Arctic Monkeys are an English alternative rock band from High Green, a suburb of Sheffield. Formed in 2002, the band currently consists of Alex Turner (lead vocals, guitar), Jamie Cook (guitar), Nick O'Malley (bass guitar, backing vocals) and Matt Helders (drums, backing vocals).
Arctic Monkeys achieved chart success with their second single, "I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor", which reached number one in the UK Singles Chart. Their debut album Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not, released in January 2006, became the fastest-selling debut album in British music history, surpassing Oasis's Definitely Maybe and remaining the fastest-selling debut album for a band. It received critical acclaim, winning both the 2006 Mercury Prize and the 2007 BRIT Award for Best British Album. It was also nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Album, but lost to Gnarls Barkley's St. Elsewhere. The band's second album, Favourite Worst Nightmare, was released on 23 April 2007, sold over 225,000 copies in its first week, and was nominated for the 2007 Mercury Prize. The group also picked up the award for Best British Album and Best British Group at the 2008 BRIT Awards.
Arctic Monkeys were heralded as one of the first acts to come to the public attention via the Internet (fan-based sites rather than from the band), with commentators suggesting they represented the possibility of a change in the way in which new bands are promoted and marketed. The band eventually signed to the independent record label Domino Records.
Formation and early years
In 2001, neighbours Alex Turner and Jamie Cook asked for instruments as Christmas presents and both received guitars. After teaching themselves to play, the pair formed a band with Turner's schoolmates Andy Nicholson and Matt Helders. Nicholson already played bass guitar, so Helders ended up playing drums — "that was all that were left... they all had guitars so I bought a kit after a bit." In May 2006, an article in Blender magazine suggested that Turner was not the original singer of the band. A more detailed article in UK tabloid The Sun reported that in the very early days of the band — before they had played a gig — Glyn Jones, another attendee of Stocksbridge High School, used to be the band's singer. Jones said that he and Turner "were bored [after our GCSE exams] so we started writing a song about a geek in our year...", and that he left the band because he "did not have the dedication to take it any further... to me we were just a gang of kids messing around because we were bored." Although reports suggested they named themselves after Helders' uncle's (or even father's) band, Helders later admitted that "so many people asking us that in the UK, so we just started making stories up", and that he just didn't have the heart to tell the original reporter he'd been lying.
They began rehearsing at Yellow Arch Studios in Neepsend, and played their first gig on 13 June 2003 at The Grapes in Sheffield city-centre. After a few performances, they began to record demos and burn them onto CDs to give away at gigs. With a limited number of CDs available, fans began to rip the music back onto their computers and share it amongst themselves. The group did not mind, saying "we never made those demos to make money or anything. We were giving them away free anyway — that was a better way for people to hear them. And it made the gigs better, because people knew the words and came and sang along." They themselves took no responsibility for their music, admitting that they did not even know how to get their songs onto the Internet. When asked about the popularity of the band's MySpace site in an interview with Prefix Magazine, the band said that they were unaware what it was, and that the site had originally been created by their fans. "[When we went number one in England] we were on the news and radio about how MySpace has helped us. But that's just the perfect example of someone who doesn't know what the fuck they're talking about. We actually had no idea what it was."
They began to grow in popularity across the north of England, receiving attention from BBC Radio and the British tabloid press. A local amateur photographer, Mark Bull, filmed the band's performances and made the music video to "Fake Tales of San Francisco", releasing it on his website, alongside the contents of Beneath the Boardwalk — a collection of the band's songs which he named after a local music venue. In May 2005, Arctic Monkeys released their first single, Five Minutes with Arctic Monkeys, featuring the songs "Fake Tales of San Francisco" and "From the Ritz to the Rubble". This release was limited to 500 CDs and 1000 7" records, but was also available to download from the iTunes Music Store. Soon after, the band played at the Carling Stage of the Reading and Leeds Festivals, reserved for less known or unsigned bands. Their appearance was hyped by much of the music press and the band was watched by an unusually large crowd. The critically-acclaimed performance included spontaneous singalongs of tracks that were only available as demos on the Internet.
The band refused to change their songs to suit the industry and resisted signing to a record label — "Before the hysteria started, the labels would say, 'I like you, but I'm not sure about this bit, and that song could do with this changing...' We never listened." Their cynicism towards the industry was such that record company scouts were refused guaranteed guest list entry for their gigs, a move described by MTV Australia as "We've got this far without them — why should we let them in?". The success of the strategy was illustrated with a series of sell-out gigs across the UK.
Eventually, they signed to Domino in June 2005. The band said they were attracted to the "DIY ethic" of Domino owner Laurence Bell, who ran the label from his flat and only signed bands that he liked personally. The UK's Daily Star reported that this was followed in October by a £1 million publishing deal with EMI and a £725,000 contract with Epic Records for the United States. Arctic Monkeys denied this on their website, dubbing the newspaper "The Daily Stir". However, Domino have licensed the Australian and New Zealand publishing rights to EMI and the Japanese rights to independent label Hostess.
Their first single with Domino, "I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor", was released on 17 October 2005 and went straight to #1 on the UK Singles Chart, beating Sugababes and Robbie Williams. Four months later, they made their first appearance on the cover of NME. Their second single, "When the Sun Goes Down" (previously titled "Scummy"), released on 16 January 2006, also went straight to #1 on the UK Singles Chart, selling 38,922 copies and taking over that position from Shayne Ward. The band's success without marketing or advertising led some to suggest that it could signal a change in how new bands achieve recognition.
They finished recording their debut album, Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not, at Chapel Studios in Lincolnshire in September 2005. Its name was taken from the 1960 film Saturday Night and Sunday Morning. Although early versions of many tracks were already freely available to download from the band's pre-label demo CDs, it was widely expected to be one of the biggest releases of 2006[weasel words] with thousands of copies pre-ordered. In January 2006, Domino announced the album's release would be brought forward one week to 23 January, citing "high demand". While the same thing was done with the release of Franz Ferdinand, there has been continued speculation that the move was the result of the album's leak and the impact of file sharing - a controversial suggestion given the part file-sharing played in establishing the band's fanbase.
Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not became the fastest selling debut album in UK chart history, selling 363,735 copies in the first week. This smashed the previous record of 306,631 copies held by Popstars by Hear’Say, and sold more copies on its first day alone — 118,501 — than the rest of the Top 20 albums combined.
The record was released a month later in the U.S. and entered at #24 on the Billboard album chart after it sold 34,000 units in its first week, making it the second fastest selling for a debut indie rock album in America. However, U.S. sales for the first year did not match those of the first week in the UK for the album. US critics were more reserved about the band than their UK counterparts, and appeared unwilling to be drawn into the possibility of "yet another example of the UK's press over-hyping new bands". However, the band's June 2006 tour of North America received critical acclaim at each stop — the hype surrounding them "proven to exist for good reason". Meanwhile, the UK's NME magazine declared the band's debut album the "5th greatest British album of all time". They also equalled the record of The Strokes and Oasis at the 2006 NME Awards, winning three fan-voted awards for Best British Band, Best New Band and Best Track for "I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor".
Nicholson departure; Mercury Prize
Arctic Monkeys wasted no time in recording new material, and released a five-track EP on 24 April 2006, entitled Who the Fuck Are Arctic Monkeys?, and was seen by critics as a swipe back at the snowballing hype surrounding the band. Due to its length, the EP was ineligible to chart as a UK single or album. Furthermore, the record's graphic language has resulted in significantly less radio airplay than previous records, although this was not a reported concern according to an insider — "since they made their name on the Internet... they don't care if they don't get radio play".
Soon after the release of the EP in the UK, the band announced that Andy Nicholson would not take part in the band's forthcoming North America tour due to fatigue from "an intensive period of touring". On returning to the UK, Nicholson confirmed that he would leave Arctic Monkeys and start his own project. He also said that he couldn't deal with the band's fame and the success over the previous six months. In a statement on their official website, the band said: "We are sad to tell everyone that Andy is no longer with the band", also confirmed that Nick O'Malley — former bassist with The Dodgems who had drafted in as temporary bassist for the tour — would continue as bassist for the rest of their summer tour schedule. Shortly after, Nick O'Malley was confirmed as the formal replacement for Nicholson.
Arctic Monkeys' first release without Nicholson, the single "Leave Before the Lights Come On", came on 14 August 2006. Turner said that the song was one of the last songs he wrote before their rise to fame, and suggested that "it feels very much like it could be on the album". Peaking at #4 in the UK, the single became the band's first failure to reach #1. The band was re-united at the Leeds Festival when Nicholson met up with his former band mates and his replacement bassist, O'Malley. Only the original band members, minus Nicholson, were present at the award ceremony when Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not won the 2006 Mercury Prize two weeks later.
Favourite Worst Nightmare
The band's second album, Favourite Worst Nightmare, was released on 23 April 2007, a week after the release of accompanying single "Brianstorm". Turner described the songs as "very different from last time", adding that the sound of some tracks are "a bit full-on - a bit like "From the Ritz to the Rubble", "The View from the Afternoon", that sort of thing." A secret gig played at Sheffield's Leadmill on 10 February 2007, debuted seven new songs (six from Favourite Worst Nightmare and one other). Early reviews of the release were positive, and described it as "very, very fast and very, very loud."
Meanwhile, the band continued to pick up awards from around the world, namely the 'Best New Artist in the United States' at the PLUG Independent Music Awards, the "Album of the Year" awards in Japan, Ireland and the US, awards for "Best Album" and "Best Music DVD" at the 2007 NME Awards. They ended the year by clinching the "Best British Band" and "Best British Album" at the 2008 BRIT Awards. For the second year in a row, the band were nominated for the annual Mercury Prize, although they failed to match their feat of 2006 after the award went to Klaxons' Myths of the Near Future.
On 29 April 2007, the day Favourite Worst Nightmare charted at #1 in the UK Albums Chart, all 12 tracks from the album charted in the Top 200 of the UK Singles Chart, ranging from "Brianstorm" at #7, to "If You Were There, Beware" at #189. On 27 April 2007 they had a total of 18 tracks in the Top 200. "Fluorescent Adolescent" and "505" charted in the Top 75, at #60 and #74 respectively.
The third single from Favourite Worst Nightmare, "Teddy Picker", was released on 3 December 2007. It charted at #20 and remained only one week in the top 40 staying in this position, making it the lowest charting single for the band so far. Prior to this release the band released an extremely limited number of 250 vinyl under the pseudonym Death Ramps containing two of the b-sides from the "Teddy Picker" single.
The band began to write and record demos for the third album in January 2008, Turner said they had recorded six songs they had already been playing on tour. In July, Cook said he did not yet know what musical direction it would take. It was announced in August that Josh Homme would produce a number of tracks, which would be recorded at the Rancho De La Luna in Joshua Tree, California. The band premiered new material from the unreleased album during their January 2009 tour of New Zealand, playing small venues in Wellington and Auckland ahead of the Big Day Out festival. Their first show in more than a year was on 13 January 2009 at Wellington Town Hall.
The band recorded a total of 24 songs; 12 in the Rancho De La Luna recording sessions with Josh Homme and 12 in the New York sessions with James Ford. It was later revealed by Matt Helders in a video diary that the album would consist of 14 tracks and that Alex Turner would stay in New York to oversee the mixing of the material. However, the claim that there were 14 tracks was proved wrong, as the tracklisting, revealed on 1 June 2009, listed only 10.
In a preview article on ClashMusic.com, writer Simon Harper claimed that the band had "completely defied any expectations or presumptions to explore the depths they can reach when stepping foot outside their accepted styles", and that "Turner is his usual eloquent self, but has definitely graduated into an incomparable writer whose themes twist and turn through stories and allegories so potent and profound it actually leaves one breathless". On the same site, Alex Turner revealed that the band had listened to Jimi Hendrix and Cream while writing the new album. It was revealed via a bulletin on the band's MySpace page that the title of the album will be Humbug. As announced on the Arctic Monkeys website the first single will be "Crying Lightning". It was released on 6 July, digitally through iTunes and also got its first radio premiere on the same day. On 12 July 2009, the single "Crying Lightning" debuted at number 12 in the UK Top 40 Singles Chart and number 1 on the UK Top 40 Indie Chart.
A web transmission showcasing 'Humbug' aired at 9pm on 30 July on the official Arctic Monkeys website. It contained 5 songs in total which were: "Pretty Visitors", "Crying Lightning", "Potion Approaching", "Red Right Hand" and "Secret Door".
In August 2009 it was announced that Arctic Monkeys are to release a vinyl version of their new single Crying Lightning through Oxfam shops, with proceeds going to the charity. The 7-inch release also comes with a download code for fans to get a free MP3 version.
Criticism and controversy
The band have received criticism based around the media circus that has both surrounded and contributed to their rise. Critics described them as one in a long line of largely overhyped "NME bands", while the release of the EP Who the Fuck Are Arctic Monkeys just three months after their record-breaking debut album has been criticised by some, who have seen it as "money-grabbing" and "cashing in on their success". The band countered that they regularly release new music not to make money, but to avoid the "boredom" of "spending three years touring on one album".
The cover sleeve of Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not, showing Chris McClure, a friend of the band, smoking a cigarette, was criticised by the head of the NHS in Scotland for "reinforcing the idea that smoking is OK". The image on the CD itself is a shot of an ashtray full of cigarettes. The band's product manager denied the accusation, and suggested the opposite — "You can see from the image smoking is not doing him the world of good".
The band was part of a chaotic and much-criticized 2008 Brit Awards ceremony; while accepting their Brit Award for Best British Album in 2008, the band made jokes about being from the BRIT School in Croydon. Students who attend the school are offered the chance to be in the audience; the Brit Awards heavily support the school. The band grew up in Sheffield and didn't actually attend the school. Rather, they were mocking previous winners of the night Adele and Kate Nash, who had thanked the crowd and the school in their acceptance speech, having graduated from the school themselves. The speech was cut short by ITV.
Former Depeche Mode keyboardist Alan Wilder, describing the current state of the music industry in an article for Side-Line magazine, used the Arctic Monkeys as an example in his criticism of the use of dynamic range compression in modern recording techniques, calling the song "I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor", "a bombardment of the most unsubtle, one-dimensional noise."
In November 2005, the group made their first UK television appearances, performing on Popworld (15 October), E4 Music and Later... with Jools Holland (28 October). After these appearances, however, the band refused to play on other TV shows for a few months. They repeatedly turned down offers to play on the BBC's chart show, Top of the Pops, as well as ITV's CD:UK.
The band's refusal to attend the 2006 BRIT Awards was originally seen as another snub to television, although a statement explained that it was in fact due to their prior commitments on the NME Awards Tour. In their recorded acceptance speech for Best British Breakthrough Act, the band gained a "mystery fifth member" who did all the talking. Known for being camera-shy, it turned out that the band had recruited We Are Scientists frontman Keith Murray, a friend of the band, to accept the award for them, to "confuse the audience".
Despite their hostility to appearances on UK television, the band made their biggest TV appearance when they appeared on Saturday Night Live on 11 March 2006 to kick off their sold-out U.S. tour. The performance included the songs "I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor" and "A Certain Romance", and saw the word "ASBO" printed on the bass drum. However, just before the guitar solo of "A Certain Romance", Turner castigated a yawning audience member, and Cook tossed his guitar at an amplifier at the end of the song.
In February 2007, the band did not attend the 2007 BRIT Awards ceremony, due to recording of the music video to their new single "Brianstorm" the same day. Although reported as a second "snub" to the ceremony, Helders told BBC 6Music ""We're filming the video that day, so we're not going to be anywhere near it. We haven't snubbed it, we're just busy boys getting ready to go on tour again." Winning "Best British Band" and "Best British Album", the band instead sent videoed acceptance speeches dressed up as characters from the Wizard of Oz and The Village People. The band has also appeared on several late night talk shows such as Late Night with Conan O'Brien, Late Show with David Letterman, Jimmy Kimmel Live! and Later with Jools Holland.
In February 2008 they attended the 2008 BRIT Awards ceremony, where they won Best British Album for Favourite Worst Nightmare and Best British Group. They were also nominated for Best British Live Act, but lost to Take That.
The influence of classic British bands such as The Beatles, The Clash, The Smiths and Oasis have shaped the foundations for the Arctic Monkeys as a group, however their desire to progress with their sound and Alex Turner's eclectic taste and love for 60's music has provided the group with many different influences to each album.
Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not was touted as a typical British-indie record, being influenced, as many other similar bands of the time were, by The Strokes' debut album Is This It, and the short-lived but influential The Libertines. Alex Turner's lyrical style was also compared to Morrissey, Jarvis Cocker and Elvis Costello.
On the follow-up Favourite Worst Nightmare, the band sought to create a darker and more haunting sound, with the use of guitar effects, organs, and the influence of new bass player Nick O'Malley being heard on moodier songs such as Do Me A Favour and 505. The influence of Queens of the Stone Age could be heard on If You Were There, Beware and Brianstorm. Matt Helders has said that the band were all massive QOTSA fans from an early stage of the group's formation, and taught themselves to play QOTSA's Songs for the Deaf album as teenagers. The band also attempted to push their "heavier" sound into many of the b-sides for the Favourite Worst Nightmare singles.
In August 2008 the band announced that the recording sessions for their third album would be overseen by Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age, in his Joshua Tree Ranch in the Mojave Desert. The band admitted to being influenced by listening to Cream and Jimi Hendrix records while away, possibly influenced by Homme. In early reviews of Humbug, journalists have noted similarities to The Doors, as well as Queens of the Stone Age and Nick Cave, whose song "Red Right Hand" the band covered as a tribute to their Australian audience during their January 2009 tour of Australia .
The lyrics of Arctic Monkeys' singles often feature social realism as typified by "A Certain Romance", which comments on chav and indie culture; and observations of working class life, as typified by "When the Sun Goes Down", described as a "witty, poignant song about prostitution in the Neepsend district of Sheffield". Based on their lyrical style, Arctic Monkeys have been compared to acts such as the British rapper Mike Skinner of The Streets and earlier artists such as Morrissey and Jarvis Cocker, both known for their combination of observational lyrics and humour.
Turner sings in a strong Yorkshire accent, typified by the contraction of "something" to "summat" (IPA: /sum?t/) (as summit or like summut), use of "dun't" (IPA: /d?nt/) (like dunt) instead of don't for "doesn't", use of "were" instead of "was", the use of "ent" instead of isn't, the replacement of "anything" and "nothing" with "owt" and "nowt," use of "reight" instead of "right" (meaning very), and the use of Yorkshire colloquialisms such as "mardy" for "grumpy, difficult, unpredictable, spoiled" and "got the face on" for "in a bad mood". Their songs also include frequent references to popular culture both common and obscure; Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not includes references to Romeo and Juliet, "Roxanne" by The Police and Frank Spencer, from Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em, leading one journalist to describe the band as having a "camp retro-futurist fascination" for 1980s popular culture.
Arctic Monkeys have twice referred to Duran Duran in their lyrics. The first is in "I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor" ("Your name isn't Rio, but I don't care for sand" - a reference to the song/video "Rio"), and the second appears in the song "Teddy Picker" ("Save it for the morning after" - a steal from the song "Save A Prayer").
At concerts, the band are known for their sing-along nature, and fan participation. However, their shows have sometimes been criticised by reviewers. For example, NME compared their performance at the 2006 Reading Festival unfavourably to that of Muse, who followed immediately after, using a multitude of fireworks and lighting effects, claiming that "in contrast to Muse's all-flashing, all-smoke-spewing, all-fire-raining slot, Arctic Monkeys simply stroll on without even the common courtesy of shoving up a backdrop", adding that band were too "self-conscious" and failed to be "the rock stars they've actually earned the right to be".
Arctic Monkeys headlined the Glastonbury Festival on 22 June 2007, the highlights of which were aired on BBC2. During their headline act, the band performed with Dizzee Rascal and covered Shirley Bassey's "Diamonds Are Forever". The band also played a large gig at Dublin's Malahide Castle on 16 June 2007, with a second date added the following day. The band was also slated to play the Austin City Limits Music Festival in September 2007. The band played two shows at Cardiff International Arena on 19 June and 20 June 2007 supported by local friends of the band, Reverend and the Makers. They also played two London gigs at Alexandra Palace on the 8 and 9 December 2007.
Arctic Monkeys were the headline act for 2009's Reading Festival (watch the BBC broadcast), Leeds Festival, and they informed fans that free tickets were included within two copies of their new single Crying Lightning. They were also the headline act on the first night of 2009's Exit festival in Serbia. It has been announced that they will perform at Osheaga Festival, as part of a line-up which includes Beastie Boys and Coldplay.
The popularity of the Arctic Monkeys in the UK has led to politicians and journalists referring to the band in speeches and texts. In May 2006, then-Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown stated in an interview with New Woman magazine that he listened to them every day, claiming "[they] really wake you up in the morning", although in a later interview he was unable to name any of their songs. This has later been reported as a misquote. Subsequent interviews Brown has clarified that he said he didn't actually like them. He says he simply stated they would certainly wake you up in the morning. He went on to reference this in his speech at the 2006 Labour Party Conference about the risk of global warming, joking that he was "more interested in the future of the Arctic Circle than the future of the Arctic Monkeys". [Then] Liberal Democrat leader Menzies Campbell also referred to the band at the 2006 Liberal Democrats party conference, mistakenly claiming that they had sold more records than The Beatles, a comment which led to much derision from the media.
Helders and O'Malley have also expressed doubts about the Live Earth concerts in 2007. They stated that it would be "patronising" given their age and that people should pay more attention to experts than to musicians about climate change. They also stated that it would leave them open to accusations of hypocrisy owing to the amount of energy they used in concerts.
Since the release of their debut album Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not in 2006, Arctic Monkeys have received 24 awards from 38 nominations. Significant awards have been the Mercury Prize in 2006, an Ivor Novello Award in 2007 and both Best British Album and Best British Group at the BRIT Awards in 2008. They have also won eleven NME Awards and three Q Awards and received two nominations in the 49th Grammy Awards.
Biography from Wikipedia