are an English alternative rock band
from High Green, a suburb of Sheffield, England. Formed in
2002, the band currently consists of Alex Turner (lead
vocals, guitar), Jamie Cook (guitar), Nick O'Malley (bass
guitar, backing vocals), Matt Helders (drums, backing
vocals) and John Ashton as a touring member (keyboard,
guitar, backing vocals). Former members include Andy
Nicholson (bass guitar, backing vocals) and Glyn Jones (lead
Their debut album Whatever People Say I Am, That's
What I'm Not, released in early 2006, became the
fastest-selling debut album in British music history,
surpassing Oasis's Definitely Maybe and remains the
fastest-selling debut album for a band in the UK.
Since then the band have released two more albums:
Favourite Worst Nightmare (2007) and Humbug
Arctic Monkeys are 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.
Formation and early years: 2001-2003
In 2001, neighbours Alex Turner and Jamie Cook learned
how to play the guitar, later the two boys received guitars
as Christmas presents,
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."
According to an interview with Blender magazine,
Turner was not the original singer of the band,
but instead, Glyn Jones, another attendee of Stocksbridge
High School, used to be the front man. 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 in 2003 the band began to record
demos and burn them into CDs to give away at gigs, which
were promptly file-shared amongst fans. 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
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."
Record deals: 2004-2005
They began to grow in popularity across the north of
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 and Ireland.
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
Whatever People Say I Am... and Nicholson departure:
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. Its name was
taken from the 1958 book Saturday Night and Sunday
Morning. 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 HearSay, and sold more copies on its
first day alone 118,501 than the rest of the Top 20
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
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".
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?. 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
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
Favourite Worst Nightmare: 2007-2008
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
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
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. 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.
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. Other European festivals
include Rock Werchter in 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.
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 track listing, revealed on 1 June 2009, listed
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, the title of the which would be Humbug.
As announced on the 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.
In August 2009 it was announced that Arctic Monkeys were
to release a vinyl version of their new single "Crying
Lightning" exclusively through Oxfam shops, with proceeds
going to the charity. The 7-inch release also came with a
code to enable download of a free MP3 version. In October
2009, the band announced that "Cornerstone" was the second
single from Humbug, and was released on 16 November
with the video premiering on 15 November. The music video,
directed by Richard Ayoade, who worked on the videos of
"Fluorescent Adolescent", "Crying Lightning" and their "At
the Apollo" DVD, shows frontman Alex Turner singing the song
alone in a white room during the whole video. The band
continued to work with Oxfam for the release of this single.
Arctic Monkeys embarked on the first leg of the Humbug
Tour in January 2009. 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
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 tour has already
gone through several North American and European legs and is
expected to extend well into 2010.
It was announced in February 2010 that the 3rd single to
be taken from Humbug would be "My Propeller",
released on March 22, shortly before a one off UK show at
the Royal Albert Hall in support on the Teenage Cancer Trust
on March 27.
Criticism and controversy
Former Depeche Mode keyboardist Alan Wilder, describing
the 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".
The release of the EP Who the F*** 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
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".
- Alex Turner - vocals, guitar (2002-Present)
- Jamie Cook - guitar (2002-Present)
- Nick O'Malley - bass and backing vocals
- Matt Helders - drums and backing vocals
- Session and touring musicians
- John Ashton - keyboards, guitar, backing vocals
- Former members
- Andy Nicholson - bass (2002-2006)
- Glyn Jones - vocals, guitar (2002)
- Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not
- Favourite Worst Nightmare (2007)
- Humbug (2009)
At concerts, the band are known for their sing-along
nature, and fan participation.
However, their shows have sometimes been criticised for a
lack of showmanship.
- Whatever People Say I Am Tour (20052006)
- Favourite Worst Nightmare Tour (2007)
- Humbug Tour (20092010)