ARCTIC MONKEYS at Lee's Palace (529 Bloor West), Monday (November 14), 8 pm. Sold out. 416-870-8000.
Whenever musicians are grilled about why they chose such horrible band names, they typically fall back on the old reliable Beatles defence. Next year, badly named bands may be citing the Arctic Monkeys instead. Although the wired-up Sheffield teens haven't yet released an album, the Arctic Monkeys recently notched a chart milestone neither the Fab Four, Coldplay nor even Franz Ferdinand can claim: their debut single, I Bet That You Look Good On The Dancefloor (Domino), rocketed straight to number one on the UK charts. For those keeping score at home, the Beatles' Love Me Do only made it to a lowly number 17 in the UK back in 62.
What makes the Monkeys' feat even more impressive is that their quick rise to the top occurred without the conventional "hookers 'n' blow" promotional strategy or having hordes of street team members buy up mass quantities of their single from chart-reporting shops.
The press, radio and television were almost circumvented entirely in the group's audience-building process. MuchMusic recently declined an offer to interview the band. The Arctic Monkeys are the first real breakthrough act of the download era.
"I think many of our fans feel they have a special relationship with us because they were there before the media," explains guitarist Alex Turner from a recording studio. "Instead of picking up a paper to see which band they're supposed to like, it's as if they told the press about us, not the other way around.
"As technology keeps moving on, there've been some real changes in the way people are finding out about new bands and hearing music."
After getting guitars for Christmas three years ago at the age of 16, Turner and school chum Jamie Cook went to work learning how to use them. Within a year, they had a band together with pals Andy Nicholson and Matt Helders and were starting to get gigs around South Yorkshire as the Arctic Monkeys.
"We actually had the band name before we got our guitars. While we were still at school, Jamie was saying he wanted to get a band together and call it the Arctic Monkeys. We've made up so many stories about how and why we chose the name that I can't even remember the truth."
Along with regularly playing gigs, they also got right into recording demos of their roughhousing brand of rock 'n' roll kinda like the Libertines with a smartass teen sense of fun which contributed greatly to their quick rise to the top.
"We'd record these three-song demo EPs and give them out at shows. Soon people began posting the tracks on websites, and the songs quickly spread to various bulletin boards and Internet forums. It was definitely those people posting and swapping our songs online who were responsible for the early groundswell of attention.
"At the end of last year we started playing some out-of-town shows. When we came back to play a show in Sheffield in early December, for the first time the club was filled not with our families and friends but with people we'd never met before. And we could see them mouthing the words of our songs. That's when we knew we might be onto something."
The rest of England found out what Arctic Monkeys fans already knew when the group kicked ass at the Reading and Leeds festivals. Their Five Minutes With The Arctic Monkeys EP sold out its limited run in less time than it took to record it and now goes for $80 or more on eBay.
Eventually, major-label A&R reps came sniffing, but Domino wound up signing the Monkeys and will release the group's Jim Abbiss-produced debut album in January. They've also recorded tracks for their follow-up it'll be a busy 2006.
"While we're on the road we usually bring our laptops with us in the van so we can check out what people are saying in the fan forums. It's kinda weird to see people discussing what effects pedals we're using and stuff.
"They had this poll to find out who people thought was the best-looking Monkey, so of course we all signed on and voted for ourselves."