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Bassist Matthew McAuley, synthesizer player Thomas Bullock, guitarist Ryan Noel and vocalist Brain F. McPeck formed A.R.E. Weapons, a New York City-based group that began to generate a stir within underground circles in 2001 for their aggressive, confrontational shows and their buzzing and willfully ramshackle electro-rock. During a visit to New York, Pulp's Jarvis Cocker heard the band and encouraged Rough Trade's Geoff Travis to sign them. He obliged, and the band's debut single, Street Gang, was out by the end of July 2001. A second single, New York Muscle, was released in November, and the group was also featured on Electro Mogul's Electroclash compilation, which was out by the end of that year. Bullock left and was replaced by manager and third musician Paul Sevigny (brother of actress Chloe Sevigny), and the band's self-titled debut album finally arrived in April of 2003 but suffered a tremendous setback when Noel died of a heroin overdose the following year. The remaining members continued to record; they released 2005's Free in the Streets on the Defend Music label, followed by Modern Mayhem in 2007.