Ten years ago, Eddie Argos formed a band. A few months later having signed to Rough Trade for one single, 'Formed A Band', Art Brut were born. Now, a decade and four albums later, the band are at London's 1700 capacity Scala venue hosting their tenth birthday party.
Before taking to the stage, DiS caught up with Eddie Argos to find out the key to longevity, his band's future plans and also talk about his new musical, 'The Islanders', which starts a month-long residency at the Edinburgh Fringe festival in August.
DiS: What made you host a 10th birthday party?
Eddie Argos: It just seemed like a good idea to celebrate being together 10 years, because people thought when we first started we'd only make one single. So in a way it's me sticking my middle finger up (sticks middle finger up!) to them!
DiS: Did you expect the band to still be around after ten years?
Eddie Argos: I did because I'm mental and an optimist! Maybe other people didn't; the rest of the band even? It's very satisfying though. It's almost ten years to the day that we did our first rehearsal.
DiS: Pitchfork recently described the band's debut Bang Bang Rock & Roll as an "accidentally classic album". Would you agree with that?
Eddie Argos: I dunno, it wasn't really an accident. Then again, maybe it was? Who knows?!?! All of us thought very hard about making that record. I spent a lot of time on the words so there weren't really any accidents involved.
DiS: The Art Brut live experience is an entirely different one from listening to the records. Do you see yourselves as more of a live band than a studio one?
Eddie Argos: I used to really hate recording. I'm quite spontaneous so would much rather live for the moment. And then we started recording with Frank Black and that's how he is. So if I sing something and get the words one he's just like, "No, that's a take!" That's why I liked working with him. I mean, our songs are all kind of true, and live it's always possible to change things around. But with other producers they've often said, "Sing that line again" or whatever and I'd be doing it twenty times on some occasions. We're all about sincerity, and they're all true stories so it's nice to have that.
DiS: With you being based in Berlin and having other projects like The French Resistance, what do the rest of the band do with you not being around?
Eddie Argos: They're over here doing other things, mostly hanging out in London or working. They all have day jobs. No one really makes any money from being in a band any more. For me it's fine. It's very cheap to live in Berlin. I haven't got a job. I write musicals and things when I'm not doing this.
DiS: Do you have a more receptive audience in Germany or other parts of Europe to what you have in the UK?
Eddie Argos: We used to have, yeah. Germany was always the big one. We still do well over there, but this is probably the biggest headline show we've done in the UK at the Scala, and it's all sold out now because of the birthday party. And some of the kids here don't look very old. They're like 20 years old! They don't know what a record is! Do you know what a b-side is because I mention them in my songs? It's all a bit strange! It's good though. Maybe that's what bands like us exist for, to get kids into music again.
DiS: You've released four studio albums so far. Which one would you say is your favourite or most definitive of Art Brut?
Eddie Argos: I don't know, which one is yours?
DiS: I'd have to say Art Brut vs. Satan.
Eddie Argos: That's probably my favourite too because it's the one that sounds most like us. It goes back to what I was saying earlier about Frank Black. We did that record pretty much in one take, and I guess if I was the producer in charge of Art Brut that's how I'd do it too. So it's nice that we've got him, because people listen to him more than me. They're like, "Oh it's Frank Black do what he says!" We have the same mindset, but he's more of an authority. So as a result we've now become Classic Rock! This was an old joke we had with Frank Black about being a Heritage Rock band.
DiS: Which I guess means you'll never have to do a comeback tour because you've never been away!
Eddie Argos: Maybe we should just split up for 20 minutes? Split up for a laugh and then come back!
DiS: So, will there be a new Art Brut record and tour in the not too distant future?
Eddie Argos: Yeah, there will be. I'm writing all the time, the rest of the band are writing all the time. I'm sure something's gonna happen soon. We're thinking sometime around October maybe.
DiS: I guess from the outside holding a 10th birthday party may have been by some as the band calling it quits?
Eddie Argos: No, definitely not. We're carrying on. People can't get rid of us that easily!
DiS: Most people associate Art Brut with Top Of The Pops, which sadly no longer exists. How do you feel about the current drought of music television programmes at present?
Eddie Argos: It's a real shame. When we first started our aim was to get our music played on John Peel and Top Of The Pops. I don't know what bands aspire to nowadays because there isn't anything like that around any more.
DiS: Do you a lot of bands' ambitions rest on festival billing or bigger tours nowadays? For example getting on a boutique festival line-up first, then maybe the BBC Introducing stage at Leeds & Reading, then a support tour with a major band and so on and so forth?
Eddie Argos: Possibly, although I think it's always been like that to an extent. When we got our first show in Camden we felt it was an amazing achievement. I'm sure it's always been like that for bands. And the good bands just want to be in bands because they're bands. I loved Top Of The Pops although I think I'd have been in a band anyway even if it didn't exist. I like the camaraderie, being part of a gang. After ten years we know each other so well.
DiS: It must be nice to be able to go away back to Berlin and do your own thing every so often rather than be forced into making a record then going on tour every year?
Eddie Argos: Definitely. We do our own thing. We're all just mates when all's said and done. I guess it's worked out quite well for us really.
DiS: You've had the same line-up except for one change the whole time Art Brut have existed. There aren't many bands around who can say that, particularly after ten years.
Eddie Argos: That's true. But then that's why we're Classic Rock! Maybe we should be more like The Fall in the future.
DiS: You've released a "Best Of" compilation entitled Top Of The Pops. How did you arrive at the final tracklisting?
Eddie Argos: It was hard, so I made a list then one by one songs got swapped around and changed. I mean, I like all of our songs so it's fine, but yeah, that was it really. I wish 'People In Love' was on there from our second album. People have said that to me as well. And the song 'Top Of The Pops' probably should have been on there as well. I guess we just forgot, but then I'm also really happy with everything that is on there.
DiS: Are the two new songs on the compilation 'Arizona Bay' and 'We Make Pop Music' representative of what the next album will sound like?
Eddie Argos: They're just two songs we wrote for the compilation. In a way it was on purpose because I wanted to create a new genre just for this record. So now I know what are now. We make pop music for people who don't like people! I always enjoy playing games like that with Art Brut. As well as putting out a best of it was also time to say what genre we are. Music for people that don't like people. That's not really true I guess because we do like people, but still...
DiS: You've been embraced by a number of genres and factions, from the traditional indie crowd to punks and the twee/C86 movement, so maybe Art Brut should have a genre of its own after all.
Eddie Argos: That's what I like most about being in this band. The fact all these different scenes have warmed to us in some way. I suppose we are quite punk rock in a way, but then I love the BMX Bandits so to be accepted by their fanbase at Indietracks was quite special. I think we'd be an odd combination if we ever played live together. But we have been roped in with so many different scenes. First there was "London's Burning" then we were called "Artwave". I suppose it's a bit of a cliche but every band wants to be recognised in their own right rather than lumped together with others as part of a scene.
DiS: It's certainly worked for Art Brut in terms of longevity. Many of the bands who started out around the same time as you have long disappeared.
Eddie Argos: Yeah, we're still here. That's what I call staying power! I'm a veteran. It's Classic Rock, that's what it is! Maybe we're all in a band for different reasons? I don't know. Even if no one bought our records and no one liked us, we'd still be in a band. We'd be one of those weird bands that always plays and nobody comes to see. We're that obsessed with just being in a band.
DiS: Do you pay much attention to what's written about your band in the music press or on blogs?
Eddie Argos: I did when we first started, but then after the second album we'd have all these completely opposing opinions. "They've changed too much", "They haven't changed enough", so from then it doesn't matter what they write any more. I read a lot of things like Drowned In Sound and Pitchfork and that's usually when I'll come across something someone's written about Art Brut. Maybe I should get out a bit more? It doesn't really affect me. When we get a bad review I actually quite like it sometimes. Maybe I am a misunderstood genius after all!
DiS: What advice would you give to any new bands just starting out?
Eddie Argos: Just do what you want. Being in a band's fun. My advice to everybody is start a band. I can't really sing, Jasper (Future) can't really play guitar...
DiS: What would you like Art Brut's lasting epitaph to be?
Eddie Argos: I don't know. It's weird because to me, all bands are like my band. So when I see a band that aren't having any fun I don't quite get it. It's the most fun you can have.
DiS: There are so many bands nowadays who blatantly treat it as a nine to five career option.
Eddie Argos: That's the difference between us and lots of those new bands. Many of them were public schoolboys that already have money anyway. If you're in a band now and you haven't got any money then you're obviously in it for the passion. Not that keeping it real means anything special but when people are doing it despite a lack of money it's quite impressive really. I admire that in bands but then at the same time I do quite miss the real pop stars in bands too. That charismatic frontman who you'd pay to watch regardless of whether you're a fan of his music or not. There's been no one around like that in years.
DiS: What are your plans for the rest of this summer?
Eddie Argos: I'm currently writing a musical called 'The Islanders'. It's about me and my first ever girlfriend, Amy (Mason). I had a weird childhood and I left home when I was 17, and she ran away from home when she was 15 to live with me in this bleak bedsit. And we went on holiday to the Isle Of Wight to try and fix our relationship. So she tells a story about that. About how bleak it was. I pissed in the sink and we were living off beans, and I'm going "It was amazing!" So we have all these songs that tell two contrasting stories about our relationship from 15-16 years ago with both of us on stage talking and singing about it. Jim Moray wrote the music and I wrote the words and Amy does a monologue. We're doing a residency at the Edinburgh Fringe festival in August and then at Battersea Arts Centre next month as well. It's just the three of us on stage. It's got pictures of us from when we were growing up. So I'm really busy with that at the moment.
DiS: Will it be released as an album?
Eddie Argos: Yeah we're putting it out as a book and a download. Jim's recorded all the songs now so it's all coming together.
DiS: And will there be a nationwide theatre tour?
Eddie Argos: Hopefully next year. Bristol Old Vic are funding it. We did a preview there in April.
The album Top Of The Pops: The Best Of Art Brut is out now.
For more information on Eddie Argos and Art Brut visit their official website.