SALT Lake City, Utah: international hub for Mormonism and now, as from this week, the temporary home for four lads from Sheffield.
Here, in the industrial banking centre of the United States, among hardcore Mormon followers and preachers, wander one of Britain’s biggest bands – the Arctic Monkeys.
“It’s all right here,” says drummer Matt Helders, “People keep trying to spread the word to us but we have to tell them that we just haven’t got time.”
The brief stop in Salt Lake City is part of the band’s American tour, in support of their fourth - and much anticipated – album, Suck It and See. It’s an appropriate misnomer. AM’s last album, Humbug, was a critical hit, wooing industry insiders and music journalists with its rockier, Josh Homme-infused sound, but its departure from spiky teenage-inspired indie left some fans at a loss. Suck It and See, no doubt, will incite a similar response.
In sound the album’s much closer to Humbug: lyrics are, at times, obscure, abstracted and reflective (“Go into business with a grizzly bear” as Turner sings in Don’t Sit Down Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair). In Suck It and See there are no taxi rides home, Sheffield prostitutes or Rotherham residents aspiring to be Stateside. There is, however, a hint of retro fifties pop in She’s the Thunderstroms and Black Treacle, with muted spaghetti guitar and semi-crooner vocals. And in tracks Brick By Brick, All My Own Stunts and Library Pictures, Homme’s rocky influence can really be heard. Don’t Sit Down Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair takes on this veneer, with super-sexy drudgy guitar and superb lyrical phrasing. Here – refreshingly – Arctic Monkeys really delve into heavier, ballsier territory. And it suits them rather well.
“Working with Josh Homme has no doubt had an influence on us but we’ve always been into grungy stuff and we’ve always liked his stuff. We’ve worked with him before [on Humbug],” says Helders. He agrees that Library Pictures, and Brick are examples of the Arctic Monkeys giving it some welly, which is when he likes drumming best. “The lighter ones are good to play to as well though.”
And unlike most drummers, Helders is not just responsive to the bassist. “I listen to the whole band and to the lyrics for their rhythm and how they are phrased – I probably respond more to lyrics than other players.” Indeed, it is staggering that Helders – along with the rest of the band – were new to playing instruments when they first started as a band in High Green in 2004. Now the tracksuit-clad Sheffielder is among one of the most powerful drummers in rock and roll (something that Homme himself commented on while producing Humbug). “It’s good, I can feel us developing as we go on.”
But the AM’s haven’t just developed musically. The lads – who have a reputation for being shy in interviews – are now much chattier: “It gets more and more enjoyable as you get more and more comfortable,” says Helders.
It is remarkable that by their 21st birthdays the Arctic Monkeys had released a platinum-selling album and played Glastonbury.
“And while Turner resides in London with his girlfriend, TV presenter and model Alexa Chung, the rest of the band still live in Sheffield. “I suppose I live in my own house, so I am settled in Sheffield but never say never – it’s good that we get to go away a lot too.”
Next week the band play two shows in Sheffield with support from fellow Steel City bands Mabel Love and Dead Sons: “Dead Sons and Mabel Love are good mates of ours and they’re good bands.
“It should be good – there’ll be a lot of our mates there.” The June shows sold out in a matter of minutes – a far cry from the tiny shows the band would put on at venues such as The Grapes when they first started in 2004.
Helders attributes the band’s success and relative ease with it all to the fact that they were never desperate to make it. “We didn’t need it to be our career because we were so young when we started. If it didn’t work out we would have just enjoyed it and gone on to something else – we don’t have wives and kids.”
Now the AM have clearly ‘made it’. “It gets better and better,” says Helders. “I wouldn’t swap it for owt.”
Suck and See is out on Monday. The Arctic Monkeys play at Don Valley Bowl on June 10 and 11.