It’s been a good year for Art Brut. The stateside release of the band’s debut, Bang Bang Rock & Roll, has kept the momentum garnered from a year of constant touring and light-speed word of mouth. Such momentum made Art Brut one of the bigger bands on the bill at this year’s Siren Festival in Coney Island, the perfect environment for the band and its music — a panoply of freak shows, an old wooden rollercoaster called the Cyclone, booze, games, the original Nathan’s Hot Dog stand. The members of Art Brut passed the time on a mini-golf course, taking photos with other golfers (some were tattooed and pierced, some had three-piece families and pastel shirts). Afterward, singer Eddie Argos talked to us about touring, acrophobia, liquor, and being an ex-Goth.
I just saw you playing mini-golf in a blazer. How’s the heat?
Eddie Argos: Yeah, it was stupid. I’m probably bright red now, aren’t I?
A little bit, yeah.
Well, I do like that coat. I just like wearing it.
Have you been to Brooklyn before?
Yeah, we’ve played a few shows here, actually.
Have you ever played Siren Festival?
We played Bowery Ballroom. Wait is that Brooklyn?
No, that’s Manhattan.
Ah, the Knitting Factory. Is that Manhattan as well?
Hmm. North Seventh?
North Six! That’s in Brooklyn. Well, how does Siren Festival compare to some of the other festivals that you’ve played in England?
Well, there’s a festival in England called Tin Pan Alley. It’s on Denmark Street, and it’s a lot like this in that it’s free and many bands play. Famous ones, actually — the Cars and the Clash had played there. It’s very much like that. Sometimes it’s better than Leeds [Festival] in that it’s a lot more fun because it’s free [so everyone goes wild]. No one seems to go for the bands; it’s just that everyone wants to have a bit of fun. It was even raining here today, and no one went home.
And there are roller coasters, a Ferris wheel, a beach
We only arrived an hour ago. I bet you no one even knows we’re here.
Have you watched any of the bands in the past hour?
Just Serena Maneesh. We’ve played with them, actually. I’d like to be watching the Cribs right now.
The Top of the Pops show is coming to an end, and that there’s a petition —
Oh, that has nothing to do with us.
I’ve heard fans are petitioning to have you play as the musical act on the final episode.
Five-and-a-half-thousand people have signed that by now. I don’t know. I really can’t be part of that — it’s a bit embarrassing. If they accepted us because of the petition, I would say no because that’s cheating. Well, I’m lying; I do love Top of the Pops.
Do you remember American Bandstand from many years ago?
I’m not sure, but [Top of the Pops] was the first ever chart rundown in the U.K. Top Forty when it was born. The Beatles played it. David Bowie played it. A lot of big names.
There doesn’t seem to be a show like Top of the Pops in America, where a lot of talent is properly showcased. But you’ve toured quite a bit in America. What do you think of it?
I love it!
How does it differ from the rest of the world?
It’s going abroad for us, but everyone speaks English here so it’s much easier [laughs]. And everyone’s nice here. People are a lot less cynical. In England we play “Emily Kane” and people just go, “Oh, Emily Kane? Yeah that’s a real funny, sarcastic song,” and it’s not. Here, people go “Oh, Emily Kane? You must have really loved her.” And I really did, so I feel that people here understand it more.
Is Emily Kane a real person?
Yeah, that was my first love. I fell in love with her.
And that is her real name?
Yeah. She phoned me, actually. She withheld her number the first time. I think I might have scared her a little bit. We’re friends now, but that’s when I kind of realized that I didn’t really love her. I just loved being fifteen and in love. But I’m an idiot. It took me that long — ten years and a song about it — to work it out [laughs].
I saw Art Brut play in Boston a few months back, and you jumped off the stage and onto the bar, and a security guard tried to throw you out because he didn’t realize that you were in the band.
[laughs] Ha! I forgot about that one.
Does that happen to you often?
Sometimes. Yeah. It’s happened about five or six times.
You tend to get roughed up quite often, at least according to the press. The incident in Boston was very amusing.
Fortunately, some kid told [the security guard] that I was the singer, so it was okay. There are some other stories that are better, though. In France, I jumped off the stage and I couldn’t get back up again. They had to get me a ladder — it was very embarrassing. And then, we played in Liverpool, and there was a big thing [of speakers], and I climbed up on that and was shouting, full of adrenaline. But when it ran out, I was like, “Oh shit, I’m scared of heights.” They had to get a ladder and help me down. That was about a year ago. Quite bad, actually. I don’t really think things through when I’m on stage. I kind of forget.
I’ve heard you’re an ex-Goth. What were like when you were in that phase?
I was very negative and all that. I had a Goth girlfriend, that was mainly why. I had long black hair and tight-fitting trousers. I really do like the Cure — well, everyone likes the Cure. I still like Pulp and stuff.
But what if you had to choose between the Cure or the Smiths? You have a song about drinking Hennessey with Morrissey on the beach.
See, they’re different, really. I mean I’d say — that is a hard question.
I’d say the Smiths. Yeah, I’d say the Smiths. I’d say the Cure sound like they’re drunk on depression. You know? It’s like “waaa ooooh waaa oooh!” Oh, but the Smiths, kind of yeah. Not that.
So Robert Smith is a crazy drunk and Morrissey is a sad drunk?
Yeah, that’s about right.
Which kind of drunk are you?
It depends. I was drinking a lot of brandy, and it made me get nasty sometimes so I stopped. And now I drink vodka, so I’m just a stupid lovable drunk. It was horrible, so I stopped drinking brandy, and now I’m only a lovable drunk. I only drink vodka.
Do you ever have any stalkers waiting around outside of shows?
Sometimes. I was a bit like that when I was younger, though. I can understand. It’s not really being a stalker, it’s just liking the band a lot. But I was into bands that weren’t very famous — they were probably more scared of me.
There was so much buildup to this album. Has there already been any talk of future plans?
Well, it came out a year ago in England, so we’ve got about a nice lot of new songs. It was released on a very small, independent label in England, and we’ve just signed to a bigger label, so it will be re-released in Europe and stuff.
How do you and the band usually go about writing songs?
Well, they write the music and I write the words. I have to sit in the room with them as they write, and it’s rude. So I like to leave the room because I’ll be sitting there for hours and they’re going [plays air guitar]. I’ll just come late so then it’s finished, but I have to stay and listen.
Yeah, you don’t want to be that rockstar lead singer who goes “Oh, make the music, I’ll come back later.”
Yeah, yeah, yeah. And Morrissey didn’t even meet his band for the last tour until he came on stage. But they’d rehearse without Morrissey. Terrible.
Are there any collaborators you’d like to work with?
Jonathan Richman. He’s the only one left. Or maybe Pulp, or Jarvis Cocker.
It’s surprising you haven’t played with Jonathan Richman yet.
He doesn’t like loud music. We tried to do the Knitting Factory show with him, and he said he can’t — that he only plays with acoustic bands. And then he recommended loads of Italian singer-songwriters.