As they finished up their five nights in a row of shows at New York’s Mercury Lounge, Art Brut’s Jasper Future and Ian Catskilkin sat down with QRO. In the conversation, the guitarists talked about their multiple night run in New York & the upcoming ones in Chicago & L.A., how they keep them fresh, making their new record Art Brut Vs. Satan (QRO review) with the legendary Black Francis – sorry, ‘Charles’ – and why it was so much better making their last, It’s a Bit Complicated (QRO review), football, baseball, cricket, Harry Potter, Satan, The Replacements, D.C. Comics, chocolate milkshakes, and much more…
QRO: Why these runs of shows in the same city, four or five-in-a-row, in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles?
Jasper Future: Just ‘cause we’re lazy. We don’t like lugging gear around…
It’s a bit different, isn’t it? It’s kind of cool to be able to spend some time in the city. And you get to change the set each night, which is kind of fun as well. With multiple shows, you can change – kind of like a little story.
Ian Catskilkin: It’s an experiment, to see if it will work, as well.
JF: And it’s nice to play in sort of a smaller place. We did our second show in New York in [Mercury Lounge]. The same in Chicago, and L.A. – they’re all where we first played. It’s cool.
QRO: How [has the run been] here at Mercury Lounge (QRO venue review)?
JF: Pretty good. Awesome.
Monday was a little crazy. We flew in from Frankfurt – landed, went straight to soundcheck. We all were a bit spaced, not sure what was going on.
But it was good though. The set is really changing each night. Eddie’s changing all the lyrics and stuff – he’s got a brand-new version of “Modern Art”, which he’s doing. We’re playing a Ramones cover at the moment, so we’re slotting that in at the moment.
The crowd’s been really great. And it’s amazing that they’re all sold out – that was a little bit of a surprise…
QRO: Does Eddie still do those mid-song monologues?
JF: He does it all the time.
QRO: Does he have to change it each night?
JF: We’re doing different ones now. We used to one in “Emily Kane”, which we don’t do anymore.
IC: He’s keeping it fresh. There are new, different monologues in different songs.
JF: One is in “Modern Art” now. Actually, last night, it was “DC Comics”. We do a bit, where it’s extended, tells a story how he hurt his back – he did really hurt his back, a couple of weeks ago – but then went into about visiting the DC Comics offices, which was amazing. How he’s like ‘rockin’ out’ in the DC Comics offices.
It’s amazing in there – it’s like a theme park! They’ve got an actual, working bat signal in there. They gave us the full tour and stuff; it was pretty cool.
QRO: Take that, Marvel!
Now you need to tour the chocolate milkshake factory…
IC: Yeah, well, that would finish it off…
Art Brut playing the new version of “Modern Art” live at Mercury Lounge in New York, NY on June 5th, 2009:
QRO: How does playing a string of dates – and in smaller place – compare with ‘regular’, one-time shows?
IC: Like he said before, the intimacy thing is cool. It feels kinda more ‘real’.
JF: You recognize people as well.
IC: People we know… Feel a bit more like a party atmosphere.
JF: It’s definitely like a party. ‘Cause all of our friends are obviously coming every night, which is cool, too. Just hang out.
IC: It’s more fun for everyone.
JF: And our hotel is just around the corner.
QRO: And it must be easier for traveling…
JF: It’s like we live here. I’ve been to like every restaurant around here. And it’s lucky we’re here as well, because all the food up here is pretty awesome.
QRO: Do you worry at all that you’re snubbing Philadelphia, Seattle & San Francisco – all of which you’re ‘only’ playing once on this tour?
JF: They’re getting one each…
IC: It’s one of those things, I think, where they played it safe, went for residencies at places that could afford it. If those places are willing to stump up for five nights in a row, we’re willing to oblige – maybe they will…
And we’re coming back. This is like an ‘experiment’ kind of thing.
IC: See if people still like us kind of deal.
JF: Putting our toe in the water…
QRO: After America, you’re going to be doing some festivals in central Europe. How do festivals in post-communist countries compare with those in the West?
JF: We haven’t played that many. We did two in the Czech Republic. The first one was really good; the second one was mental!
IC: Oh yeah, that was the one where they were like having a picnic or something. I remember that…
JF: It was weird!
IC: Whenever we go somewhere new, we’re always surprised that anyone knows us.
QRO: You’ve done Russia before though, haven’t you?
JF: We’ve done it a couple of times. Moscow was really good. But we did this really weird thing in St. Petersburg – it was sponsored by like a beer company.
It was on a beach – literally on a beach. And, on the day, there was like a storm. So all these kids were dancing around to this weird techno music. Just shorts – and it’s pouring rain! It was freezing! We go on stage, and there were about, I don’t know, twenty people there. It was just completely insane. And power security, as well. The whole thing was weird.
But it was fun.
IC: We have fun, wherever we are, even if it is fucking weird.
JF: It’s kind of cool if it’s weird.
QRO: After that, will you be coming back to America?
JF: We’ll be coming back in the autumn.
IC: The logistics are being looked into now.
QRO: How was making Art Brut Vs. Satan?
JF: Really good. It was quick. We were only there for two weeks. We recorded in Salem, in Oregon. Because Frank Black – Charles – he lives in Eugene. So this was the studio that he uses.
But it was cool, though, because we did pretty much the whole thing recorded live.
IC: It was very raw. It was very much the way that he does things is what we wanted. And it was really good fun to do.
JF: If you play the song over and over again and over again, it always ends up sucking.
QRO: So you prefer to do it this way?
IC: Yes, definitely.
We would only go through a song like five times, and then we’d go onto a different song. We wouldn’t stay on any one song. We’d come back to it later, and go through the takes, see of those if any of them were the right one. And then cool. We’d just play it live.
JF: It was cool having him there as well, because, obviously, he’s an amazing songwriter. So he’d listen to songs that were like half-finished, and he’d say, ‘Why not try this?’ And you’d be like, ‘Oh, that won’t work – Wait, it probably will work. Look who you’re talking to – I think it’ll probably be alright…’
QRO: How did you come in contact with him?
JF: We played with him in Cambridge.
QRO: And what does he go by – Frank Black or Black Francis (QRO album review)?
IC: He introduces himself as Charles.
JF: When we got there, there was this thing, ‘Who’s going to be the person to slip-up and accidentally call him ‘Frank Black’?’ And Eddie was the one person who did it, once…
QRO: How did making the new record compare with making your last, It’s a Bit Complicated?
IC: It was less complicated…
Don’t try to over-think, like our last record.
JF: We didn’t have too much time to write the songs [for Complicated], either. Because we were power touring, after the first album – like two years touring. When we got back, they were like, ‘Alright – where’s your album, then?’ ‘I don’t know!…’
IC: We had like a month to write an album. So it was kind of difficult for the second one, to come up with, to know what the fuck we wanted. ‘Well, we better make some songs, then…’
And we did – it was a decent record. But it was different than the latest.
JF: You didn’t have a home – you lived in the studio!
IC: It was strange times…
JF: Come back in, late at night, see Ian sitting there in his pants…
QRO: Did you feel there was less pressure on Satan, considering it wasn’t your follow-up record?
IC: Oh, yeah, there was less pressure. It wasn’t too bad with the second one, but I think self-imposed pressure was there with the second one. ‘Okay, we can do this – let’s do it!’ ‘Oh, we can do better than that – we can do better than that…’
JF: We had some time at home with this record, as well. We had ages off. Lots of time to write it, and work on it.
IC: We could just sit around and play at each other’s houses, unplugged.
JF: In the second album, we sort of put in rehearsal space – ‘Alright, write the songs!’ This time, we just hung out at each other’s houses. That was much better.
QRO: How do you balance new & old material in the set list?
JF: It’s an equal balance, pretty much. Obviously, we try to get as many new songs. But no one wants to hear the whole new album, which is tedious.
I guess there’s more of the first & the new one than the second.
IC: But it changes every night.
JF: Songs rotate.
IC: And we have to fill an hour up – most of songs are pretty short, too.
QRO: Have you officially ‘retired’ “Formed a Band”?
IC: No, we still do it.
JF: It rotates in and out. But we don’t play “Good Weekend” and “Formed a Band” in the same set. Just because there’s not really time for every single one.
Art Brut playing “Formed a Band” live at Mercury Lounge in New York, NY on June 5th, 2009:
QRO: When you play L.A., do you feel like you have to play “Moving To L.A.”?
IC: Yeah… [laughs]
QRO: Do you think you’ll get sick of it by the end of the four-night run there?
IC: I don’t know
JF: We’re just going to play that…
IC: We’re going to play that song twice each night…
JF: Eddie’s got the part he changes, where he says he’s “Gonna drink Hennessy with Morrissey” (QRO album review) – he can put different drinks with different people. So it’s always pretty fun to change that.
It’s like, we’ve got that song on the second album, “St. Pauli”, which has German words. We always have to play that in Germany. It’s about a football team in Hamburg, so, obviously, we play that when we’re in Hamburg. If I was from Hamburg, I’d expect us to play it.
Art Brut playing “St. Pauli” live at Mercury Lounge in New York, NY on June 5th, 2009:
QRO: Do crowds in other cities in Germany get pissed off when you talk about Hamburg’s football team?
IC: Not really…
JF: There’s not that same sort of ‘passion’.
IC: They’re not as vicious about it. And I think St. Pauli are like just kind of a cool team, anyway. They’re not like a ‘massive threat’.
JF: You see people all over the world wearing St. Pauli t-shirts. But the logo’s just skull-and-crossbones.
IC: It’s just a cool t-shirt.
JF: A proper ‘punk rock t-shirt’
QRO: They’re not Manchester United or something…
IC: No, they’re really not…
QRO: What new songs do you particularly like playing live?
JF: You said “Twist and Shout”…
IC: I guess now, with the new record, we’re all choosing different new songs that we like to play live. My favorite one to play live, at the moment, it “Twist and Shout”, from the new record. I don’t know why – there’s something about it.
JF: You get to use your pedal.
IC: Yeah, I’ve got this pedal that makes a lot of noise, so I get to use that.
JF: And you can power rock out to it…
IC: Yeah, you can rock out to it. I’m a head banger – I like the ones where you can rock out.
JF: I kind of like playing “Summer Job” at the moment. ‘Cause it’s got a big, sing-along chorus. You can get the whole crowd to go, “Whoa…”
QRO: What about older songs?
JF: “My Little Brother” is always really fun to play, ‘cause usually the crowd is going crazy. And me & Ian doing this whole clapping thing.
And we do this thing with “Post-Soothing Out”, off the second record. Everyone puts their hands in the air, and that looks amazing – the whole room does it. You can feel it in your heart.
IC: It’s hard to tell. “Good Weekend”, “Formed a Band” – those songs are all still…
JF: Any song where the crowd’s going crazy makes it a cool song to play. It’s all about what the crowd is doing, not what we’re doing.
Art Brut playing “Post-Soothing Out” live at Mercury Lounge in New York, NY on June 5th, 2009:
QRO: Are there any songs – new or old – that you can’t play, or just don’t anymore, maybe forgot how to?
JF: We recently started playing “Fight”, which we never played before. We just started playing that now.
There’s a couple off the second album that we haven’t played live.
IC: It’s more a case of that we haven’t, rather than we wouldn’t entertain the idea. ‘Cause you have to work it out…
JF: They just never got included in the set, and after a period of time goes by, you don’t know how to play it.
IC: If you haven’t played it in five years…
QRO: You said you went to D.C. Comics. Have you ever heard from other subjects of songs on the new album, like The Replacements (QRO album reviews) – or Satan?
IC: We hear from Satan all the time…
JF: I haven’t heard from The Replacements yet. Eddie would freak out if that happened.
IC: Satan’s all around us…
In that bit, in that song, I think Eddie said it’s a metaphor for people who don’t like our records.
JF: People who don’t like Art Brut… [laughs]
IC: Exactly – anyone who doesn’t like us, we’re against them! So Satan is everywhere…
JF: It would be amazing to hear from The Replacements. I heard someone was getting the record to them.
IC: I’m sure it will be made so.
JF: I doubt they’ve got a Google alert – they’re not the kind of band who probably do that…
Art Brut playing “DC Comics and Chocolate Milkshakes” live at Mercury Lounge in New York, NY on June 5th, 2009:
QRO: Last time we talked to you (QRO interview), it was right before doing Late Night with Conan O’Brien with Daniel Radcliffe (QRO Indie on Late Night TV), who’d previously said that he really liked you guys, and Jasper, you said you were going to “pin him down” and “make friends with him.” Did that happen?
IC: Pretty much…
JF: Part of that’s true – the first part…
IC: He’s a sweet kid.
I was gonna go over to him, to his dressing room and be like, “Hey, we’ve got a new record – here it is…”
JF: And you had a book for him to sign…
IC: And I also had a Harry Potter book that my girlfriend’s sister–
JF: It was his… [laughs]
IC: So I wanted to get this book signed, too. So I went over there, and I think he was busy, so I was like, “Fair enough.” So I said to one of his guys, “Is there any chance you could get him to sign this for someone? And here’s the new record…”
But then, as soon as he could, he came rushing over to us and said, “Oh, I love you guys! Can you sign my copy of your record?” He had his own copy, already. “Can you sign my copy of your record?” “Oh, yeah – can you sign this book?” He was really nice, and he was really excited, and we were really excited. It was just weird, but he seemed like a really nice guy.
We were chatting away – and then he gave us props on the show.
Art Brut playing “My Little Brother” live at Mercury Lounge in New York, NY on June 5th, 2009:
QRO: Do you have any new, post-Satan material?
IC: There’s some stuff in the making.
JF: We haven’t really had that much time.
IC: We’ve been kind of busy every since we did [Satan], gigging, basically. There’s some stuff in the making, but once we’ve got all the gigs and stuff done, this summer, and this autumn, we’ll really buckle down.
JF: Eddie’s got some stuff he’s working on. He’s writing song lyrics all the time.
JF: And it’s not really like one person who writes the music. It’s all of us.
IC: Yeah – so you have to all sit down.
JF: You have to be in the same room to play.
QRO: Has the worldwide economic collapse affected you guys at all?
JF: We were the cause of it…
It sucks, coming over here, ‘cause everything’s really expensive now!
IC: Yeah, exactly!
QRO: Oh, because of the weak pound? It used to be the other way, a weak dollar…
IC: Yeah, it was great…
JF: The dream is over…
IC: You can tell. I’m sure it’ll come to affect us more.
JF: No one bought records before, so it hasn’t really changed…
QRO: Do you have any favorite cities or venues?
JF: A lot that are amazing – but they’re more my favorite bars, which is a bit depressing…
There’s a really cool one in Birmingham, Alabama. What’s it called?
QRO: Is that The Bottletree?
JF: That’s it! That place is awesome. It’s got a really cool vibe there. The dressing room is like a cool Airstream caravan.
And we played there on their birthday, with The Hold Steady (QRO live review). I was very hung over the next day…
There’s a place in Cologne, called ‘Luxor’. There’s [these three venues right near each other, Luxor, Stereo Wonderland, and The Rosebud] – and they call it ‘The Bermuda Triangle’, ‘cause it’s so easy to get lost. I’ve gotten into lots of trouble there.
IC: You never have to leave.
JF: Stereo One is maybe one of my favorite bars in the world.
IC: And they have this great Indian restaurant right next to the venue as well.
JF: I love it in there. I always get into a lot of drunken…
QRO: That’s like New York’s Bowery area, including Mercury Lounge.
IC: It’s a really good block to be playing on, definitely. We have ventured around and about, but we could stay on this block for ages…
QRO: Have you gotten more of a chance to see New York, since you’re playing five nights here?
IC: A bit, but we’ve kind of been doing loads of press. We thought, ‘Oh, five days, we’d get to do more touristy stuff’, but not really.
JF: We got to go to the D.C. offices.
We were talking today – we wanted to go on a Ghostbusters tour.
IC: We want to check out all the buildings in the movie.
JF: I still haven’t been to Central Park – I’ve been here all of like fifteen thousand times…
IC: I’ve been there. I’ve been plenty of stuff before, when I’ve been here with my girlfriend before. I’ve done Central Park with the horse carriages.
JF: You’ve done that?!?…
IC: Yeah – and all the shopping hotspots as well. “Oh, let’s go and look in Tiffany’s!” “Yes – let’s go and in Tiffany’s…”
“That one’s really nice!” So of course it’s like, “Oh, you want to see it?” “Yeah, I want to see it.” And I’m just like, ‘What’s the price tag, what’s the price tag?’ “Ten thousand dollars?!? Put it down, put it down! Don’t touch it!” “It’s fine, I’ll just try it on…” And that shit just freaks me out. “Do what you want – I’ll just walk away…”
JF: Sometimes it’s cool, ‘cause press people take you places. Like the D.C. Comics thing was cool. I remember, in L.A., we got taken to a Dodgers game, and that was pretty cool.
Well, I hadn’t been to bed, so that wasn’t cool. Did not need to be at a baseball game…
IC: I really enjoyed it. I didn’t want to leave…
QRO: You’re not like most Dodger fans…
JF: They had ‘Welcome, Art Brut’ on the jumbo screen!
IC: I had never been to a game, and this guy in front of us was explaining it to his son, which was really convenient for me! Got to chatting with the guy, ‘Oh, that’s how this works… This is really cool!’
I was stuffing my face with hot dogs. Every now and again, they were like, ‘Oh, we’ve got to do a photo.’ ‘Oh, man, I wanna watch the game…’
We had to get on a plane, and I really wanted to just stay and watch the game.
JF: Baseball’s amazing – everyone’s just hanging out. Just hang out, drinks, eats – it’s cool. It’s not as intense as like football.
QRO: I guess it’s more like cricket…
JF: Yeah. When you watch cricket on TV, you’ve got it on in the background.
QRO: And they bring you the beers…
JF: Any sport you can drink at – you can’t drink at football…
QRO: Finally, do you have a favorite tour story?
JF: Many of them are unrepeatable. That one where you & Mikey stole the golf cart was classic…
IC: I stole a golf buggy, one of the big ones.
The steering column locked. Mikey jumped out – I turn around and I’m like, “Where’s Mik– oh, shit…” Smash! We just ran and hid. So that was quite cool.
JF: Who did you blame it on?
IC: I don’t know. We blamed it on someone else. It wasn’t us. Never got invited back to that festival…
Art Brut playing “Emily Kane” live at Mercury Lounge in New York, NY on June 5th, 2009: