FOR some rock groups, the creative process is fraught with interpersonal tensions, differing musical visions and ego implosions. For British rock pranksters Art Brut, the act of creation -- in this case, forming a band -- was the pop equivalent of splitting the atom.
Members of the quintet met at a London cocktail party in 2003 and wrote their first song, "Formed a Band," in just five minutes. Its exuberantly sung/shouted chorus goes: "Formed a band, we formed a band!/Look at us! We formed a band!"
"I can't sing and I can't play an instrument," explains vocalist Eddie Argos. "No one wanted to be in a band with me. And I had to lie that I can sing like Aretha Franklin to get [the other band members] to be in a band with me. The song was like a speech about all the things we could achieve by being in a band."
In spite of -- or perhaps owing to -- such self-referential glibness, "Formed a Band" improbably hit No. 41 on the U.K. pop chart. From there, the group was featured on the cover of the German edition of Rolling Stone and landed a high-profile opening slot on Oasis' European tour. Buzz began to build in the U.S., leading to Art Brut's headlining spot in the Mojave Tent at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival last month. The group's 2005 debut album, "Bang Bang Rock & Roll," will be released stateside later this month.
Contrary to popular misconception, the group's moniker has nothing to do with after-shave ("I got loads of Brut for Christmas, everyone thought it would be funny to give me that," the singer says); it's taken from French artist/sculptor Jean Dubuffet's catch-all term for "outsider" art.
Art Brut, however, takes an inclusive -- and appropriately self-referential -- approach toward allowing other bands to "franchise" its name.
"I love the name. I'm quite proud of it and felt guilty we were using it," says Argos, smoothing down the cleft in his John Waters-esque pencil mustache. "So I was saying to [band co-founder Chris Chinchilla, who has since left the original Art Brut], 'We should share it.' He put it on the Internet and there's millions of Art Bruts now."
Well, at least dozens. "There's a Palestinian Art Brut, a Polish Art Brut, at least 50 in London," he continues. "There's quite a well-known band who's playing with us at the Knitting Factory in New York who are Art Brut 47. We're doing a single with them where we cover each other's songs."
Molding the minds of young rappers
BETWEEN Jack Black's "School of Rock" and the documentary "Rock School," rock 'n' roll academia has been pretty well represented in popular culture. The School of Rap (to the extent one has even existed), however, has remained under the radar.
Original gangsta Ice-T aims to change that. He's teaching a Hip-Hop 101 class for VH1's unscripted drama, "Rap School," set to begin airing in September.
The rapper-actor will coach a bunch of 12- and 13-year-old New York prep-schoolers in the finer points of busting rhymes, break-dancing and scratching records. Their final exam: serving as opening act for Public Enemy at B.B. King's club in New York.
An ax-wielding Steven Seagal?
WHEN Steven Seagal takes the stage to perform songs from his new blues album, "Mojo Priest," at L.A.'s El Rey Theatre later this month, he also reclaims his place within a singular Hollywood fraternity -- movie stars turned rockers. Bruce Willis (whose turn as a faux '60s rock singer is captured on 1987's "The Return of Bruno" album), Keanu Reeves (bassist for Dogstar) and Russell Crowe (don't forget 30 Odd Foot of Grunts) are also card-carrying members.
A news release for Seagal -- better known for movies such as "Under Siege," "Above the Law" and "Out for a Kill" than his musical chops -- touts the actor's "high-octane, razor-sharp guitar work" and helpfully notes that his 2005 album, "Songs From the Crystal Cave," went to No. 1 in France.