The man behind Argyle Johansen talks songwriting, tuba and what he has in common with Hootie and the Blowfish

In pursuit of 3 Facts about Argyle Johansen, we learned one fact right away: It’s a them, not a him. True story: the Brooklyn band is the project of one John Wentz, a New Jersey native who writes and sings the songs the world (or, you know, a portion of it) associates with Argyle Johansen.

“It’s kind of a composite of an imaginary character that exists in my head,” Wentz tells us the other day by phone. “It’s meant to be deliberately vague in the way that Hootie and the Blowfish was intentionally vague.”

Chew on that a while, while you consider three additional facts about Argyle Johnasen and/or Wentz. The band releases a new EP, “Argyle Johansen and His Inner Demo(n)s,” Sept. 6.

1. Argyle Johansen’s songs come from Wentz’s personal experiences. “I’m about as egocentric as you can be, it’s pretty much all about me,” he says, laughing. “I have a hard time making up fictitious stuff. I don’t have trouble embellishing things, but it’s hard to make up situations.” He cites as an example Argyle Johansen’s self-titled 2009 debut: “My whole first album is about being rejected by different women and hating my job waiting tables.”

2. He plays tuba. Not in Argyle Johansen, where he’s a guitar-and-vocals kind of guy, drawing on the influence of Cake, Tom Waits and, believe it or not, Wu-Tang Clan. But Wentz holds down the low end in a gypsy cabaret band called This Way to the Egress. In turn, This Way to the Egress leader Taylor Galassi contributes to Argyle Johansen. “The first instrument I had any proficiency on was the tuba,” says Wentz. “I never had much of a music education, other than tuba lessons. I never had guitar lessons, I’ve never studied music theory, I’m terrible with that stuff.”

3. Wentz doesn’t find songs so much as they find him. “A lot of the songs that I’ve written, the ideas that I’ve had that have turned into songs, they’ve popped into my head either while I’m in the shower or while I’m riding my bike to work,” says Wentz, who works in a restaurant in Manhattan. Once he has the idea, the rest of the song just sort of happens. “I take credit for these songs, because ultimate they were written down by my hand, but in a sense they were given to me,” he says. “They come from some part of me I don’t have full control over.”

— Text by Eric R. Danton, photo by Gabi Porter

LISTEN
Percocet Blues mp3

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *