Aimée Argote, the genius behind the band Des Ark, has spent the better part of the last ten years working through a rotating cast of drummers and guitarists, learning the beauty of simplicity, building a cabin in the woods, living a “fucked up hobo life,”, and a whole lot more. Just don’t call her mature.
Lots of stuff. I built a cabin in the woods with my dad, widdled Des Ark down to a solo act, built it back up to a full band, took up running, quit running, toured with eight different drummers and four different guitarists, two full US tours, five month-long Europe stints (and a million shorter tours in between), put out five releases with another on the way, and took a year off to hang with my mom while she beat Stage III Ovarian Cancer. I moved to Philly in January 2010 for a change of scenery and I just finished a six-week tour with labelmates Pygmy Lush, whose new record I was honored to be a part of.
I really enjoy the rawness of Loose Lips Sink Ships. Can you talk a little about the making of that album and the years leading up to tracking where you were finding the voice that would become Des Ark?
Well, I’d say the journey was similar to how we grow as people, too. I used to find release in putting my feelings up on a platform and then detonating them, surveying and giving voice to all of the wreckage. But it was never who I was as a person — only as a performer — at some point it stopped feeling honest to neglect the other half of the story, the part where I find some resolve. I suppose I hadn’t found much resolve at that point in my life, but that’s not the case these days.
The drummer left in 2005, after Loose Lips, and out of necessity I began touring/recording solo because I didn’t want to quit playing. I suspect the years of quiet shows and quiet songs forced me to learn some about the power of subtlety and nuance, which I probably now apply to the loud stuff.
Being the only decision-maker, your only true band member, having the confidence to call yourself an artist and find value in what you are creating, being in a constantly touring band while your friends are off making babies & having careers & buying houses, explaining your fucked up hobo life to people who may or may not understand it, trudging on with something because it enriches you in ways you can’t even begin to explain — all of these things take an extraordinary amount of effort, at least for me. Having an actual, physical copy of what you’ve spent time working on can legitimize your life, both to yourself and to your friends. So working on a record for three years, without being able to share it with the people I love, was extremely trying.
It’s a town in Arkansas, accidentally spelled wrong (by me). They have a very energetic high school wrestling team, and weathered a tornado watch last week. I keep up with Des Arc on Twitter.
I have no idea. It wasn’t on purpose! I stole the latest title from a design my friend made for AK Press.
I moved to France when I was six and in the three months it took for me to become fluent I allegedly wrote about 6,000 songs on the piano, lyrics included. My guess is that they were mostly about baseball and how French dogs like to eat rice for dinner.
I got a guitar in the throes of my teenage depresso years, took a couple months worth of lessons and then quit as soon as the “playing by ear is meaningless” lectures kicked in. I started making up weird tunings to spite my former guitar teacher. Words were a part of writing music as far back as I can remember.
What are bands, or more specifically performers, that directly influenced you as you were developing as a musician?
Michael Jackson. I thought I was Michael Jackson until I was ten. Aside from that, Polvo, Spatula, Team Dresch, my mom’s extensive collection of African music and French hip-hop, Bruce Springsteen, Celia Cruz, Durham, NC’s queer scene circa 1998, Mary J Blige and my friends’ bands in high school. I mostly learned from my friends, I think.
You recently moved from North Carolina to Philadelphia. Was that a huge change for you? How do the scenes differ? Was North Carolina starting to get a bit too familiar?
After three years in my cabin, I started to miss running water & wanted a change. Philly was the next coolest place I could think of with plumbing. But I’ve got family in NC, and a house, so it’ll always feel like home.
I’m taking a month in North Carolina to decompress, abusing Internet policies at coffee shops and working on a friend’s farm for food trade. I’m doing 53 push-ups a day, 50 normal & three one-handed. I’m riding my bike everywhere and flipping crêpes inside of my mom’s sweltering food truck (Parlez-Vous Crêpe). I’m helping my dad dig a stump out of their yard, and we are going to replace the trim on my cabin. I’m staying up way too late Skyping with someone I have a crush on. I’m eating as much salad as humanly possible. Just following the signs, you know.
Listen to “My Saddle Is Waitin’ (C’mon Jump On It)”, the first track off of Don’t Rock the Boat, Sink the Fucker.