A Lower East Side Staycation: The Ludlow Hotel

 

Not all that long ago, New York’s Lower East Side was mostly populated by skint artists, insalubrious rockers, the narcotically challenged and an ethnic mix of people to whom it was just, well, home. There were also only two real places to eat: Katz’s Deli and El Sombrero. You prepped for a four-band bill at the Mercury Lounge with cheap tacos and tequila shots—and attempted to stave off hangovers with a 4 am knish.

Now the neighborhood flaunts Michelin stars and international luxury hotel brands—grumbling about the past won’t change anything. But wildly successful hotelier Sean MacPherson was actually a central figure in the notorious heyday of Downtown NYC nightlife. And his first LES property, The Ludlow—opened in 2014—feels as perfectly Lower East Side as The Bowery Hotel feels East Village (and The Marlton feels West Village).

Admittedly, weekend late nights on the LES can now find one navigating what feels like a casting call for The Bachelorette. But plan right, and you can also enjoy a fabulous Saturday and Sunday here, without ever going north of Houston Street.

Here’s how to do it.

 


1431 Ludlow Hotel

Loft King Room at The Ludlow

Saturday

Noon: Arrive at The Ludlow, drop your bags, request an upper floor room with a sprawling city view. Take leisurely a stroll, arriving for lunch at Dudleys, a groovy all day affair where you can order everything from rice bowls to cheese toasties to schnitzel salads.
3 PM:  Check in, spend a lazy hour flopping around on the extremely comfy bed, while raiding the minibar and taking in the glorious New York panorama.
4 PM:  Pop out to contemporary galleries like Richard Taittinger, Rachel Uffner and Marianne Boesky, to get a vibe on the burgeoning LES art scene—which has been stealing the conversation away from Chelsea. Stop in for a naughty souvenir at Babeland.

 

Taittinger Gallery

Richard Taittinger Gallery

 

1495 Dirty French/The Ludlow

Dirty French at The Ludlow
7 PM:  Settle in one of the cushy Lobby Bar sofas, order up grilled oysters and a round of particularly stiff tipples, like the Ludlow Gimlet and the bourbon based Pigalle. Groove to your fave Prince, Talking Heads and Duran Duran classics, which make up the hotel’s retro cool soundtrack.
8 PM: Do early cocktails at the sceney Leadbelly, or catch the next indie darling at the Rockwood Music Hall.
10 PM: Late dinner at Dirty French, the hotel’s supremely buzzy restaurant, which serves up surprising takes on French classics like Provencal scallops, short rib Bordelaise and duck a l’orange. It’s a particularly electric scene after 9pm.
Midnight: Watch Scorcese’s Gangs of New York back in your room. It’s set in turn of the century LES.

 


Sunday

10 AM: Order up room service coffee.
11 AM: Take a walk around the Lower East Side when it’s actually quiet. If the weather isn’t cooperating, pop in to the Tenement Museum for an enlightening  bit of LES history.
Noon:  Have the hotel book ahead for brunch at the perpetually cool Freemans. Hard to imagine, but when Taavo Somer opened it in 2004, there was nothing else like it (old-timey style, plentiful taxidermy, classic Americana cuisine). Despite the scores of imitators since, it’s still the hippest and the best. Indulge in such hearty fare as baked skillet eggs shakshuka, buttermilk pancakes and stone-ground cheddar cheese grits.

 

Freeman's Restaurant NYC

Freemans

 

New Museum Bowery NYC

New Museum

 

2 PM: Check out the current exhibitions (which at the moment include Nicole Eisenman’s Al-ugh-ories and Andra Ursuta’s Alps) at the New Museum, one of NYC’s most forward-thinking art institutions.
3 PM: Take a caffeine break at Caffe Vita, which, despite the Italian moniker, is actually an export from Seattle, serving exquisitely realized, house roasted coffee.
4 PM: Undertake a uniquely LES shopping spree, including stops at the Odd and Assembly boutiques, and a retro vinyl pilgrimage to Deadly Dragon Sound.
7 PM: Believe the hype with dinner at Ivan Ramen. Start with furikake spare ribs, before moving on to the delectable main events, like chicken dan dan and spicy red chili ramen.
9 PM: Join the local cocktail disciples warming the seats Attaboy, a sophisticated spot lorded over by Milk & Honey alums  Sam Ross and Michael McIlroy. There’s no drinks menu…so consider it an adventure and an edification.

 


Monday

9 AM:  Have a lazy breakfast of smoked salmon scramble and crispy potato pancakes at Clinton Street Baking Company, before checking out and showing up late to the office.

 

1471 Ludlow Hotel

The Ludlow

This Week’s NY Happenings: Free Tastings at Boqueria, Filipino Fiesta At Bowery, Rub-A-Grub

TONIGHT (Monday): High On The Hog
The world’s greatest ham comes from the Pata Negra pigs that gorge on acorns in Spanish forests. If you’ve never tried Jamón Ibérico de Bellota, stop by Boqueria Flatiron tonight, where the tastings are free. (A sherry pairing is not a bad idea.) 

Complimentary tastings of Jamón Ibérico de Bellota start tonight, May 20th, and run through Wednesday, May 22nd, at Boqueria (53 W. 19th St., Flatiron). To learn more about the restaurant, check out the listing at BlackBook Guides.
 
TUESDAY: Flip Out 
The rooftop of The Bowery Hotel goes tropical with a night of Filipino delights. Favorites like Jeepney and Zengo are on the bites, paired up with PKNY mixologist Enzo Lim’s cocktails.
 
Filipino Fiesta: A Culinary Tour of the Philippines starts at 6:30pm on Tuesday, May 21st, at The Bowery Hotel (335 Bowery, East Village). Tickets are $75. To learn more about the hotel, check out the listing at BlackBook Guides.
 
SUNDAY: Aye, There’s The Rub-A-Grub
Bed-Stuy’s Do or Dine teams up with Sound Liberation Front for a reprise of last year’s Rub-A-Grub backyard bash. Rebel With a Culinary Cause chef Justin Warner will be laying out three rounds of food and drink, beginning with bottomless Bloody Marys, and finishing with barbecue. Ali Shaheed Muhammad of the band A Tribe Called Quest highlights the DJ array. Around 10pm, the scene shifts to One Last Shag for the after-party, but no worries—you can sleep in Monday. 
 
Rub-A-Grub starts at 2pm on Sunday, May 26th, at Do or Dine (1108 Bedford Ave., Bed-Stuy). Advance tickets are $15, or $25 for VIP entry. To learn more about the restaurant, check out the listing at BlackBook Guides.
 
Know every inch of this city by checking out inside-info on shops, bars, and restaurants at BlackBook’s NY City Guides

Do Good & Have Fun At ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ Spring Soiree Thursday

In NYC, doing good is a hard thing to do; amid the packed subways to catch, under-paying jobs to compete over, and overpriced lattes to guzzle mid-stride, the full body-and-mind frenzy overtakes the intrinsic want to be a good person. But once a year, a party comes along that, for four hours, momentarily changes everything. The name: The Fortune Society’s Spring Soiree, and this year’s theme is A Midsummer Night’s Dream (see photo) happening at The Bowery Hotel Thursday the 16th, from 9pm to 1am. 

While supporting Fortune’s rehab services for men and women emerging from incarceration, you get to not only party with the evening’s honored man of the night -documentary filmmaker Eugene Jareckei (Why We Fight, The House I Live In) – but also sip fruity cocktails to the tunes of DJ Alexander Dexter-Jones alongside expected attendees like socialite/model/editor Amanda Hearst, fashion designer Charlotte Ronson, and Sports Illustrated model Julie Henderson.

And if that’s not enough, you can get VIP tables stocked with cocktail waitresses, champagne, and bottles of vodka – as well as entrance to the exclusive after-party – if you donate enough money for a Friend, Patron, or Benefactor Table. ‘Tis something to consider.

But for the folks who just want to support awareness about the country’s criminal justice system (and gawk at Julie Henderson’s perfect… skin), the price of admission is simply $175. And there are only two days left to get tickets so… come and get ’em.

Follow Bonnie on Twitter here

This Week’s NY Happenings: LUCKYRICE, Taste Of The Nation, Manon

NOW: The Mother Of All Rice Fests Returns
LUCKYRICE is back in New York and ready to celebrate all things Asian with a superstar lineup. Tonight is the kickoff, with Danny Bowien of Mission Chinese, and it’s already sold out. Fortunately other tickets remain, as the festival tours through ramen with Chuko, Filipino food with Umi Nom, and a cabana night market at The Maritime Hotel. On Thursday night the focus shifts to “chef cocktails.” Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto hosts while luminaries from Experimental Cocktail Club, Macao Trading Co., and his own Tribeca Canvas put Asian accents on some very fine sips.

LUCKYRICE kicks off tonight, April 29th. Cocktail Feast: A Journey East starts at 8pm on Thursday, May 2nd, at The Bowery Hotel (335 Bowery, East Village). Tickets for the cocktails are $40. To learn more aboutt he hotel, check out the listing at BlackBook Guides. Photo by Parliament of Owls.

NOW: Taste Of The Nation
Seventy of the city’s best bars and restaurants will all be in one place tonight as the 26th annual Taste of the Nation goes off at 82MERCER. Players like ACME, Pouring Ribbons, and The Dead Rabbit are only the beginning, and all proceeds go to fighting childhood hunger.

Taste of the Nation starts at 7:30pm on Thursday, April 25th, at 82MERCER (82 Mercer St., Soho). General admission tickets are $225 ($185 is tax-deductible). To learn more about the event space, check out the listing at BlackBook Guides.

WEDNESDAY: Manon Opens In Meatpacking
Moscow’s Cafe Pushkin peeps take another stab at NYC with glossy Meatpacking triplex Manon. The kitchen is run by a former Public hand, working up seasonal ingredients with international accents. Industrial ironwork meets chandeliers on the glossy interior. Opulence, it has it.

Manon (407 W. 14th St., Meatpacking District) opens Wednesday, May 1st. To learn more about the restaurant and lounge, check out the listing at BlackBook Guides.

Know every inch of this city by checking out BlackBook’s NY City Guides, & signing up for the weekly BlackBook Happenings email. 

Get Lucky In NYC Every Night Next Week

This is not false advertising. Starting Monday, April 29th, you can get lucky every night of the week, which is a basically impossible feat in NYC (unless you’re a 21-year-old, freckle-faced, college girl majoring in English, with too many evenings free and lots of insecurity issues). For seven days, you can drink unlimited Bombay Sapphire East Gin cocktails with lemongrass and St. Germain mixed by Iron Chef Morimoto, dance to house tunes spun by scruffy, downtown DJs, and gorge on pinched, pillowy, lamb-filled dumplings made by Mission Chinese Food chef Danny Bowien. And while you’re at it, get lucky with any one you meet. The cause: LUCKYRICE, the 4th annual festival honoring all things Asian (that you can chew and sip) all across NYC.

Some stops along the way include a cocktail feast at The Bowery Hotel lead by eight of NYC’s top bartenders and Iron Chef Morimoto, a “Filipino Fiesta” at The James Beard House hosted by chef Leah Cohen of Pig & Khao (which boasts a BlackBook-obsessed, delicious brunch), and a Night Market at The Maritime Hotel, where 20 Asian spots serve their top dishes in bohemian cabanas à la the chaotic, night market experience in Asia.

Intrigued? Excited? Hungry? Then snatch up the last couple of tickets to LUCKYRICE. 

And (ahem), please tweet at me if you get lucky, thanks. 

Follow Bonnie on Twitter here.

The 12 Things You Must Do In NYC On 12/12/12

Whether you think today is magically auspicious or a reminder that the clock’s quickly-a-tickin’ to Dec. 21st doomsday, the greatest takeaway is this: we must seize the day. So get out there and make today your best. Make it amazing. It just might be your last…

1. Breakfast at Clinton St. Baking Company: since it’s a weekday, the line is shorter than ever, bringing you that much closer to ordering their signature blueberry pancakes and sugar-cured bacon, and being lifted to the celestial heaven that is fluffy pancakes.

2. Put on a sweater and puffy jacket, rent a bike from the Waterfront Bike Shop, and ride across the Brooklyn Bridge and into DUMBO’s Brooklyn Bridge Park. There is no better view of this sparkling gem of a city than on that 129-year-old bridge and from that grassy park.

3. Sweeten the day with the city’s best cupcakes at Sweet Revenge. Today’s specialty offering is the eggnog cupcake with spiced cream cheese frosting, though the major must-get is their signature namesake treat: the Sweet Revenge with peanut butter cake, ganache center, and peanut butter fudge frosting.

4. Drink the day away at Chelsea Brewing Company and frolic drunkenly along the Hudson River. End your tipsy journey with mouthfuls of the giant peanut butter and blackberry jam doughnut and carrot cake doughnut at Chelsea’s Doughnut Plant.

5. Visit West Garden Spa for an “afternoon delight” if ya know what I mean, guys.

6. Rent that helicopter and soar across NYC like a bird. A 15-minute ride above the Statue of Liberty is just $169, which is what you’d pay anyway for dinner-and-drinks-for-two at West Village haven of deliciousness: Perilla.

7. Go ice skating in the heart of Central Park at Wollman Skating Rink, and wrap your hands around a steaming, frothy cup of hot chocolate from nearby  Jacques Torres at 30 Rockefeller Plaza.

8. Have a tea party with all of your best friends at English cottage-inspired Tea & Sympathy, and go nuts over their scones with clotted cream and raspberry jam, kettles of vanilla mint tea, welsh rarebit, and chicken pot pie.

9. Watch the city melt into dark at sunset from the Top of the Rock observation deck.

10. When 5pm hits, head straight to cocktail favorite Mother’s Ruin for their spicy Brazilian coconut cocktail and devour their bready, cheesy, greasy, beautiful grilled cheese.

11. Finally talk to that adorable person you always see on the subway. Flirt, ask them out, make a move.

12. Because no one wants to go back to their apartment (and roommate), end the night in luxury at the Bowery Hotel

Follow Bonnie on Twitter here

Amber Heard’s Age of Dissent: ‘The Rum Diary’ Star Bares All

Amber Heard meets me on a sunny morning at Gemma, the copper-toned Italian brasserie next to Manhattan’s Bowery Hotel where she’s currently staying as she shoots Syrup, an indie drama set in the dog-eat-dog world of corporate advertising. The 25-year-old actor is tall and slender, her blonde hair slicked back and still wet from the shower, and, if she’s to be believed, there’s not a pinch of makeup on her face. “Can you tell that I just woke up?” she asks. Aside from the two soy lattes she guzzles in under an hour, I cannot. Heard is dressed in head-to-toe vintage—a black lace top exposing her sun-kissed shoulders, an eggshell-white, high-waisted skirt, and gold slip-ons—a style that not only suits her pinup physique, but also that of Maureen, the Bunny she plays on NBC’s new ’60s-era drama The Playboy Club.

To the average moviegoer, Heard might look familiar, if not quite recognizable. (Isn’t she the girl whose face decomposed at the beginning of Zombieland, right before treating Jesse Eisenberg’s brain like an amuse-bouche?) Her pinup good looks have served her well in roles that usually call for a slight twist on the all-American dream girl. I’ll admit that before this assignment, I’d considered Heard to be just another perfectly symmetrical actor clawing her way up the Hollywood employment ladder, mostly in thankless roles in genre movies—as Seth Rogen’s girlfriend in the hardcore stoner-art romp Pineapple Express, or as Nicolas Cage’s Daisy Dukes–wearing passenger in the equally hardcore action wig-out Drive Angry 3D. Somehow, these parts have led her to The Rum Diary, an adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson’s long-lost novel about a journalist—played by Johnny Depp—in 1960s Puerto Rico, and Heard’s first film aimed at high-minded adults hungry for cinematic brain food.

Asked if The Rum Diary feels like her first film for grown-ups, Heard soaks her response in sarcasm: “Well, The Informers is certainly a kids’ movie,” she says, referring to one of her earlier projects, an adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis’ coke-tome of the same name brought to excruciating life in 2009. But unlike that roundly panned film, The Rum Diary works. As Chenault, the striking and provocative object of Depp’s affections, Heard manages to breathe strength and vulnerability into a character that feels both out-of-reach and somehow obtainable. It’s a role she could play in her sleep. “Chenault is free-spirited and rebellious,” she says. “I can relate to that.” To get the part, Heard fought tooth-and-nail—a process that included four auditions and a handwritten letter to director Bruce Robinson—eventually beating out some of Hollywood’s alpha actresses. “I heard names of people who were going in, so I think part of me was resigned to not getting it,” Heard says, obliquely referring to Scarlett Johansson and Keira Knightley, whose auditions for the role were widely reported.

Heard talks about her Rum Diary experience like she still can’t wrap her head around it. She punctuates the story of her first audition for Depp with bursts of incredulous laughter. Was she intimidated meeting one of the world’s great silver-screen icons? “I guess I must have been,” she says. “I just don’t know if I thought about it that way. Luckily, we’re built so we don’t really remember that kind of pain.” Laughter. “I can just assume it was there.” More laughter. Regarding a steamy shower scene with Depp, Heard plays it cool, sort of. “I grew up watching his movies, so it was a little surreal, but I very much become my characters while I’m working. I’m not Amber Heard making out with Johnny Depp in the shower. I mean, that’s awesome, but I am Chenault, and he’s Paul Kemp, and we’re embroiled in a love story in Puerto Rico, and it’s easy to get lost in that. Love scenes are weird, but if they’re right for your character, I let go of the weirdness and jump into them.” image

She worked closely with Depp to develop the character of Chenault, who was based on Thompson’s first wife, Sandy Conklin (who later changed her name to Sondi Wright). “I’m playing somebody who still exists, who had a major role in the life of one of Johnny’s dear friends, and who is in more than one way important to him,” she says. “So there was a lot of pressure.” She need not worry. From her very first scene, in which she emerges from the sea like a siren, beckoning Depp’s character to plunge in and join her, Heard’s luminosity fills the frame. Despite the newfound respect that will surely accompany her Rum Diary role, Heard doesn’t see it as a career turning point. “Don’t get me wrong,” she says. “It feels great, but none of my films feel like they’re going to be my big break. I do the job, work really hard on the project, and go home and do the next one. They’re kind of all stepping stones built on one another.”

Last December, however, Heard’s on-screen work took a backseat to her private life, when, at The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation’s 25th anniversary celebration, news began circulating about her long-term relationship with photographer Tasya van Ree. Suddenly, her personal life, which Heard says she fiercely guards, was exposed, a choice with which she wrestled. For Heard, talking openly about her relationship with a woman wasn’t an attempt to grab media coverage, but instead, she says, an ethical and social responsibility. “I talked about my relationship because there’s a difference between being a private person and being part of the problem,” she says. “I knew that I had a responsibility to young people, who right now are without many role models, to kind of step out of my comfort zone and acknowledge that I have a girlfriend without being ambiguous about it.” Echoing what she’d said at the time, Heard adds, “At the end of the day, if you’re hiding something, then you are inadvertently saying it’s wrong, and I don’t feel like it’s wrong. Millions of people aren’t born wrong.”

Since that day, Heard has been disturbed by the way her sexuality has been reported. A headline on the Huffington Post, one of the first links that comes up on an Amber Heard Google search, reads, “Amber Heard Gay: Actress Comes Out as a Lesbian.” But, according to Heard, she never came out. “I’ve always been out,” she says. “Way before that event, there were pictures of me walking to press events holding my girlfriend’s hand. Those have been on the internet for years.”

Heard’s spirit of activism—her official website is as devoted to gay rights as it is to her magazine covers—is a by-product of coming of age in Austin, Texas, amidst a wave of what she calls religious hypocrisy. Heard, a proud atheist, left home at 17 for Hollywood after dropping out of high school. “I felt very alienated,” she says of that time in her life. “I was not a religious person, and I didn’t think the things around me were righteous, even though that’s what they claimed to be. I felt compelled to go against the grain, so I took my GED, took my SAT, and I got the hell out of there.” It’s partly what drew her to her character in The Playboy Club. “You don’t know where she’s come from, and in many ways I relate to that, that alienated person against the masses. I don’t know how my character is going to grow, but I have a feeling I want to be there for her when she does.”

More and more, Heard is becoming known as an actor willing to take risks. She’s neither shied away from nudity nor from Nic Cage movies, but she also speaks her mind. “My PR people should be on a steady supply of prescription medication,” she says with a subtle Texas twang, buried beneath years of Hollywood refinement. “It’s lonely to stand up for what’s right,” she says. “I am alone in Hollywood in many ways, and that’s scary. It’s better for my career if I stay quiet, but I’ve just never been that person. I didn’t get into this business so I could shut up.”

image

AMBER LIKES, Gemma

Photography by Kate Orne. Styling by Christopher Campbell.

Getting Illicit with Natalia Kills

There’s something deliciously illicit about Natalia Kills. Even if the English singer’s name didn’t evoke a villainess from some outtake of The Avengers, one gets the impression the lass would be just as comfortable running a con or plotting a heist, as she is pulling a Machiavelli on the pop world. Then there’s that whole murderous girl thing she’s got goin’ on; an explicit lethality which can be found in both the sound of her single “My Boyfriend,” and the visions of her Love Kills xx video series, in addition to the very name itself. On the terrace of South Beach’s Catalina Hotel on Thursday night, just hours before Kills took her stand at Mansion, it was all I could do to not ask her if she’d like to go knock off a bank.

But Kills is far too single-mindedly determined to be sidetracked by something that could keep her outta circulation for even a couple moments, let alone a few years. See, that might foil her plans for world domination. And make no mistake, this unequivocal young lady is definitely going global—or else.

While where Kills is going may be clear, it’s a lot harder to pinpoint where she’s come from. Born to a Jamaican father and a Uruguayan mother, and raised primarily in the Gunshine State (Miami and Jacksonville), she’s spent the last couple of years lighting fires around LA. Her “wish,” though, is to move to the Big Bad Apple, and soon. “There isn’t anything wrong with Los Angeles,” she says. “It’s just time for New York.” Perhaps she simply needs a bigger city to core?

When prompted, Kills calls herself “English.” Noting her heritage, however, she may just as well claim citizenry of the wild world she seems so keen to conquer. Like many a bright mind, Kills is the kinda Benetton kid Tibor Kalman undoubtedly had in his head when he created the incomparable Colors. A cross-pollination of creed and culture as compelling as it is adroit. Otherwise known as: our future.

In other words, Kills has got it goin’ on, even if her Wiki page has it all wrong. She does NOT share a name with her mother, nor has she been in a succession of British soap operas. Kills isn’t from Persia either, though she “has great respect” for the people and the place.

The last time Kills hit South Beach, she opened for Robyn at The Fillmore. This time, as mentoined, she soloed at Mansion, one of the most renowned dance emporiums on The Strip. Prior to that, there was a mad two nights in New York, where she pulled off appearances at both the Standard and Bowery hotels, as well as an exclusive on the 48th floor of the Atlas. By the time you read this, Kills will be in arenas opening for Katy Perry before she crosses back over the pond to retake the continent.

Face to face, Kills is forthright, forthcoming and utterly assured. Yes, “My Boyfriend” is about a real someone. No, she didn’t kill him. She is “grateful” though that their six-year relationship turned out so badly. Otherwise, her album “would be all rainbows, and who the hell wants to hear that?” Kills is also extremely grateful to French director Guillaume Doubet, the Love Kills accomplice who taught her the tricks of the the cinematic trade and gave her the opportunity to be on both sides of the camera. “I learned so much shooting that series,” she says. “Mostly, I learned that I could direct too. I just had to do it.”

Forget for a minute Nike’s now-overexposed slogan, because before there was such a thing as kicks campaigns, there were people for whom “just do it” was simply who and what they were. Count Natalia Kills among that worthy roster. Or else.

Photo by Jeffrey Delannoy.

After the Hype, the Arctic Monkeys Evolve Their Sound on ‘Suck It and See’

Before recording their new album, Suck It and See, Arctic Monkeys’ lead singer Alex Turner swung by the small offices of Domino Records, the label that first signed the band in 2005. He was there to fetch a copy of their debut, 2006’s Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, which he hadn’t listened to since it was pressed. What he heard next were kinetic, beer-soaked retellings of the band’s nocturnal misadventures: face-offs with bouncers, propositions from hookers, and boozy encounters with spray-tanned lushes. They were, after all, four teenage guys from Sheffield, England. What else were they going to make music about?

If the title of their forthcoming release is any indication, today’s Monkeys haven’t evolved much from the cheeky lads who recorded a 2006 EP titled Who the Fuck Are Arctic Monkeys? “I suppose Suck It and See is a bit rude, innit?” says Turner between puffs of a Camel. “It’s an old English saying, like, ‘Give it a try.’ We’ve got some American friends, and when we were talking about calling it that, they were like, ‘You have to do it!’” But despite naming albums based on what their friends think sounds “fucking awesome,” the Monkeys—none of whom is older than 25—insist they’ve grown up.

Turner and drummer Matt Helders meet me on the outdoor patio of Manhattan’s Bowery Hotel one day in late March. The band is in New York for three days promoting their album’s June release, but guitarists Nick O’Malley (who joined the group in 2006, after original bassist Andy Nicholson left) and Jamie Cook have opted to stay in their rooms. Turner and Helders explain that fewer members will invite more fluid conversation, but intimations of a party in Brooklyn the previous evening call their reasoning into question. The Monkeys are also known for resisting the advances of journalists. Of their notorious aversion to the press, Helders says, “It’s definitely gotten easier to deal with, but talking about myself isn’t an easy thing for me to do.”

It shows. While Turner and Helders say they’ve come to terms with promoting their work, they still seem insular, hesitant, and more than a little distracted. When Turner speaks, Helders looks down, fiddling with a keychain or his iPhone. What was once a defense mechanism, a reaction to the sudden, thousand-watt spotlight thrust on the band even before the release of their first album, has become, four albums in, total ennui.

When Whatever People Say I Am was released, the internet had just begun to eclipse record labels in terms of influence on a musician’s career. Based solely on the strength of their demos, which went viral before “viral” was a part of the lexicon, the Monkeys experienced an unprecedented surge in exposure. The end result was the fastest-selling album in UK history, with 363,735 units moved in the first week. “You’re not going to blame that on us,” says Helders, about his band’s role in the music industry’s online revolution. And he’s probably right. It was their fans—enthusiastic about the Monkeys’ brash gutter-rock sound, which filled the void left behind by the collapsing Libertines—who distributed their songs across social websites like Myspace. In an age when the biggest artists on the planet have embraced the web as a tool for DIY self-promotion, the Monkeys have remained resistant to overexposure. “I’m still pretty disconnected from all that social networking,” Turner says. “It’s not something that any of us really uses.” image

Since the beginning, the Monkeys haven’t taken themselves very seriously. They decided to band together after receiving instruments as Christmas gifts; their first hometown gigs were played for a total of three people. “We were just having a laugh,” as Helders puts it. But when they became the biggest band in England almost overnight, they quickly formulated a blueprint for outlasting the hype. “After that first record, we went right back into the studio to make another one, and I’m glad we did,” says Turner of 2007’s Favourite Worst Nightmare. “Otherwise we might still be in there now, trying to write ‘Hallelujah.’”

Suck It and See marks a meaningful shift for the Monkeys, both in its recording process and in the finished product. For their previous album, 2009’s Humbug, the band, along with their producer, Queens of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme, painstakingly narrowed down the 12-song track listing from the 25 they had originally recorded. This time out, Turner wrote most of the songs in the Brooklyn apartment he shared until recently with his girlfriend Alexa Chung (the couple moved back to London following the cancellation of MTV’s It’s On with Alexa Chung in December 2009), intending for each of the tracks to appear on the album’s final cut.

For Turner, Suck It and See—despite its title—is a more serious record. “In the past we shied away from traditional verse-chorus-verse structures,” he says. “Perhaps we’ve not done that before because that’s how everybody else does it, but you get to a point where you realize there’s a reason people do things.” That revelation gave them the confidence to expand their sonic arsenal. Suck It and See finds the Monkeys, a band who once specialized in stripped-down, blunt-force trauma rock, sounding almost lighthearted. Gone, for the most part, are the “faster, riffier” songs, as Turner calls them, replaced with echoing guitars, foot-tapping bass lines, and soulful choruses. Their post-punk garage-rock aesthetic—trumpeted by bands like the Hives and the Vines—has been eschewed in favor of something that sounds closer to Brit-pop.

But if the Monkeys’ sound has evolved, then what about their sensibility? Turner’s lyrics, which have developed in quirk since the Sheffield days, are known for their turns-of-phrase and cocky wit. But when it comes time to decode them for the press, he avoids specifics. He despises, in particular, the track-by-track breakdown, a safety net for stumped music writers. “It’s like, Oh yeah, this one’s all about pain,” he says. “When promoting the first record, I’d be like, Why the fuck are we breaking this down for you? It’s pretty obvious what each tune is saying.” The songs on Suck It and See won’t make interpretation any easier. “Bite the lightning, and tell me how it tastes,” Turner sings on “Don’t Sit Down ’Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair,” the album’s first single. “Kung fu fighting, on your roller skates. Do the Macarena in the Devil’s lair, but just don’t sit down ’cause I moved your chair.” Appropriately, Turner, who’s busy squirming in his own chair, insists that those are some of the most accessible lyrics on the album.