In conversation, Eddie Argos, 26-year-old singer and lyricist for British party band Art Brut, sounds like a Tickle-Me Benicio Del Toro. His telegraph-quick speech arrives in bursts. Even his chuckle has an accent. But on record, the magic of pop translates Argos’ self-effacing Bournemouth slur into an infectious yawp of glottal liberation. He’s the magnetic center of a band that, to paraphrase its song “My Little Brother,” sounds as though it just discovered rock and roll, art or both. (Modern art! Makes me! Want to rock out! he sings on “Modern Art.”) The band’s debut, Bang Bang Rock & Roll, finally sees U.S. release next week, and its second album hits European stores later in the summer. Argos took a few minutes away from recording four new songs to talk about … himself.
Does any nonmodern art make you want to rock out?
Van Gogh, probably, though he’s probably still modern. I just like the idea of art. I just like all art. We played in Amsterdam, and I went to the Van Gogh Museum the next day. I’m an emotional person anyway, but the next day when I went there, I had tears in my eyes.
What’s your favorite painting?
I really like the sketches the best. I like rushed, unfinished things. I’d like to see an exhibit of sketchbooks.
Do you keep notebooks?
Yes, and I’d be mortified if anyone ever saw it. I’m a bit of a hypocrite. I wanted to be a writer, but I’m not very good at it. They have lots of rubbish, mostly. I always have a big, black carry bag of notebooks with me.
Do you draw in them?
Some. I used to paint a lot, but I don’t have time anymore. When I paint … ha … “When I paint” — I sound like such a dickhead. Anyway, I start with a canvas, so it’s a different thing.
What’s your strategy when you fight with your bandmates?
I start crying and stuff. I get too emotional when I argue. People just figure I must be mad to be crying all the time. People go, “Jeez, Eddie’s crying again,” and that’s it.
Does your little brother like “My Little Brother”?
He hates it. He thinks it’s patronizing. But he’s much cooler than me. He likes the Pixies. He made me tapes.
What’s the most romantic thing you’ve done, other than serenade your former girlfriend Emily Kane in a song called “Emily Kane”?
I don’t think I’m romantic. I thought the song was sad, not romantic. I’d just been thinking about her for a long time and had to get it out. But people tell me how romantic it is.
She looked you up after the song came out, right?
Yeah. She phoned me up and asked if the song was nice or mean. I think she was a bit scared. I was like, “Why would I write a mean song about you?”
Did you see her again?
We met at a nightclub. I got very drunk with her, and the DJ put on “Emily Kane,” and we danced to it. I’m writing a sequel called “Emily Rang.”
Now that you’ve formed a band, have you learned an instrument?
I’ve tried to learn a bit on borrowed things. I’ve got a bit of a learning disability, and my coordination isn’t good. I couldn’t learn xylophone, couldn’t learn guitar, so my auntie lent me a clarinet. I have a very short attention span, though — I give up on anything I can’t learn in three days.
Could be an occupational hazard. Do you have a backup job lined up?
I like being around people. I was a barman, a traffic warden, a postmaster, a social worker. I studied to be a hairdresser, then a social worker. I’d go back to social work. You get to hang out with people, and it’s fun. I loved it. Art Brut