‘I’m at home,’ says Eddie Argos down a phone line as shaky as his voice. ‘I had a big night last night and woke up in the front room, and now I feel really, really bad.’ We couldn’t be more delighted. Not out of schadenfreude, you understand, but simply because it’s so fitting. After all, the band’s latest single, ‘Alcoholics Unanimous’, is all about the terrible toll that booze takes on the body.
It’s hardly surprising, though. Ever since 2005, when Art Brut strutted into the spotlight with their wry, punky favourite Bang Bang Rock & Roll, Argos has been spilling his guts in song. To date, the man’s tackled fear of intimacy (‘Am I Normal?’), unsatisfying friendships (‘St. Pauli’), impotency (‘Rusted Guns Of Milan’) and, most famously, undying childhood love (‘Emily Kane’). But why? Can’t he afford a therapist? ‘It’s cathartic,’ he laughs, ‘all those things are true. It can be a bit embarrassing when your family’s watching you sing about being afraid of sex, yeah. But I’m not ashamed, and people come up and say, “Oh, you’re just like me!” So you make loads of friends, you know? I regret nothing! Nothing!’
No regrets, perhaps, but that doesn’t mean the man’s entirely happy with his lot. Art Brut’s first single, ‘Formed A Band’, was a joyously arrogant mission statement to take over popular culture. But the core of their latest album, Art Brut Vs. Satan, denounces the British record-buying public as Satan incarnate. What happened? ‘Ah, they’re all idiots,’ Argos laughs. ‘I dunno, I just get angry when I turn on the radio and it’s all The Wombats and The Kooks and all that kind of stuff – I get angry that people are taking popular culture in the wrong direction.
‘I think I knew from the beginning, really, when I was singing “popular culture no longer applies to me”, but then I forgot about it because I was so busy [touring and recording]. And then, when I came home, I remembered that I hate everyone. I’m fairly consistent about it, really, I just forgot briefly.’
Perhaps the key to the band’s lack of success at home is Argos’s, er, ‘unique’ voice: his vocals aren’t sung so much as spoken, shouted, sighed and shrugged. Or perhaps not; the band have still found themselves accepted by mainland Europe, voice and all. Argos has his own theory.
‘I think we do better abroad because British people are, by our nature, quite cynical. When I did ‘Emily Kane’ they thought it was a funny song, or that I was making it up, whereas in America they say, “Oh you must have really loved that girl.” Why don’t people believe I’m being sincere? And people keep asking me when I’m going to start singing instead of speaking. I can’t sing! I’m rubbish! Why don’t they believe me?’
For Art Brut Vs. Satan, the band seem to have taken a cue from Argos’s vocals, going for a more rough-and-ready sound and getting ex-Pixie and famously minimalist producer Black Francis to do production chores. ‘We wanted to record quickly in a slapdash style, and he’s the expert. In the end, he was more like a conductor – we’d rehearse, he’d suggest things and then we’d record it in one take. Like with ‘Mysterious Bruises’, he kept saying, “Make it longer, make it longer,” until it was eight minutes long. I thought, F***, I’ve only got three minutes of lyrics! But I think that all recordings should be like that – people spend too much time and money trying to make it perfect and end up with albums that sound like they’re made by robots, you know? I’d rather have an album made by people.’
Argos is also running a series of side projects, including our favourite: the concept band Everybody Was In The French Resistance… Now, whose songs are in-character replies to pop singles (like a self-defence from the subject of Kanye West’s ‘Gold Digger’). And let’s not forget The English Travelling Wilburys: ‘As a joke, I said on my blog that me, Luke Haines and John Moore [both of Black Box Recorder] had started this band. Someone from the BBC read it and invited us to play a session. So we went to my house in the morning and wrote some songs then we played them in the afternoon. That’s kind of how I like it.’
Art Brut Vs. Satan is available from www.7digital.com or to order in stores.