham! Bang! Pow! Let’s Rock Out!’. In that gap I was really ill, I nearly died. I had diverticulitis. It’s awful.

“I woke up after the operation and all the doctors were shaking my hand and hugging me. I said to my partner at the time, ‘they’re very friendly’. ‘Oh yeah, they just saved your life’.”

In that reflective spirit, Argos told NME about past feuds, advice for The Hives, and their influence on sprechgesang.

Check out our full interview below.

NME: Hello Eddie. Looking back at the ’00s for the compilation and box set, was ‘indie sleaze’ a fair tag for the scene?

Argos: “I stood next to that at the urinal, but I don’t think we were part of that really. I’m just out of that picture. I’m in the bar over the road. It was quite careerist for a lot of those people but it was exciting to be in a band. We were quite a weird one really. We were singing about forming a band or about modern art. I was obsessed with Jonathan Richman, we didn’t quite fit in.

“We weren’t straight ahead rocky enough to be like The Libertines guys and we weren’t art school enough to be with the Franz Ferdinand guys, so we were kind of in the middle trying to make friends with the Franz Ferdinand guys and running away from the Libertines guys.”

Did you consider yourself provocateurs?

“Not really. I mean, I was a bit mouthy. I got into fights with quite a few bands. ‘Formed A Band’ was our first single and it was only meant to be a demo and then Rough Trade heard it. So we were quite new when people started asking me questions about things. When I read the NME and I was talking about it, not being in it, I was the same – ‘Well this is shit, what’s the problem with that?’ I was grumpy about everything. So of course when I got asked questions about bands I was just honest.

“I didn’t have a laptop at the time – that thing with Kele [Okereke, Bloc Party singer who punched Argos in retaliation for his comments on the band], I didn’t really understand that when something’s on the internet everyone could read it and come for you. So I said this thing about Bloc Party and got in trouble for that. I learned pretty fast. I wrote a thing about it called ‘I’m Sorry For Being A Prick’ or something. Maybe it’s nicer to have friends that are in bands even if you’re completely different from each other. That’s just being an old man though.”

Did Emily Kane ever get in touch about the song you dedicated to her?

“Yeah. We still had friends in common, me and Emily, and when the single was coming out our manager was like, ‘You should get in touch with her before it’s all over the radio’. Very optimistic of him. So I got her number from a friend and she texted me ‘

She was already married. It’s magic though. That’s before the internet. I don’t see her very often, but she’s back in my life in a way. It’s the power of rock’n’roll. We’d start playing it live and people would say to me, ‘My Emily Kane is Sarah So-And-So’. That’s why I write so autobiographically now, I think, because it’s such a lovely feeling to have people come up to you and be like, ‘Oh, let me tell you about this’. They think they know you. That’s very addictive.”

How about Axl Rose?

“He did not get in touch. It’s funny that my two heroes when I was younger were Morrissey and Axl Rose, and that one is very left wing now and one is very right wing and it’s not the way you would think it would be. I had to stop liking one of them and it’s not the one you think.”

Are you still pining for a Top Of The Pops revival?

“Yeah, of course. I miss watching it. Top Of The Pops was kind of like Match Of The Day, especially in the ‘90s. When one of your teams is in the Top 10, like Pulp are Number Two…If you had Top Of The Pops now and Yard Act were on Top Of The Pops, you’d be like, ‘Yeah, one of my guys got through’. I miss it. Somebody snuck me in, I think it was The Mystery Jets. They played a Christmas version of Top Of The Pops and in their snow globe they had a picture of me. I got in it that way.”

What are your thoughts on Yard Act?

“I saw them play last week. They’d definitely seen [Talking Heads’ live film] Stop Making Sense since last time I saw them. It was like looking at some weird Ghost of Christmas Future or something. They’re the closest to us, I think.”

Have you inspired the current trend for sprechgesang?

“It’s been around for a while. I thought I was singing when I did it. I didn’t know I wasn’t singing until I read a review. It’s nice being 20 years ahead of our time.”

What are your memories of storming America?

“That was the real surprise. It was weird because depending where we were in the world, people had a different idea of us. In America we were like hipsters, in England we were a middling indie band, bit weird, in German we were intellectuals. In America we were on Conan O’Brien and we filmed an advert for T-Mobile that they showed during the Grammys. IDLES go on Conan O’Brien now and there’s a YouTube video the next day. That didn’t exist when we were doing it, so people didn’t really know.

“I’d come back from being in America for two months and go, ‘I did all this stuff’ and sound like a crazy person, like I’ve been in the shed at the end of my garden making stuff up. Daniel Radcliffe was the guest on [Conan] and he was a big Art Brut fan. He said ‘I saw you at Reading, I was in disguise’. I’d like to be his friend but obviously I can’t be because he’s very famous.”

How big did it get out there?

“We played 13 times in Chicago in one year. We were like a local band in Chicago at one point. I’d like go to the shops and people would be like, ‘Hey, Eddie!’. It’s mad when I think that we were Pitchfork’s third best album of the year for 2005. There’s Kanye West and Sufjan Stevens and then there’s us. I didn’t even know what Pitchfork was. Everyone was very excited about it around me, and I was like, ‘Cool, so it’s like Drowned In Sound or something?’ I didn’t quite get it until we started going to America and seeing the effect that it was having.”

You’ve franchised your band before – have you got any tips for The Hives, who’ve recently launched their own franchise drive?

“Gong did it before us, but The Hives are very keen on theirs being tribute acts, whereas we encouraged ours to write their own songs. I just thought we had a very good name. There’s not many good names left and Art Brut is a pretty good one. I wanted to share the name and the way we are as opposed to our songs. Maybe The Hives could loosen the leash a little bit. Let their franchises write their own songs.”

There are concerns they’re trying to become a superpower.

“Like he [Hives singer Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist] is starting an army? He’s very charismatic.”

What does the Art Brut for now? 

“I like that we haven’t really changed. I like that we work within the constraints of a certain thing. It has to be autobiographical, it has to be these instruments. I don’t know if we stand for anything different – maybe I’m staying in some prolonged adolescence or something. And we’re not gonna ever go away. We’re here forever.”

‘A Record Collection, Reduced To A Mixtape’ and  ‘Yes, This Is My Singing Voice!’ arrive on July 4 via Demon Records and Edsel. Art Brut’s 2024 live dates are below. Tickets are on sale now and available here.

SEPTEMBER
5 – Edinburgh – Voodoo 
6 – Newcastle – The Grove 
25 – Mainz – Schon Schön 
26 – Schorndorf – Manufaktur 
27 – Berlin – Lido 
28 – Hamburg – Molotow 
29 – Dresden – Beatpol 
30 – Köln – Gebäude 9  

OCTOBER
25 – Birmingham – C&F
26 – London – Brixton Electric
27 –Brighton – Concorde 2 
28 – Margate – Where Else  

The post Art Brut’s Eddie Argos: “Seeing Yard Act was like looking at some weird Ghost Of Christmas Future” appeared first on NME.

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