Wil Marlow goes ape for everybody's favourite new band, the Arctic Monkeys...
This year it will be impossible to avoid Arctic Monkeys. In many, nay all, the "ones to watch" lists published at the beginning of the year, the band were touted as a foregone conclusion to become the biggest band of 2006.
No album being released in 2006 is as hotly anticipated as the band's forthcoming debut Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not. But that title is indicative of the band's own attitude towards the hype that surrounds them.
"It's flattering for people to say we're the next big thing," says 19-year-old drummer Matt Helders. "It's nice to hear. But you don't want it to go so far that it's not about the music, that it's about people being told to like it.
"I don't want people to like us for the wrong reasons. But I think people aren't stupid. They can see through it and realise that they do actually like us."
"For where we're at it is too much," continues frontman Alex Turner, also 19, "compared to what stage we're at as a band. We're just starting really. [The attention] sets the record up to be a disappointment.
"As good as we know it is, it's like it'll be built up to such a thing that if it doesn't cure cancer or solve inner city poverty or something it'll be a disaster. But people get carried away, don't they? Fair enough."
Those who have not followed the band's meteoric rise in 2005 might be wondering what on earth all the fuss is about. The fuss has been caused, not just by the music itself, which has had fans and critics frothing about the tight melodies and vivid, imaginative lyrics, but because of the way the band became successful.
It all started with the four-piece - which also includes guitarist Jamie Cook and bassist Andy Nicholson - giving out demos of their songs at their early gigs. As word of mouth grew, fans started to share the demos on the internet, fuelling the growing buzz.
By the time they released their first, limited edition, EP, Five Minutes With The Arctic Monkeys, in May 2005, they had a wide and enthusiastic fanbase who would travel miles to see them play. One bunch of lads, from Nottingham, go to every show.
"They turn up with a bag of wine and a straw," laughs Matt, "so they can crowd-surf and sip at the same time."
Inevitably there was a record label scramble to sign Arctic Monkeys, but the band turned A&R men away at the door at first. Their attitude was that they'd got this far on their own - why let these people in for free?
But eventually they went with Domino Records, the label that propelled Franz Ferdinand to success. The Monkeys liked the indie ethic of owner Laurence Bell, who ran the label from his flat, and only signed bands that he liked personally.
"We were ready to sign to another label," admits Matt.
"I was tempted by the money on offer, it meant I could give up my day job. But Laurence seemed like a genuine fan. He decides who he signs, rather than some MD. It all seemed just right."
Their debut single on the label, I Bet You Look Good On The Dance-floor, went straight to No 1, and hung around the Top 20 for weeks.
New single When The Sun Goes Down, has also been getting extensive radio play. While not as catchy as ...Dancefloor, its vivid storytelling (of a prostitute and her pimp) effortlessly captures the imagination.
"We live in Sheffield and we write about the things we see here," says Alex of his much-praised lyrical talent. "What else is there to write about?"
He's surprised so many people relate to the content of their songs.
"I think a lot of our stuff is quite literal really," he says. "But I guess some sections of the songs become more than just that, they start to remind people of a certain time. So yeah, I guess they can mean different things to different people."
In fact the band seem surprised about everything that's happened to them. They play down their own involvement in their quick rise to success, saying it was the fans who used the internet to spread the word.
"We only use [the internet] for email or iTunes or whatever," says Matt. "None of us really knew how to put music on there."
And they portray the initial formation of the band as something that almost happened by accident.
Jamie and Alex only began to learn guitar four years ago when they received guitars for Christmas. Even then there was no intention of forming a band. They began to talk about it as they learned, but say they were only "messing about".
"For me [music] is more of a recent thing," says Matt. "Being in a band has got me into music more than anything else - it wasn't the other way around."
"I was always quite intrigued by the whole thing," admits Alex. "But, again, I never thought of it as a youngster. It just sort of happened."
They quickly embraced it, however.
"As soon as we did form the band," grins Alex, "it was all I ever thought about, ever."
Their enthusiasm continues to be shared by their growing fanbase. Demand for their music is so high that they have brought the release date of the album forward by a week.
It should, to paraphrase every drooling article written about Arctic Monkeys, propel the band from being the Next Big Thing to a bona fide Big Thing.
But the band themselves are already thinking ahead and have started writing songs for the second album. This might seem to belie their lack of ambition, but it's probably more a case of them just doing what they so obviously enjoy.
"We've got about four full songs and four ideas for new songs," says Matt. "There are songs that we thought about putting on this album, but we had such success with the demos that we thought we should re-record them. There are certain things you can't miss out on.
"If people listen to the first album in ten years it's not going to be an accurate representation of what it was if we just put on all brand new songs. The first album is just to remind people of what it was like.
* Arctic Monkeys' debut album Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not is out today