Art Brut - Biography

Art Brut is a UK-based five-piece indie rock band that has was aptly dubbed “Art Wave” by NME—a tag they shared by other bands of the period, such as Bloc Party and Franz Ferdinand—upon emerging as an original act in the mid-2000s. Often regarded as tongue-in-cheek meta-punk ironists (or sincerists, depending on perception)—especially on their instant cult-favorite single, 2004’s self-aware “Formed a Band”—the group gained critical favor in the mid-2000s on the strength of bootleg releases, and has since recorded three full-length albums while breaking into Billboard Heatseeker’s chart. After developing a strong following in the UK with their furiously energetic punk-length songs (most under three minutes), Art Brut has toured the United States and Canada, playing the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival and the Pitchfork Music Festival in 2006, as well as headlining the Two Thousand Trees Festival in 2008.

The band formed in South London in 2003, and took their name from the French painter Jean Debuffet’s term for fringe art—art made by derelicts, prisoners, the mentally ill and others who might be immune to influence. Comprised of Eddie Argos (vocals), Chris Chinchilla (guitar), Frederica Feedback (bass), Ian Catskilkin (guitar) and Mikey Breyer (drums), the high-concept group says that chemistry was so immediate between them that within five minutes of meeting one another, they were writing songs together. They played their first live gig that year, and later recorded their first EP, Brutlegs, which contained an early, raw version of their mirror-reflecting song, “Formed a Band.” Upon hearing the song, a journalist turned London-based Rough Trade Records onto it, and the label released it as a single.

Nothing could have been a finer introduction to UK audiences than the meta-punk single, “Formed a Band.” Still unsigned, the song came out in May of 2004 and went to #52 on the Billboard Heatseeker’s chart, and was subsequently used as a soundtrack for the video game, FIFA Street 2. During the time Art Brut played a couple of memorable shows, one of them a set for the Rock Against Racism Show. They did their first tour that year, as well, opening dates for in The Fades and performing at the Tate Britain, before releasing a second EP, Brutlegs 04.

The band signed to local indie label, Fierce Panda, and, after putting out the catchy single “Emily Kane,” released its first full-length album, the John Fortis-produced Bang Bang Rock & Roll (2005). The album also contained the popular single “Formed a Band” as the opening track, as well as the angrier, moodier expressions, such as the Franz Ferdinand-sounding “Bad Weekend.” Though Bang Bang Rock & Roll narrowly missed cracking the Top 40, it became the highest-charting single for the Fierce Panda label and made them one of the year’s top buzzbands with both North American and European media.

Art Brut toured the States and Europe in 2005, and appeared on the cover of the German edition of Rolling Stone toward the end of the year. Around this time Chris Chinchilla left the band to form Macaca Mulatta, and he was replaced by Jeff “Jasper” Future. With this iteration the band continued touring for much of 2006, playing gigs at Coachella, the Pitchfork Music Festival and the Internacional de Benic√†ssim festival in Belgium.

For their abated follow-up to Bang Bang Rock & Roll, Art Brut signed on with Mute Records and released It’s a Bit Complicated (2007). Produced by Dan Swift (Snow Patrol, Help She Can’t Swim), Argos’ clever—though markedly less intimate—lyrics remained uniquely self-aware, especially on tracks like the opener, “Pump Up the Volume.” The initial single, “Nag Nag Nag Nag,” made Single of the Week in The Guardian’s “The Guide” section. The album climbed to #14 on Billboard’s Heatseeker's chart, and #32 on Top Independent Albums.


After more global touring, including a headlining spot on the green event The Two Thousand Trees Festival that’s held in Withington Manchester, England, Art Brut flew to Portland, Oregon, to record an album with longtime admirer and producer, Frank Black, formerly of The Pixies. Recorded in a swift two weeks, the 11-track Art Brut Vs. Satan (2009 Downtown Records) was frenetic, raw and inverse meta-fun—the essential components of the band’s debut album of four years earlier. Tracks like conversational romp “Am I Normal?” and the quasi-hit song “Slap Dash for No Cash”—with its lyrics “Cool your warm jets, Brian Eno”—embodied the manifesto-zeal of Art Brut to the roots. Many of the tracks were recorded in a single take, and half of them were written in the studio, all of which was a return to the first album’s feel of thrown-together mania. Art Brut Vs. Satan climbed to #12 on the Heatseeker’s chart, and #39 on the Top Independent Albums. The band released Brilliant! Tragic! in 2011.

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