Raw, confessional, witty and most elegantly tuneful for a mess of one-take dementia helmed by none other than Black Francis, Art Brut’s Art Brut vs. Satan sports frontman (and adopted quasi-Angeleno) Eddie Argos’ leanest and canniest songwriting yet. In ‘Alcoholics Unanimous’ and ‘Mysterious Bruises,’ Argos guys his fondness for drink in terms that make Warren Zevon sound like a Methodist. The dirty little secret behind ‘The Replacements’ awaits a less sympathetic journo. This interview by Ron Garmon.
Why are you hatin’ on Satan?
Eddie Argos (vocals): Nevermind Satan. I was just usin’ ‘im as a conceit. So many bands you’d have to say are love ‘em or hate ‘em type bands. I decided that if you hate Art Brut, then we hate you. And Satan’s gonna get you. Probably. I ‘ave to admit that I come up with the name first, then worked backwards. Then I ‘ad to justify that. Yeah.
The first reverse-engineered concept album in rock history?
When was the last time you visited L.A.?
I kind of half-live there now. My girlfriend—Dyan Valdes in that band, the Blood Arm—lives in Echo Park. I’m over there just enough not to live there, if anyone from the government wants to read this. Every time I come here, they ask, ‘When was the last time you were here?’ ‘Um, three weeks ago.’ ‘How long were you here for?’ ‘Oh, about a month.’ I mean, every time I come back, I get a bit scared they’ll throw me out!
I’ve been reading your blog about your various druggy adventures and do a bit of that type of writing myself. Your tussle with pot brownies sounded horrific—wandering through Bournemouth all night thinking you’re a giant floating head.
I was like sixteen when I did that! I really wanted to try pot, but didn’t like smoking when I was younger. So my friend got me some brownies—it was like an eighth. Quite a lot of pot. I was an idiot eating all that resin!
I forgot I talked about that! I know my mum read my blog and she never once mentioned anything about it.
Critics are saying you guys have matured on this new album. Just how dangerous is praise of this kind?
We’ve matured? I wear shoes on stage now. That’s a maturation of sorts.
I think it means that when you start with the pedicures, you’ve sold out.
Is that it? Well, I’ve just gotten better at writing songs rather than maturing. I’ve been working rather hard at it.
Which DC comics inspired the song about DC comics?
My favorite DC superhero is Booster Gold. Do you know him? No one does. His tagline is ‘the Greatest Superhero No One’s Ever Heard Of.’ It’s completely true! No one else buys this comic! He was created back in the 1980s, but drifted a bit and has his own series now. His job is to go through the DC timeline fixing mistakes in the continuity. It’s brilliant!
I really like ‘The Passenger.’ Iggy reference aside, few Americans understand the love affair for public transportation, so I imagine the meaning of this one might get lost.
I kinda wrote that song in L.A.! My girlfriend works in Pasadena, so I get the 704 to Union Station to the train to see her. I love buses and trains. Everyone tells me you need to drive in L.A. I don’t have a car but I get around. People are always astounded I can get anywhere. I love the 704—it cruises right along Sunset. I’ve gotten to be part of a community. I know all the old people and stuff.
‘Am I Normal’ is the most honest dating song I’ve heard in a while.
It’s based on a few different girls as I was growing up. I’m very nervous around girls and I see all these brave, confident men and I couldn’t work out who was normal! Since I wrote the song, people have been telling me that I’m the normal one. I may just change the name of the song to ‘Normal.’
Or ‘I Am Normal And I Want My Freedom.’
Or even ‘I Am Normal.’
Prefix did an interesting review of Art Brut vs. Satan hailing the beginnings of your nascent social conscience.
I missed that. One of the jobs I had before this was in social work, so I’m very aware of that kind of thing, but it’s good to have it, um, noted.
Tell us about working with Black Francis. Was it ‘slapdash for no cash’?
He was incredible and it was! It was brilliant really. All our songs are true. I find that when the songs are sung again and again, they lose their sincerity. The one guy who is perfect for that is Black Francis. His first album, he did in one take, so we kind of did the same thing. Most of the songs on the album were done at one go. At the end of ‘Am I Normal,’ when I yell I’ve lost my ability to speak, well, there were loads more lyrics after that, but I had genuinely lost the ability to speak. He said, ‘That’s it. We’re kicking out.’ I wanted to say the rest of it, but he was right. It’s genuine.
That’s OK. The fewer the takes, the choicer the goodies in the box set. How did you discover the Replacements anyway?
It’s really embarrassing. You’ve gotta promise not to reveal this…
You’re right. That is pretty bad.
The Replacements are so much the kind of band I wanna listen to that people just presumed I knew all about them! If only someone had told me. My friends Becky and Dave later gave me all their albums and I’ve been listening since. They’re the perfect band, the Replacements. I’m sad for all the wasted years I spent not listening to them. Fucking embarrassing, innit?
ART BRUT FROM TUE., JUNE 16 TO THUR., JUNE 18, AT SPACELAND, 1717 SILVERLAKE BLVD., SILVERLAKE. 8:30 PM / $13-$15 / 21+. CLUBSPACELAND.COM FOR COMPLETE LINE-UP AND MORE INFORMATION. AND WITH THE BLOOD ARM ON FRI., JUNE 19, AT THE ECHO, 1822 SUNSET BLVD., ECHO PARK. 9 PM / $13-$15 / 18+. ATTHEECHO.COM. ART BRUT’S ART BRUT VS. SATAN IS OUT NOW ON DOWNTOWN. VISIT ART BRUT AT ARTBRUT.ORG.UK OR MYSPACE.COM/ARTBRUT.