Just three years ago Arctic Monkeys became an overnight rock ’n’ roll phenomenon in the U.K. when the band released it’s debut album, Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not.
It set the record for the fastest-selling debut album, won the highly coveted Mercury Prize and a BRIT Award for Best Album. For a bunch of 20-year-olds the whirlwind experience must have put them on the brink of losing it, but frontman Alex Turner talks like it was just part of their job.
“I don’t think we were ever gonna crack,” he says. “It seems different to me being involved in it. We all grew up on the same street practically, we’ve known each other for a number of years now and I guess that helps you bypass a lot of that bulls—.”
Things have certainly calmed down over the last two years for Turner who says that “it’s a really good feeling, these days.” After rushing a second album, the band was not only able to take its time with album number three, but do it out in the Mojave Desert with Queens of the Stone Age lynchpin Josh Homme.
The partnership had many imaginations running wild over what kind of heaviness Homme could bring to the band’s third album Humbug, but Turner says it brought very different results.
“When we started off we were kind of wild and treacherous, but I think we really trimmed it back while we were with Josh,” he says. “Before that the songs were full-on and fast. And then we kind of elected to change the plan a little bit and then slowed down and mellowed out compared to our first two records.
“We really wanted to shed our skins after the first album, and prove to ourselves that it wasn’t just luck. We did rush that second album, but I think because of that we were able to breathe a little bit more before we made this record. The whole process of Humbug was a lot more relaxed.
Humbug is looser, more impulsive and darker than its predecessors. While it might not be the album some people expect from the band at this stage, one thing’s for sure: the band’s dynamic two-guitar blast is better than ever.
According to Turner the desert sessions helped them confront a fear of theirs. “We learned a lot working with Josh and (engineer) Alain Johannes in the guitar department especially. Solos, I think we’d always been frightened of before this record, but they encouraged Jamie (Cook) and I to step it up.”
• Toronto: The Arctic Monkeys play the Kool Haus tonight, 132 Queens Quay E., $29.50.