Named for the Skip James song "22-20 Blues," the 22-20s hail from Lincolnshire, England, and mix blues, rock, folk, and country influences into a sound that got the quartet noticed early in its career. Vocalist/guitarist Martin Trimble and bassist Glen Bartup had played together in local bands for several years, but formed the 22-20s in mid-2002, while they were still both in their early twenties. Keyboardist Charly Coombes and a series of drummers rounded out the band's initial lineup before the band settled on James Irving as their permanent drummer. The group's consistent gigging caught the ears of Heavenly Records, which signed the band late in 2002; early the following year, the 22-20s released their first single, Such a Fool, as a limited-edition 7". Soon after, they made their first U.S. appearance at the 2003 Coachella Festival; during their U.K. tour later that spring, they also recorded the 05-03 EP, which previewed a handful of their songs in concert.
Supporting gigs for Jet and Kings of Leon sent the band back to the States, and the 22-20s' relentless touring schedule continued with appearances at Glastonbury, Germany's Southside and Hurricane festivals, and another U.K. tour that fall, which coincided with the release of the single 22 Days. 05-03, another limited-edition pressing, was also issued around that time, and became the 22-20s' first U.S. release. The band took a brief breather from playing live to finish its self-titled debut album, but geared up again in 2004 with appearances at T in the Park, Glastonbury, and Reading, as well as the Fuji Rock Festival in Japan. Singles such as Why Don't You Do It for Me? and Shoot Your Gun heralded the release of The 22-20s in the U.K. that fall, which they supported with, of course, another tour. The band rounded out 2004 with dates in Australia and the news that The 22-20s would be released in the U.S. by Astralwerks in early 2005. However, later that year the group canceled dates, including an appearance at that year’s V Festival; news came in early 2006 that the band had broken up while working on its second album.
Irving played with other groups in the wake of the breakup, including Marner Brown and Fuzzbox Music. Coombes joined his brothers Gaz and Rob in Supergrass as a second guitarist and backing vocalist, played with the band Missing Pieces, and also formed his own group, Charly Coombes & the New Breed. Meanwhile, Trimble and Bartup worked on new material together, but little of it was heard. In 2008, the 22-20s were asked to re-form for the Heavenly Festival, and Trimble, Bartup, and Irving were joined by guitarist Dan Hare for the gig. Though it seemed like the group had no plans to continue after that show, the bandmembers were working on material in secret and toured England in 2009 under the name the Bitter Pills. They released their new music almost as stealthily, dropping the single Latest Heartbreak that December. A live EP arrived in March 2010, and the full-length Shake/Shiver/Moan was released in Japan that May and in the U.S. and the U.K. in June; late that year, the band announced it was relocating to Minneapolis. The 22-20s' third album, Got It If You Want It, arrived in 2012, and shortly afterward, it was announced that Hare had left the group. The band officially announced its breakup on Facebook in 2014. ~ Heather Phares