When I ran into John Brooker of Argot at Dunk Zone last weekend, he told me about the new EP, Oh?, that they’ve got coming out this Friday, March 1st. John was excited about the EP as a whole, but in particular a song called “Bar in the Sky”, which we’ve got premiering here this morning. Yesterday, I sat down with John along with drummer Chris Howell and bassist Grady Rogers over brunch at Harold’s Cabin to talk about “Bar in the Sky” and the different approach they’ve taken with the new EP, which follows their debut, Murder Lounge, that was released last year.
“This is really, like Argot 3.0,” Chris explains. “John is the only original member that’s still in it since the beginning. It started out much more straightforward, punk, guitar-driven rock. And then gradually, during my time playing drums, we’ve sort of slowed things down, stripped things down a little bit.”
Part of Argot adopting a more stripped-back approach has to do with the fact that guitarist Brian Arne has left the band to get a new job and finish up school. When Brian left, Argot did think about recruiting a replacement for Brian, but after playing a successful house show at The Embassy near the end of 2018, they decided to just roll with it.
“It kinda opens things up,” John says. “Bryan is an amazing guitarist, but he had more of a hardcore background, and we were playing everything quicker, and it was a lot more guitar-based.”
“When Bryan left it made it easier for us to do what we were already trending toward, rather than this big, heavy, guitar-driven rock stuff,” Chris continues. “It’s more laid-back, harmony, vocal-driven.”
Argot’s new song “Bar in the Sky” finds itself in similar sonic territory as a band like The National, except it’s got a garage rock guitar tone. The stripped-back style gives John’s vocals more breathing room, and his songwriting is really starting to blossom. “Bar in the Sky” shows a cynical John, who is singing about a relationship that’s become predictable to the point where he doesn’t want to give a shit anymore. At the same time, John seems to be singing about himself and his role in everything, encouraging both himself and the other person: “Don’t get eaten by your mind”.
John explains that with “Bar in the Sky”, he had a really positive feeling about the opening melody that he wrote for it. Feeling good about something he’s written isn’t completely new to him, but in the past he doubted himself to the point of not being able to fully bring ideas to life. This time, he kept following that positive feeling, and it led him to a place that he had never been before, and resulted in a song that he and the band are really excited about.
“Bar in the Sky” was recorded in the home studio of bass player Grady Rogers. It was mixed by Jordan Graves out of Seattle, and mastered by Zach Bodtorf out of Vermont, who also designed the cover art. The Oh? cover art is a result of something called generative art. To create it, Zach put part of Argot’s recent single “Lucky Son” through a Python script similar to the one that the National Weather Service uses to create wind maps. Argot says that the cover art is a bunch of “wiggles”.
Since Grady did the engineering, he also spent some time messing with the mixes on his own. One day he sent John and Chris a mix of “Bar in the Sky” that included some synth horns fluttering below the mix. The band loved it and they reached out to Clay White (of The High Divers and more) to come in and record some trumpet on the track. The trumpet is a nice addition, the idea behind it stems from this new direction that Argot is headed.
The Oh? EP from Argot will be released this Friday, March 1st, and that night they’ll celebrate with a show at The Royal American. Joining them will be Easy Honey and Youngster, who will be releasing their new album Rosa’s Cantina on the same day.
Listen to “Bar in the Sky” by Argot below.