Arctic Monkeys performing at Roskilde Festival on 5 July 2014
|Years active||2002–2014 (Hiatus)|
|Past members||Andy Nicholson|
Arctic Monkeys are an English indie band formed in 2002 in High Green, a suburb of Sheffield. The band consists of Alex Turner (lead vocals, lead and rhythm guitar), Matt Helders (drums, vocals), Jamie Cook (lead and rhythm guitar) and Nick O'Malley (bass, backing vocals). Former band member Andy Nicholson (bass guitar, backing vocals) left the band in 2006 shortly after their debut album was released.
They have released five studio albums: Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not (2006), Favourite Worst Nightmare (2007), Humbug (2009), Suck It and See (2011) and AM (2013), as well as one live album, At the Apollo (2008). Their debut album is the fastest-selling debut album by a band in British chart history, and in 2013, Rolling Stone ranked it the 30th-greatest debut album of all time.
The band has won seven Brit Awards—winning both Best British Group and Best British Album three times, and have been nominated for three Grammy Awards. They also won the Mercury Prize in 2006 for their debut album, in addition to receiving nominations in 2007 and 2013. The band have headlined at the Glastonbury Festival twice, in 2007 and again in 2013.
Arctic Monkeys were heralded as one of the first bands to come to public attention via the Internet, with commentators suggesting they represented the possibility of a change in the way in which new bands are promoted and marketed.
Early years and record deal (2003–05)
"Ravey Ravey Ravey Club (Live at The Grapes)"
This is a recording of an early unreleased track, "Ravey Ravey Ravey Club", from Arctic Monkeys' first gig at The Grapes pub in Sheffield, in June 2003.
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The band began rehearsing at Yellow Arch Studios in Neepsend, and played its first gig on 13 June 2003 at The Grapes in Sheffield city centre. After a few performances in 2003, the band began to record demos at 2fly studios in Sheffield. 18 songs were demoed in all and the collection, now known as Beneath the Boardwalk, was burned on to CDs to give away at gigs, which were promptly file-shared amongst fans. The name Beneath the Boardwalk originated when the first batch of demos were sent around. The first sender, wanting to classify the demos, named them after where he received them, the Boardwalk. Slowly, as more demos were spread, they were all classified under this name. This has led to many people falsely believing that Beneath the Boardwalk was an early album, or that the early demos were all released under this title. The group did not mind the distribution, 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."
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.
The band 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 "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 on their own 'Bang Bang' label, featuring the songs "Fake Tales of San Francisco" and "From the Ritz to the Rubble". This release was limited to 500 CDs and 1,000 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.
I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor
Sample from "I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor".
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Eventually, they were 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 had 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", which was recorded at Chapel Studios in Lincolnshire, was released on 17 October 2005 and went straight to No. 1 on the UK Singles Chart, beating Sugababes and Robbie Williams. Two weeks previous to this, it made its 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 No. 1 on the UK Singles Chart, selling 38,922 copies and taking over that position from Shayne Ward. The band's success with little marketing or advertising led some to suggest that it could signal a change in how new bands achieve recognition.
Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not (2006)
The band finished recording their debut album, Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not, at Chapel Studios in Lincolnshire in September 2005 with British record producer Jim Abbiss producing. 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 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 record was released a month later in the US on 21 February 2006 and entered at No. 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, US 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". It 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".
Arctic Monkeys wasted no time in recording new material, and released a five-track EP on 24 April 2006, titled Who the Fuck Are Arctic Monkeys?. 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". 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 it regularly releases new music not to make money, but to avoid the "boredom" of "spending three years touring on one album".
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 No. 4 in the UK, the single became the band's first single not to reach No. 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 (2007)
The band's second album, Favourite Worst Nightmare, was released on 23 April 2007, a week after the release of accompanying single "Brianstorm". Like its predecessor, Favourite Worst Nightmare also quickly reached No. 1 in the album charts. 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" for the short film "Scummy Man" at the 2007 NME Awards. It 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 was nominated for the annual Mercury Prize, although it failed to match its 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 No. 1 in the UK Albums Chart, all 12 tracks from the album charted in the Top 200 of the UK Singles Chart. On 27 April 2007 it had a total of 18 tracks in the Top 200. "Fluorescent Adolescent" and "505" charted in the Top 75, at No. 60 and No. 74 respectively. The band later released "Fluorescent Adolescent" as a single, and it charted at No. 5, after debuting the song live on The Jonathan Ross Show.
The third single from Favourite Worst Nightmare, "Teddy Picker", was released on 3 December 2007. It charted at No. 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 The Death Ramps containing two of the b-sides from the "Teddy Picker" single.
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 Simian Mobile Disco 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. Other European festivals include Rock Werchter in 2007. The band played two shows at Cardiff International Arena on 19 and 20 June 2007 supported by local friends of the band, Reverend and the Makers. It also played two London gigs at Alexandra Palace on 8 and 9 December 2007. On 1 September 2007 the band insisted on taking a working holiday to Ibiza where it played what turned out to be the last ever full live Ibiza Rocks show in Bar M (now Ibiza Rocks Bar). The band performed in front of 700 people in the bar by the beach whilst many thousands lined the beach outside unable to get a ticket – The Sun described this concert as the "rock event of the summer" stating that "most people left saying they had just witnessed the best gig of their lives". The band played their last show of the tour on 17 December 2007 at Manchester Apollo, which was filmed for the live DVD 'At The Apollo' which was released in cinemas the following year.
After a brief hiatus during which Alex Turner toured and recorded with his side project The Last Shadow Puppets, the band recorded a total of 24 songs; 12 in the Rancho De La Luna recording sessions with Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age in early autumn, 2008, and 12 in the New York sessions with James Ford in spring, 2009, following their January tour of New Zealand and Australia. During this tour, lead single "Crying Lightning", along with Humbug songs "Pretty Visitors", "Dangerous Animals", and "Potion Approaching" (then known as "Go-Kart"), was debuted live. 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 final track listing, 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 Nick Cave, Jimi Hendrix, and Cream while writing the new album, the title of which would be Humbug. Humbug was released on 19 August 2009, and, like both of its predecessors, the album went straight to No. 1.
As announced on Arctic Monkeys' website, the first single was "Crying Lightning", released on 6 July, digitally through iTunes and also received its first radio premiere on the same day. On 12 July 2009, the single "Crying Lightning" debuted at number 12 in the UK Singles Chart and number 1 on the UK Indie Chart. The second single, "Cornerstone", was released on 16 November 2009 to much critical acclaim, but failed to replicate the same success that every prior Arctic Monkeys single had, reaching a peak at position 94 on the UK singles chart. It was announced in February 2010 that the third and final single to be taken from Humbug would be "My Propeller", released on 22 March, shortly before a one off UK show at the Royal Albert Hall in support of the Teenage Cancer Trust on 27 March.
Arctic Monkeys embarked on the first leg of the worldwide Humbug Tour in January 2009 and went on to headline 2009's Reading and Leeds Festivals. During this performance, it played a number of songs from Humbug, plus older tracks and a cover of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds' "Red Right Hand". It was also the headline act on the first night of 2009's Exit festival in Serbia. In North America, where it has less of a following, it played abridged sets at Montreal's Osheaga Festival, as well as New Jersey's All Points West Music and Arts Festival. The tour finished on 22 April 2010 in Mexico.
Suck It and See (2011–12)
NME reported in May 2011 that the band were teaming up with producer James Ford once again, and would be releasing their fourth studio album in late spring at the earliest. Q magazine reported that the fourth Arctic Monkeys album would be of a "more accessible vintage" than Humbug. Q printed edition 299 states 'It's the sound of a band drawing back the curtains and letting the sunshine in'.
The album was recorded in Sound City Studios in Los Angeles in 2010 and 2011. On 4 March 2011 the band premièred on its website a new track called "Brick by Brick" with lead vocals by Matt Helders. Helders explained that this is not a single, just a tease of what is coming and that is definitely going to be in the fourth album. On 10 March 2011 the band revealed the album is to be called Suck It and See and was released on 6 June 2011.
Their fourth album's first single, titled "Don't Sit Down 'Cause I've Moved Your Chair" was released as a digital download on 11 April, and on Vinyl with "Brick by Brick" on 16 April for Record Store Day. On 17 April, it went to No. 28 in the UK Singles Chart. A version of the single with 2 B-sides was released on 7 and 10 inch vinyl on 30 May. The band allowed fans to listen to the entire album on their website before deciding about whether to purchase it or not. Suck It and See was then released on 6 June 2011, and went straight to No. 1 in the album charts. In doing so, Arctic Monkeys became only the second band in history to debut four albums in a row at the top of the charts.
The band announced "The Hellcat Spangled Shalalala" as the second single to be taken from Suck It and See. Most of the stock was burned because of the London riots. A limited edition 7" Vinyl of the single was then released over the band's website on 14 August. The song only managed to chart in the top 200 in the UK, however reaching higher in Belgium at No. 25. In September 2011 the band released a music video for the song "Suck It and See" featuring drummer Matt Helders, and announced they would be releasing it as a single on 31 October 2011. In July 2011, the band released a live EP over iTunes with 6 live recordings from the iTunes Festival in London.
Arctic Monkeys embarked in May 2011 on their Suck It and See Tour. They headlined the Benicassim Festival 2011 alongside The Strokes, Arcade Fire and Primal Scream. They also headlined Oxegen 2011, Super Bock Super Rock 2011, V Festival 2011, Rock Werchter. and T in The Park. They confirmed on 7 February that they were playing two "massive homecoming shows" at the Don Valley Bowl in Sheffield on 10 and 11 June, support included Miles Kane, Anna Calvi, The Vaccines, Dead Sons and Mabel Love, clips from the show were also used in the music video for "The Hellcat Spangled Shalalala". They played at Lollapalooza 5–7 August 2011. On 21 August, they also played at Lowlands, the Netherlands. The tour continued until March 2012. On Friday 27 July 2012 Arctic Monkeys performed during the 2012 Summer Olympics opening ceremony in the Olympic Stadium, London.
On 27 October they released a music video for "Evil Twin" on YouTube, the b-side to their new single "Suck It and See". They performed the song on The Graham Norton Show on 28 October. The 4th single from Suck It and See, "Black Treacle" was released on 23 January 2012. The video for the single was released on YouTube on 5 January 2012. This video continued the theme from the previous single, "Suck It and See" and "Evil Twin".
On 26 February 2012, the band released a brand new song titled "R U Mine?" on their YouTube channel. On 4 March, it went to No. 23 on the UK Singles Chart on downloads alone. On 21 April, the song was released as a single, with the track "Electricity" as a B-side, released additionally for the Record Store Day. The song marked a direct shift in musical direction in comparison to their previous album, Suck It and See, by incorporating a heavy use of falsetto and hip hop beats, and eventually became the inspiration for AM.
On 27 July 2012, Arctic Monkeys played in the London Summer Olympics opening ceremony, performing "I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor" and a cover of The Beatles' song "Come Together". After the opening ceremony, their version of "Come Together" entered the UK Singles Chart. It later peaked at number 21, becoming their highest charting single since 2009's "Crying Lightning".
On 22 May 2013 the band started the AM Tour at the Ventura Theatre in Ventura, California, where they debuted a new song titled "Do I Wanna Know?". On 1 June 2013, the band performed at Free Press Summer Fest in Houston, TX, where they also played "Do I Wanna Know?". On 14 June, the band debuted another song titled "Mad Sounds" at Hultsfred Festival in Sweden. Four days later, on 18 June 2013, the band released the official video to "Do I Wanna Know?" via their Facebook page. The studio version of the song, along with accompanying visuals, was also made available to purchase via iTunes, and entered the UK Singles Chart at number 11. On 23 June 2013 Arctic Monkeys headlined Southside Festival in Germany.
On 24 June 2013, the band announced that their new album, entitled AM, would be released on 9 September 2013. The album was recorded in Rancho de la Luna in Joshua Tree, California, and features guest appearances from Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age, Elvis Costello's drummer Pete Thomas and Bill Ryder-Jones of The Coral. Further, on 27 June, the band announced an eight date UK arena tour culminating with a homecoming gig at the Motorpoint Arena Sheffield. The band played at the 2013 Glastonbury Festival on 28 June as headliners at the Pyramid stage to resounding success, playing 'Mad Sounds' and 'Do I Wanna Know?' from the forthcoming album 'AM'. Arctic Monkeys also headlined the 2013 Open'er Festival in Gdynia, Poland and played on the main stage on 4 July. On 20 July, the band performed at Benicassim 2013.
On 11 August 2013, the third single from the album, "Why'd You Only Call Me When You're High?", was released, with B-Side 'Stop The World I Wanna Get Off With You'. It debuted at no. 8 on the UK Singles Chart on 18 August 2013, making it the band's first UK Top 10 single since 2007's "Fluorescent Adolescent". The band streamed the album in its entirety four days ahead of its release.
Upon the release of AM on 9 September 2013, the album debuted at number 1 in the UK album charts, selling over 157,000 copies in its first week. As a result, Arctic Monkeys made history as the first independent label band with five consecutive number 1 albums in the UK. The album received widespread critical acclaim and brought Arctic Monkeys their third nomination for the Mercury Prize. The album also won the Brit award for Best British Album.
Alex Turner described AM as the band's "most original [album] yet," merging hip-hop drum beats with 70's heavy rock. The frontman has said that the song "Arabella" expresses the two styles of the album most effectively in one track. On AM, Turner continued to experiment with unusual lyrics, and the album includes the words from poem "I Wanna Be Yours" by John Cooper Clarke. Turner has stated that Homme's appearance on the song "Knee Socks" marks his favourite moment of the whole album.
Arctic Monkeys headlined the Reading and Leeds Festival in August 2014, with Turner stating 'I'm going to have fun with you, Yorkshire' at the Leeds show. The band had a handful of shows in late 2014, which closed the 'AM' Tour. In December 2014, "Do I Wanna Know?" was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Rock Performance.
Turner and Helders have both pursued other projects during this time. In 2016, Turner announced his second album with The Last Shadow Puppets, Everything You've Come to Expect. Helders played as a featured performer on Iggy Pop's Post Pop Depression.
On 6 July 2016, all four members of the band appeared together in public for the first time since the end of their AM tour. It was to promote the Sheffield Children's Hospital arts trail.
Musical style and influences
The band have usually been categorized under the indie rock, garage rock and post-punk revival genres. A key part of their sound, and one that translates across their whole discography, is lead singer and frontman Alex Turner's intricate and often rapidly delivered lyrics, sung in a distinctive strong Sheffield accent that their music became famed for in their early years. A large part of their iconic British sound is credited to the punk poet John Cooper Clarke from whom the Arctic Monkeys even borrowed lyrics and the title from in "I Wanna Be Yours". Turner adapted Clarke's method of delivery mostly in their first album, Whatever People Say I Am That's What I'm Not. Their early albums Whatever People Say I Am That's What I'm Not and Favourite Worst Nightmare were rooted in garage rock and post-punk revival, with Turner's sharp lyrics the focal point. On the first album Alex Turner examined human behaviour in nightclubs and in the culture of the band's hometown, Sheffield. Turner describes "Dancing Shoes" as being about "people always looking to pull when they go out however much they mask it."
These themes continued on the following album Favourite Worst Nightmare with the band still progressing as musicians. Songs such as "Fluorescent Adolescent" and "Do Me a Favour" explored failed relationships, nostalgia and growing old, while musically the band took up a more uptempo and aggressive sound.
Their third album Humbug includes strong stoner rock and desert rock elements, due to the influence of the album's producer and Queens of The Stone Age frontman, Joshua Homme. For Humbug, the band actively sought a new sound. Homme was quoted saying, "They came to me: 'Will you take us to the weird and the strange?'"
Their fourth album Suck It and See sees the band exploring styles, mixing them with newfound maturity. Turner said: "I think the new album is a balance between our first three. There's nothing about taxi ranks or anything like that, but there's a bit of the standpoint I had on those early songs and the sense of humour, but also there's a bit of the 'Humbug' stuff which is kind of off in the corners." Critics noted an influence from British rock bands from the 1960s, as well as The Smiths, and slower, love-themed ballads featured more heavily on the album than the fast-paced, rockier songs that typifies the band's sound.
In a 2012 interview with NME magazine, frontman Alex Turner cited John Lennon as a major influence lyrically. Speaking about Lennon, Turner said; "I remember when I first started writing songs, and writing lyrics, I really wanted to be able to write an "I Am the Walrus" type song, and I found it very difficult. You listen to that and it sounds like it's all nonsense, but it's difficult to write that sort of thing and make it compelling. Lennon definitely had a knack for that".
According to the band, the fifth album AM is more hip-hop influenced. As Alex Turner stated in an interview with NME, it's "like a Dr. Dre beat, but we've given it an Ike Turner bowl-cut and sent it galloping across the desert on a Stratocaster". He also cited Outkast, Aaliyah and Black Sabbath as influences for the album on the song "Arabella".
- Studio albums
- Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not (2006)
- Favourite Worst Nightmare (2007)
- Humbug (2009)
- Suck It and See (2011)
- AM (2013)
- Whatever People Say I Am Tour (2005–06)
- Favourite Worst Nightmare Tour (2007–08)
- Humbug Tour (2009–10)
- Suck It and See Tour (2011–12)
- AM Tour (2013–14)
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