With news that the Arctic Monkeys are working on their fifth album, how about the band that makes a living out of ‘being’ them. David Dunn investigates
THERE’S something more than a bit ‘coals to Newcastle’ about a tribute band to Arctic Monkeys playing the Sheffield band’s home town.
But the Antarctic Monkeys consider their forthcoming show at the O2 Academy an honour rather than a challenge.
Then again, on one of the three previous occasions the Wolverhampton band played Sheffield relatives of the real deal turned up.
“We did a charity event to raise cash and cancer awareness,” recalls manager Mac Clark. “The parents of the Arctic Monkeys attended along with ex-bass player Andy Nicholson – Alex Turner’s mum said to our lead singer that he was her surrogate son.
“Having their approval meant a lot to us. We always get a fantastic reception wherever we play, but Sheffield is always the best by far.”
It has to be said, the life of a tribute band is arguably an unusual one in the often surreal world of music.
For the real thing, having someone cover your songs is arguably a degree of confirmation that you have ‘arrived’. To have a band devote their career to emulating your own can be anything from creepy to a massive mark of respect.
For the Antarctic Monkeys the move to form a band playing the music of Alex Turner’s men happened rather casually.
“It came about from a practice session when our manager came in for a meeting when we were doing a cover of I Bet You Look Good On The Dance Floor – the band was well into the Arctic Monkeys,” say the band.
“It started as a joke at first. Our manager suggested we could raise some cash to cover studio time for our own original music, but the band wasn’t convinced or confident to cover such an amazing young upcoming band.
“We were an original band and the tribute scene did not appeal to us. We realised at this time the Monkeys would become an arena band and to cover them with just one album out was a massive, massive risk.
“But our manager had such confidence in us, said we sounded just like them and our singer had an uncanny resemblance to Alex. So we learnt the album in a couple of weeks, he arranged a gig at a local venue, which was a massive success, and the phone kept ringing for us. The Antarctics were born armed with a 45-minute set.”
To the lads’ credit the band wasn’t simply forged in the heat surrounding the real thing. The Antarctics drummer discovered Turner’s talent early on when he chanced upon a demo CD of Fake Tales Of San Francisco, Dancefloor and Bigger Boys. “He followed Arctic Monkeys on MySpace long before they were big, so we knew of them already and were fans of their music.”
The band – Dean Reynolds (lead singer aka Alex), Daz Clark (drummer aka Helders), Grant Harris (lead guitar aka Cookie), John Paul Davies (bass aka O’Malley) – also have an Oasis tribute section to their show to attract a wider audience “as Arctic Monkeys tend to attract the younger person” but they take the business of covering the View From The Afternoon boys very seriously.
“We saw them first in April 2006 – a month after we formed as the Antarctics – at the Civic Hall in our home town, paid £40 a ticket too,” say the lads, who also caught the Arctic Monkeys’ collosal Old Trafford Cricket Ground double with Amy Winehouse, The Coral and Supergrass.
“Of course, we watch videos and media stuff as we have to mimic the Arctic Monkeys for our stage performance. We are fans at the end of the day.
“And our lead singer resembles Alex in so many ways, especially during the Favorite Nightmare period. But it’s not the lookalike thing that we deliver, it’s the big anthems and power of the big, big tunes of the Monkeys that we are interested in.”
And needless to say the band were transfixed by Arctic Monkey’s performance during the London 2012 Olympic Games opening ceremony.
“Wow, nothing but amazing. They even did a cover of Come Together... ain’t that what we do every week. Enough said.”