Jess Weiss 06/05/2005
It is cold, dark and very grey as we shift position on the cold metal bench wondering if there is any point for us to be on Guildford high street this Friday night when we could be inside and warm, when the figure of a man who has graced the pages of many well known music magazines recently hones into view. Tie and suit crumpled from hours of sitting in 'Zeus' their dilapidated white transit van after a long delay coming out of London, and on a random quest for ice cream, Eddie Argos, singer and front man of Art Brut, the current hip band of choice, walks amiably past us.
After asking where he can buy his ice creams, and some quick directions he promises to be ready for us when he gets back. After a short musical interlude spent listening to the new Razorlight single we discover he is as good as his word.
Returning with a multipack of ice creams and another member of Art Brut, guitarist Chris Chinchilla, we are settled into their tour van. Starting off with fairly routine questions about their impact on world peace, already a real passion for music is clear, with both guys rattling off obscure indie music references while we struggle to keep up.
Although they are clearly out to let us and you, as impressionable young fans, know that it is not cool to swear or take drugs (Eddie is a fan of neither Pete Doherty nor Dominic Masters for their drug abuse, although he also dislikes The Others for provoking class divide and therefore alienating audiences and fans.), they concede that, like any other young men, they enjoy a drink.
While not pleased to have the reputation of a hard drinking band, they do admit that this could be true, but some members, such as Chris, prefer to take it easy. Eddie's vice is not beer, but brandy, although he proclaimed Guinness was similar to ice cream, which could be interpreted that he likes it- he had eaten three of the Cornetto's he bought earlier, and was regretting it.
Avoiding the premature demises of this great band in the future (possibly), their manager had been taking them in hand concerning their drinking, not letting them at the good stuff until two hours before going on stage, leading them to refer amiably to 9pm as 'booze o'clock'. Eddie admits that he is actually very shy, and jokingly offers that drinking is something of a 'crutch' to help him get over his inhibitions on stage, although when talk later turn to dancing in art galleries he professes to be a very loud person naturally, making for an odd dichotomy.
As a caring journalists and fan, I brought them some fresh fruit, ensuring them the much needed vitamins they may be lacking on tour- vitamin deficiency can be deadly I hear, so a carrier bag of assorted arable farm produce seemed a good idea. Chris ate the offered banana on the spot, and while most fruit makes Eddie ill, he was pleased to be offered a kiwi fruit, his favourite. The lime brought to ward off scurvy has so far not been consumed, sadly.
What arguably gives Art Brut the raw, honest quality that so may people can relate to is the humour, wit and intelligence of the lyrics, as well as the intensity with which they are delivered, except this is only one dimension of the music- there are also thumping bass lines, killer riffs and guitar parts, notably on 'Modern Art', and passionate beats from the drummer who is generally too excited to be playing live to sit down at the kit.
While Eddie hopes to be 'almost singing on the next single', his fans appreciate his unique vocal style as proving that conventional singing voices are not necessary, although he takes a self deprecating attitude, assuring us that he has a bad voice and can't sing. Sighting Jonathan Richman, as an influence, all his lyrics tend to stem from personal experience, be it dancing in art galleries like in their song Modern Art, or the embarrassing honesty of Rusted Guns of Milan, which he introduces as 'this is a song about sexual frustration, which you get in your teens, and sometimes follows you through to you twenty fifth birthday'. Being able to admit to experiences such as this and stand up and do it every night of the week really gives strength to their force, and Chris cites this song as his favourite chord sequence. Their forthcoming single, 'Emily Kane' is Eddie's tribute to his adolescent love of a girl he knew when he was 15.
Eddie he makes up songs in his head all the time, and seems to be a naturally creative person. He seems very open and honest, never wanting to overly criticise, even when Keane and Travis are brought up when discussing the art/pop/rock explosion in the mainstream at present. "Frankly both the afore mentioned bands are far too insipid and bland to even consider real music in my opinion," although he admits his tastes are more indie orientated, he has no real problem with them, saying only that he would rather be in a band which provokes more of a reaction, good or bad. Chris, however, admits to working hard on maintaining his talent, although his family have a musical background, with both parents rooted in the arts.
Things are definitely happening for this band- they wouldn't like to credit it entirely to themselves, but Israel and Palestine do seem to be 'getting along a bit better' since their single, 'Formed a Band' came out, (possibly) proving their influence may reach further than you might expect, although they retain the relatively unknown quality of the band soon to be taken into the hearts of indie fans everywhere, which only seeks to heighten their appeal to the fans.
A huge buzz in the media has been generated around Art Brut since appearing on two compilations of the New Cross Scene, and a successful year is predicted for them, following in the steps of Bloc Party, their label mates and contemporaries who have been defined as the new genre, 'art wave'. A personal prediction of mine is that within two months you will not be able to move in the music press for headings of, 'Formed a band, they formed a band' or similar, so I thought I would get in there while the concept was still at least relatively fresh, and claim to be miles ahead of the competition.
While they say they do not have any stalker fans as yet, they definitely have a core of true devotees, bordering on the obsessive. One fan took a photo of the front man's room while he was asleep and drew a picture of it for him, and of course they have spawned many new bands, inspired by the catchy upbeat single, 'Formed a Band', which reached number 4 in the indie charts, and 52 in the big boy charts, narrowly missing out on the top 40, meaning that they almost achieved their goal of an appearance on Top of the Pops. Some off the Art Brut spin-off bands are even given space on their website www.artbrut.nikkidido.com, and they are attracting fans as diverse as Harry Potter actor, Daniel Radcliff , and possibly some chavs who may have shouted 'formed a band' at the tour van during the interview, (although it was generally agreed that we miss-heard).
Both Eddie and Chris agree that their personalities are heavily reflected in their music, so it would seem that their likable and entertaining characters (two of which we can vouch for, but other members were not available for interview) are their main source of success, but this is blatantly over-simplifying their appeal. Without an obvious band style or gimmick for aesthetic appeal, they describe their look as 'trying to look a bit smart and dress up'. They have no time for bands playing in just jeans and t-shirts, although this could be down to Eddie's distaste for the feel of denim on skin. They are more fashion conscious than one could expect however- when asked their favourite types of handbag, both replied with more than adequate answers of handbags they had known and loved. Eddie also exhibited a certain flair of fashion know-how; he does not carry items in his suit pockets as it ruins the line and cut of the suit- impressive I hope you will agree.
Along with more romantic and whimsical ideas, politics play a key role in many of the lyrics, and both Eddie and Chris were against the war in the Middle East, and they show a genuine awareness, despite being touted as some kind of 'joke' band in recent music press. Their album, 'Bang, Bang, Rock and Roll' is out on May 23rd, and it promises to live up to the impressive singles, one which had the record sleeves hand painted by fans. Art But are a band that I predict most Bloc Party fans would enjoy- they combine the intelligence and imagination of Bloc with a witty, artistic feel, and above all, they make good music.