Black Rebel Motorcycle Club formed in 1998, taking its name from Marlon Brando's motorcycle gang in the 1953 film The Wild One.
The band's first two records were indebted to classic hard rock influenced by Led Zeppelin and also encompassed slower paced psychedelic rock and space rock influences from bands such as The Verve and The Jesus And Mary Chain. Recently, with their third record Howl, they developed a more concrete sound and style; encompassing blues, folk, and rock, while remaining angst-ridden in theme.
The vocals are shared between Robert Levon Been (Bass) and Peter Hayes (guitar). Been and Hayes met at high school in San Francisco and quickly formed a band, Hayes having recently left the Brian Jonestown Massacre. Looking for a drummer, they met Nick Jago, from Devon, England, who had moved to California to be with his parents after spending some time at Winchester School of Art, where he was studying fine art. Been used the pseudonym 'Robert Turner' on the first two records, in an attempt to not be linked to his famous father (Michael Been of The Call.) He later dropped this identity when promoting Howl.
The band was originally called The Elements, but after discovering that another band had the same name, it changed the name to Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. Its second album Take Them On, On Your Own has several songs such as "Generation" and "US Government" that are critical of the United States government(and in particular George Bush) that were echoed by punk band Green Day the next year.
After conflict with the label, the band was dropped by Virgin Records in 2004, with Nick Jago leaving the band at the end of their summer tour of the same year due to 'internal conflict' (later revealed to be a drug addiction and drinking problem). Hayes and Been then recorded their third album.
In 2005 the band signed to Echo in the UK, and RCA in the U.S.. Their third album Howl was released to widespread critical acclaim. Several of the songs on Howl are said to have been written long before the idea of BRMC was conceived. Jago returned after most of the album was recorded but plays on track 7, "Promise".
Possible influences of the band include the beat poet generation, notably of the Denver scene, and particularly in Allen Ginsberg. This is evident in the title of its third album: Howl is the name of Ginsberg's most celebrated work.
The band's fourth album, Baby 81, was released on April 30, 2007 in the UK and Europe and May 1, 2007 in the U.S.. The band has posted several songs of Baby 81 album on their MySpace page.
On June 6, 2007, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club performed in a concert that was streamed live via MSN Music.