Art Brut, like many of the great original acts of the last 30 years, are somewhat hard to pigeonhole. To start, lead singer Eddie Argos isn't really a singer. He kind of just talks over the wall of rock the rest of the band erects behind him.
“All the lyrics are meant to be conversational—I'm just having different conversations, I think,” Argos said.The 27-year-old Brit's conversations range in topic from long-lost love (“Emily Kane”), siblings getting into rock 'n' roll (“My Little Brother”) and forming bands (“Formed a Band”). Those three songs were all on the band's 2005 debut CD, Bang Bang Rock and Roll. Their most recent release, It's a Bit Complicated, has been described as more mature, but there's still plenty of fun to be had on the sophomore effort. Just take the opening lyrics from the ridiculously catchy “People in Love”: “People in love lie around and get fat / I didn't want us to end up like that.”
Art Brut kicks off what at first sounds like a gleeful pop song—especially after the initial guitar hook sinks in—and then flips everything around and turns it into a break-up song: “To every girl that's ever been with me / I got over you—eventually,” Argos relates.
The songs, though, often evolve. Argos' lyrics sometimes change for live shows.
“Luckily, because all the songs are true stories,” he says, “we can update the lyrics and stuff and say what's going on with them now. We all have quite short attention spans, so the music changes quite a lot.”
Argos' style can be jarring if you're not into singer/talkers. But if you're drawn to likes of Pavement's Stephen Malkmus, Craig Finn of The Hold Steady and The Fall's Mark E. Smith, you're sure to like these guys.
But Argos is quick to dismiss the comparison to The Fall, something the band hears often. “I think we get The Fall a lot because I can't sing and Mark E. Smith can't sing, either. As the lyricist, my main influences are The Mountain Goats, Jonathan Richmond… singer/songwriters. The rest of the band likes different stuff. The guitarist [Ian Catskilkin], he likes Lamb of God, Sepultura, Slayer. Mikey [Breyer, drums] likes Weezer, and Freddy [Feedback, bass] likes Big Black and the Pixies. Jasper Future [guitar] likes LCD Soundsystem, Duran Duran and stuff like that. I think all those combinations of bands just come together and make the way we sound. There's no main influence, I think, which I kind of like about us.”
Argos seems content that his band's musical tastes are all over the map. He even believes this odd mix has introduced him to music he would otherwise have bypassed and played a role in shaping the group's second album.“We were on tour together for so long that we've learned to appreciate” each other's music, he says. “I like Sepultura now. I would have never heard Sepultura two years ago, but because of Ian, I kind of like it. If the second album sounds more cohesive, it's because we learned to appreciate each other's tastes in music a little bit more.”Art Brut is in the midst of a nationwide tour with The Hold Steady, another band that specializes in spoken lyrics that tell stories, backed by big, booming rock riffs. The pairing of the two is apropos, and Argos is quick to explain, from a tour bus “somewhere between Columbus and Michigan,” how big a Hold Steady fan he is.
“I love [Finn's] writing style. I love his lyrics,” Argos says. “When it comes to music, I'm kind of more into lyrics than
I am music. With The Hold Steady it's good because you've got really good lyrics, and you've also got some really good rock music.”
It's clear that Argos is amazed that he is where he is. It's been a strange road to center stage for the unlikely frontman. Before Art Brut formed, Argos spent years working odd jobs, including postman, bartender, traffic warden and social worker—“loads and loads of stupid jobs building up to this,” he says, “the stupidest job—being a singer in a band.”
But even this occupation proved difficult at first, as Argos dealt with serious confidence issues while on stage.“The early shows I was shy,” he says. “We supported this band that were awful—they were like Jet or something. But the lead singer was really confident and charismatic and I was, like, “Oh yeah, that's much more enjoyable to watch. So after that, I kind of stopped being modest. I just realized it's enjoyable to watch confident people, so I just tried much harder.” Art Brut play with The Hold Steady at 'Canes on Thursday, Nov. 8. Doors open at 8 p.m. $18. 858-488-1780.