Eight years on from their debut, Alex Turner et al explain why their fifth album AM is more than a return to form: it's the record that has broken Arctic Monkeys in the US.
In 2014, Arctic Monkeys are enjoying their most successful year yet. Every so often, a band emerges to define the times not just for a generation of music fans but for a whole era – The Clash, The Smiths, Oasis, The Strokes. Where Arctic Monkeys may be unique is that they have now managed that role twice. There are people, significant amounts of people, for whom AM is the first Arctic Monkeys album they’ve discovered.
“The nearest thing I can compare them to is The Beatles,” says John Cooper Clarke, the performance poet and friend, whose poem “I Wanna be Yours” was adapted for the AM track of the same name. “They’re not trapped in any style. They went to the US and came back sounding like an LA band, not to a deleterious degree. They just take what they want from everywhere, really.”
That all this has come five albums and a decade into their career is down to a happy set of circumstances that has seen several factors slot into place. It’s perhaps easy to imagine that with Turner’s new quiff-and-leathers look the band have somehow remade themselves for the US. That might be particularly galling for those fans still holding out for a return to the Tropical Reefs and tracky bottoms tucked in socks of their towering debut, 2006’s Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, released when they were still in their teens, but it is untrue nonetheless. (no kidding, we got some of these on ontd)
Music aside, what’s your role in Arctic Monkeys?
Cook: I don’t know. I haven’t really thought about it.
Nick O’Malley: Central defender. [To Cook] You’re a bit of a right winger
Turner: My job is not to use football analogies.
What makes a good frontman?
O’Malley: Someone who’s got charisma, I suppose. People always say, “I like it when frontmen of bands are really honest and themselves”. Well, I fucking don’t. I prefer a character you won’t meet everyday, someone that seems like they’re from another planet. It’s not, “What about that fucking weather?” Do you know what I mean? I want to think you’ve just landed from outer space.
Cook: Alex has evolved from being quite shy, quite kind of quiet. Like, some people have got freaked out by the change. But I think it’s much better the way he is now.
Turner: Certainly, in this day and age, a sense of humour. Because it’s pretty ridiculous. In 1969, there probably weren’t many laughs in rock’n’roll. But then they were probably funny people. They had a sense of humour, they just didn’t use it. Not to name-drop, but we bumped into Robert Plant last night and he’s hilarious. Just funny, straight away. [These days] I think if you start taking it too seriously, which I’m, like, sometimes definitely in danger of doing… then it gets ugly.
Helders: Probably a decent hairstyle wouldn’t go amiss.
In what ways does your Britishness stand out in the US?
Cook: They think we’re Australian. Or Irish.
O’Malley: No one understands us half the time. Which is quite funny. [Thinks] I suppose it’s that we’re not keen to shove ourselves down everyone’s throats. I suppose that’s a very American thing, very self-promoting at every opportunity, where, if you meet somebody for the first time, they will straight away tell you what they’re doing. Like, ‘Hi, my name’s so-and-so. I work for…’ And you’re, like… ‘Er, OK.’ English people don’t swap that information unless it’s necessary.
Turner: Aside from mentioning, whatever, the chip shop in songs? I think the song we’ve got on the radio now definitely stands out. You’re listening to the radio and everything else is the modern rock that is on high rotation in the US now. I think we definitely sound different to all that. And maybe you can attribute that to where we’re from.
Helders: We still complain like the English.
Why haven’t Arctic Monkeys messed it up?
Turner: It depends on who you ask, in some people’s heads we probably have. I suppose working with good people, and a bit of luck, really. We’ve got a great manager and we made a good decision there to sign with a label that was going to encourage us to flourish. [Thinks] I was trying not to say this but, you know, it’s built on a friendship that goes back to when we were, like, seven years old or whatever. I’m just desperately trying not to be, like, sentimental.
O’Malley: We keep trying. I need to get a really big drug habit, then we’re fucked. But you want to look back and go, “No regrets about it”. You meet people who are in bands and they seem quite bitter about things that have happened to them. But we’ve got no feelings like that. Hopefully, when I’m old I will still be able to say that.
Helders: There’s loads of things we’ve backed away from or not done that maybe would have made us a bigger band but weren’t necessarily that credible or something we could live with ourselves for. Even if that’s just a song idea that’s a bit dishonest in a way. It’s quality control. As long as we all agree on stuff, then I think we’ll be alright.
Cook: Really? I don’t know.
a lot more text @ source