England's the Darkness centers around irrepressible frontman Justin Hawkins (vocals/guitars/keyboards), who, along with his guitar-playing baby brother Dan, bassist Frankie Poullain and drummer Ed Graham, single-handedly resurrected the rather unfashionable sounds and attitudes of late-‘70s hard rock for an unsuspecting generation.
Following the demise of an earlier, conspicuously synth-pop-based outfit named Empire, the Hawkins brothers sowed the seeds of what would become the Darkness at an impromptu karaoke session on New Year's Eve 1999. Justin's rapturous rendition of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" showed them the way, and the suitably dramatic name of the Darkness was chosen shortly after the arrival of Poullain and Graham. With outrageous stage antics that included gaudy leotards stolen from Steven Tyler's wardrobe, leaps and splits borrowed from David Lee Roth, and an ear-piercing falsetto copped from Freddie Mercury himself, the multi-talented elder Hawkins led the quartet as they spent the next two years slogging it out in London's pub circuit. Though they were immediately singled out as a joke by the notoriously vicious British press, the Darkness' high energy sets, remarkably catchy material and unapologetic worship of old-school rock & roll bombast gradually earned them a fanatical following based on simple word of mouth.
The tide finally began to shift in their favor in August 2002, when the Darkness released their debut EP I Believe in a Thing Called Love through independent Must Destroy Music, won a major talent contest and also scored all-important opening slots with Deep Purple and Def Leppard. Their momentum carried through into the new year, starting with a knockout performance at Austin's SXSW music convention in January, continuing with the release of their "Keep Your Hands off My Woman" single in February (peaking at number 36 in the U.K. chart), and climaxing in their subsequent signing of a major-label contract with Atlantic Records in March. Nothing could stop the Darkness' snowball effect now, and a series of acclaimed festival appearances set the stage for their debut album Permission to Land to debut atop the British charts -- the first time a new act had achieved such a feat since Coldplay three years earlier.