Interview by Brendan Hilliard
Transcription assistance by Mike Ross
Eddie Argos, the frontman known best for the three albums with his band Art Brut, has returned with another project titled Everybody Was in the French Resistance…Now!. The group, including keyboardist Dyan Valdes and Art Brut guitarist Ian Catskilkin, is on the road in support of Fixin’ The Charts, Volume 1, an album full of ‘response songs’ to tracks like Avril Lavigne’s “Girlfriend” and Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean”. Eddie took a few minutes out of his busy day to chat with obviate before the band played Schuba’s on Thursday evening.
I’m from Chicago, and it seems to me that with Art Brut has played here quite often in the past year – including that five night residency at Schuba’s last June. What keeps you coming back to the city with such frequency?
Well, we like Chicago a lot. We did maybe overkill it a little bit. What, we played Chicago eleven times last year? Five at the residency, we played the Green Festival, and then a few others. So yeah, we like Chicago. It was good to place the residency at Schuba’s, but the fact that I got to try everything on the menu, I quite liked that. They have a very nice french onion soup there.
That’s excellent. I saw you at Lincoln Hall last year. That was the only time we were able to get around.
Lincoln Hall? I like that venue. It’s the same guys that own Schuba’s.
What was the reason behind starting “Everybody was in the French Resistance…Now”? How did you choose the songs to write responses to?
I always write songs, really. I was in a car with Dyan [Valdes, Eddie’s bandmate and girlfriend] and that song “Jimmy Mack” came on the radio? I’ve always had a problem with that song. I think I’m quite a bad passenger in the car. I was like “I love the music, but she’s so terrible! She’s such a bitch! She said she’s gonna cheat on the boy unless he comes home.” It’s inappropriate ’cause it’s 1967, and the Vietnam War, so I was kind of grumpy about that. I think I was in Dyan’s head a little bit, so she said “Look, write some words down, and we’ll record them when home.” So, I spent the rest of the journey writing the words in my head, and being quiet. That was the trick. It was just fun to write and record that song. Then we thought we could do more responses. It was a fun challenge.
That’s pretty cool. Was there one in particular that was most fun to write a response to?
I really like Elastica, and I like Bob Dylan a lot. So there’s songs on the albums because I liked the bands. For the one I don’t like, were kind of more fun to write. The Avril Lavigne one was fun to write because it was telling her she’s got mental health problems.
Are there any particular differences that you find between touring England and the United States?
Obviously, America is much, much bigger. Even in Europe – we just drove from Seattle to Minneapolis, which is like three days pretty much, that’s a lot of driving. There’s no way you can do that, even in Europe. You’d be out on the side of it. That’s different America’s my favorite place to tour, really.
I like the culture, here. I like comics. I like…food. I like hanging out. It’s a fun place to play. Europe is too. I don’t know. I just like touring America. I like the way it’s different as you drive across it, yet everyone speaks the same language.
Is there any city in particular you like coming to?
We do love playing in Chicago. That’s why we’ve played it so much. I kind of live on the…west coast now. I had to think about that. West, yeah. [Laughs] I do really like playing on the East Coast.
…Yeah, I mean Chicago mainly, and I really like playing LA, it’s like a hometown show. Those places. We played Madison last night. That was kind of fun, because was quiet.
Madison’s kind of an interesting town. It’s kind of in the middle of the nowhere, but it’s kind of hip. I’ve liked it whenever I’ve been there.
I liked it there, it was good. It was kind of fun.
I know you like comic books, and May 1 was “Free Comic Book Day”. Was there anything you were able to pick it up then?
I knew it was Comic Book Day, because literally every year on Comic Book Day, I’m in a van hundreds of miles away from a comic book shop. That was the first day we drove from Seattle to Minneapolis. There was no comic book shops in North Dakota and Montana on that route. [Laughs]. I didn’t get any comic books this year, or last year. I was doing the same drive last year. Or maybe different part of the world. No free comic books for me this year.
That’s really depressing.
I mean, I bought a lot of comics…I bought the new Flash comic. That was pretty good. I think I’m going to try to find a comic book shop when I’m Chicago tomorrow.
There’s a lot of good shops for that here.
I’ve bought comics in Chicago before.
Quimby’s is a good alternative one in Wicker Park, if you ever get over there. Indie comics and stuff.
Oh, I’ve been there. We did pretty much live in Chicago last year. [Laughs]. We’re playing in Detroit tomorrow. It’s only a four-and-a-half hour drive. So, I think we might have time to take a look about before we take off.
You talked about all the comics you do like, but is there one that’s been absolutely terrible?
I like Mark Millar, who wrote a comic I really like, Superman: Red Son, which I thought was brilliant. I thought because of that, maybe Mark Millar was a really good writer. Then I read Wanted. There’s a film with it too. That was pretty much the worst one I’ve ever read. I read Kick-Ass, and I really didn’t like it. I haven’t seen the film yet. I’m still undecided on Mark Millar. I really like Red Son, but I think Wanted is probably the worst thing I’ve ever read in any format of anything. Book, signpost. Just terrible.
So, you’re in a bunch of bands. I think I counted eight when I was doing my research? Other than Art Brut and French Resistance, what other projects do you plan to record and tour with?
I think my main bands are French Resistance and Art Brut. I’ve got a band Glam Chops, which is just fun, really, because I really like glam music, and everyone in that band loves glam music.
Do you have any upcoming plans with Art Brut at this point?
Oh, yeah, we’ve just started writing the fourth album. Ian [Catskilkin, Art Brut guitarist] is in the French Resistance now, so we’re going to try to write some of the album on this year. It should be out later this year or early next year.
Is anyone producing in particular?
Hopefully Frank Black again. We met him lunch the other day and he seems into it. I like to I’d like to do it with, you know, “Black Francis” again.
He must have been a pretty interesting guy to work with.
He took us out for lunch in his car. He’s got a great big Cadillac. It was loads of fun. It made me really want to start recording an album with him. It felt weird, we were just hanging out [instead of making music]. I want to start recording a new album for Art Brut now! [Laughs]
What is your favorite show moment you’ve been a part of, both as a fan and performer?
We played a college place somewhere, Philadelphia. It was like a weird… just, like, college… We played in a basement and there was a secret stash of beer in the laundry [room] they’d all be drinking. At the end of the show, the entire room fell over. It was so packed in. Literally everyone fell to the floor. But no one got hurt, which was very funny. I think that was my favorite moment of one of our shows. Watching an entire room of people fall over.
Shows to watch? I really like when people talk in between songs. I could watch John Darnielle from The Mountain Goats in particular. I could watch him just talk. Something like that, yeah. Mountain Goats.
What are you listening to as of late?
Future of the Left, I like them a lot, I listen to that. All of us have suddenly gotten into the Super Furry Animals again. I love the Super Furry Animals. I don’t think they’re very famous here though. Do you know of the Super Furry Animals?
Yeah, but I haven’t spent a lot of time listening to them. But they’ve been on my radar, for sure.
I thought I had all of their albums, but there was like three I didn’t have. We listen to them when we drive. In the van, I listen to a lot of Led Zeppelin that Ian plays.
I don’t know, it’s a long drive, I think he has all of them. [Laughs]
Yeah, the Dakotas and that whole thing – it’s a long drive. There’s just nothing there. It’s really boring.
Super Furries are good for a bit.
So, I know you’re a big Replacements fan. If there’s one song you had to hold in higher regard to any others, what would it be?
Aw man, that’s impossible to say! Maybe “Here Comes A Regular”? I love that song. When I first started listening to the Replacements, when I first heard that song, it made me cry a little bit. It’s really embarrassing. I was like, on the train to meet Dyan for lunch. Oh, “Bastards of Young,” they’re all good. I can’t pick one.
There’s a guy in Chicago, whenever he comes to see us play, he brings me like, an amazing Replacements thing. Tonight, he’s bringing me a bootleg DVD of when they played in Amsterdam in 1991. I can’t wait to see that.
Wow! Their last show I think was the “Taste of Chicago” in July of ’91. I thought that was interesting.
Yeah, they did this whole thing where like, the handed the instruments to their roadies, or guitar technicians so the whole set ended with an whole entire different band playing the stage. The Replacements had left.
It Ain’t Over ‘Til the Fat Roadies Play, or something like that.
I think I’m getting a CD of that. It’s weird, when we did that residency in Chicago, every night someone would bring me a present with a home recorded Replacements thing. Chicago’s brilliant, you know? Where else would someone bring you presents like that? It’s awesome.