The guy to the right is an undercover cop (shh)
The Art Brut Interview
See if you can follow this: Art Brut, through their thoroughly unpretentious embrace of pretentiousness, are the most punk new band I’ve heard in years, punk having lost itself long ago to the pretentiousness of unpretentiousness. –Rob Mitchum, Pitchfork Media
I truly hated these guys. London reverso-punk? Sounded like a bunch of half-assed cleverness to me, from dudes who know the hype machine expertly, how to exploit, where to push, etc., but (un)secretly couldn’t play their instruments.
Four sold-out nights in the New York area later, two of which I attended, Art Brut might be my favorite new act in years, even more than the Game or Tony Yayo. Leader Eddie Argos sticks to standard fare– pop culture, relationships awry– in simple epigrammatic declarations, not unlike Jonathan Richman (whom he counts as his hero), as the band behind him plays a tangle of dewy punk and classic rock nostalgia that shorthand the experience: discovering rock & roll, missing your first girlfriend, rocking out to modern art, etc. So in a way it is a bunch of half-assed cleverness, but the playing is way strong, and Argos is hardly half-assed. Re-reading this paragraph, I guess you have to hear it yourself.
Before the Northsix show last Friday, Riff Raff got Art Brut’s Argos, drummer Mikey B, and new guitarist Jasper Future backstage (riffstage) to talk about their first time in New York and all the other stuff journos forget to ask because journos only want to talk about Argos fighting Bloc Party’s Kele Okereke. It was one punch–get over it!
Oh and you should know upfront, something earth-shattering happens later in this interview that will forever change the face of Riff Raff.
First of all I just have to say to you guys, it’s totally an honor. [Art Brut publicist] Kip [Kouri] had mentioned to me that I’m your favorite music writer. So, thank you.
Eddie Argos: That’s true. He can’t keep a secret.
Let’s skip over the Bloc Party feud shit, let’s skip over the other stuff, and let’s invent a new feud.
EA: Another feud?
Let’s just do this.
EA: I’d like to have a feud with somebody I like. Because then you get–Jarvis Cocker. Let’s get in a fight with Jarvis Cocker.
Jasper Future: Jonathan Richman.
EA: Jonathan Richman. Those two. I love both those people. So let’s fight them. Then I might actually get to meet them.
So you’re on the record for calling Richman…an asshole?
EA: You’re right, I can’t do this. He’s actually my hero. It’ll have to be a feud with somebody else. Mo Tucker? I can’t do this. You choose a band.
EA: Jethro Tull–motherfuckers. Jethro Tull, what’s he do? Terrible. Sick of them. Plays the drums the same. What’s that all about. Fucking hippie. Good luck to him. Them. I don’t care. What are they.
Good luck to the ongoing historical cultural importance of the farmer Jethro Tull?
EA: Right, exactly. Fucking handmade instruments? What’s that? I should have handmade instruments. Look, a makeshift hammer.
Is this your first time in New York?
What have you been doing?
Mikey B: Doing interviews.
EA: We played last night, and hung out afterwards, I lied in bed all day like Jimmy Twoshoes. I haven’t seen anything yet, it’s been annoying.
JF: I was walking around today. I went to Brooklyn Bridge.
There are a lot of shops there.
JF: Yeah. I didn’t see any. What side of the bridge?
Under the bridge. How do you like the Tribeca Hotel?
EA: It’s amazing. I think last night we got drunk off the minibar. So I think there might not be a second album out. [announcing] “I’m sorry, we can’t make a second album–the money for that went to a Heineken and a bottle of wine from the minibar in Tribeca.”
Do Americans get you, you think? How have you been received?
EA: Really really good. I really didn’t think any different, but to be honest I was looking forward to coming to New York so much. I just read an interview from ages ago we did for Sup Magazine, I was saying how excited to come to New York before it was even planned.
Has an American label picked you up yet?
EA: Oh we don’t know yet. That’s the point of the tour.
I saw some Vice guys out there, what do you think of Vice.
MB: They’re OK, I don’t care.
EA: Bloc Party is on Vice, aren’t they. I guess that isn’t going to happen. The people I looked at the guest list, a bunch of record label guys, it freaked me out a bit.
What’s your favorite American label?
EA: I don’t know much about them. Secretly Canadian? Mikey wants to be on Geffen.
MB: Because of Guns and Roses.
MB: Only because of Weezer.
EA: I don’t know if Mikey’s obsessed with Weezer. No, he’s completely obsessed with Weezer.
MB: Weezer and Guns and Roses.
EA: He’ll just be sitting on the pavement, it’s like telepathic–Weezer songs stuck in his head–unreleased Weezer songs.
[All the sudden somebody walks in to the dressing room and drinks five beers. His name, I would find out later, is Riff Dubbin.]
Riff Dubbin: So would you say you have a reverse feud with Weezer?
[Riff Dubbin steals five beers.]
Listen I’m really sorry about that. You’re polarizing back at home?
EA: People are just confused.
You’re too smart?
EA: Well I’m a very clever man.
Let’s put some numbers on this though. What did you get on the SAT Verbal.
EA: I failed my university on purpose, actually. I did A-levels, but I was in a band with Jasper at the time. I was like fuck it, we’re gonna be in a band in be famous. He was like, “I’m 17.” So on purpose, I fucked it up. I wrote my final essay on the A-Team, how it makes kids violent and stuff. But for the conclusion, I based my conclusion on that song “My Way,” you know, Frank Sinatra. It was like, “Regrets, comma, I’ve had a few during this course, comma,” and so on. The last line I used the library, the information superhighway, the Moog, and I got a “U”, which I’m quite proud of. Really hard to get. “U” means ungraded, like “fuck off” or “go take the piss.” They’re really hard to get. Normally the worst you can get is an “N”, like “Nearly, nearly an F.” But I got an actual U. Also I dropped law, I was studying law at the same time. And I did English, I dropped English too. So I got an “E” and a “U.” EU, a clever satire, on Europe.
JF: All done on purpose.
EA: They also asked me questions about the police, in my exams, about the police force, what did the police pay in 1960, what did they do in 1980, etc. And I was just like, “The Police flopped in 1980-whatever. Sting’s solo stuff’s OK, but I wouldn’t really call it the Police.” And then I wrote pages and pages about Sting.
[Enter Riff Dubbin, only drinking beers.]
RD: Were you worried that the professor was going to reward you for satire?
EA: There was no chance. I thought it was very funny at the time. When my mom saw my reviews, my results, she went fucking mental. I’d been getting A’s all year long.
RD: So it was your first bad review.
EA: I was in Art Goblins at the time, it was a stupid band I was in with Jasper, a joke band. I used to escape from a sack, and play the Who on stage and stuff. And in my head, we were gonna make it. It’s fine, but they all passed that, nobody else thought that apart from me. So when all the Goblins went to university, I was stuck in Dublin, in a sack, all by myself. Had to go to London.
RD: Riff Dubblin?
[Exit Riff Dubbin.]
JF: I went to university and had a little bit of fun, then moved to London for Art Brut. So he won, really.
Who totally doesn’t get you?
EA: The Spanish hate us. In Spain.
MB: The biggest music magazine in Spain hates us, how bad we are. They said of all the new British bands, we’re the worst.
EA: In Germany though, we’re the best of the new British bands.
Is there a Spanish version of Bang Bang Rock And Roll, where you do all the lyrics in Spanish?
EA: Should be I guess.
MB: There will be soon–good idea!
EA: [Germany’s] Spiegel Magazine, they said album of the year and stuff. We did an interview with someone, and he said how the album’s a concept album, it’s about pop culture, all this stuff. Like: “‘Emily Kane’ and ‘Good Weekend,’ that’s a dichotomy isn’t it. You wrote a love song, a non-sexual love song about Emily Kane, never had sex, but in ‘Good Weekend,’ you’re having sex. You must have written these songs the same day.” I was like, “Yep! Checkmate! Thank you! You’re the first person to pick up on that.”
Since Art Brut means Outsider Art, have you thought about what’s going to happen to Art Brut, if you guys get too popular?
EA: I’ve decided, if we get too popular, we’ll become Art Naif, then we’ll become like, Bottom Classics.
How old are you guys?
EA: I’m just 26.
MB: Just 27.
Because I had read when you replaced your guitarist–he’s like 13?
Let’s get serious for a second.
EA: I’m ready.
Do you think you have any more songs in you?
EA: We got new songs.
[Encore: Riff Dubbin]
RD: “The Minibar is Very Expensive”?
EA: It’s called “Fuck, Can You Lend Me Some Money?”
[Riff Dubbin riffs five beers.]
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on November 14, 2005