We chat with alt-J (∆)
If there’s one upcoming band that deserves every bit of recognition and attention they receive, it’s Cambridge four-piece Alt-J.
Their unparalleled alternative indie sound showcases their dedication to creating something outside of the musical box, including their band name (which is technically the symbol produced when typing the shortcut on a Mac computer – ∆), all which has led them to play shows and festivals worldwide, despite having only two releases under their belt.
Their self-titled EP release earned them enough of a spotlight to grace the stages of Leeds and Reading Festival in 2011, and their debut album An Awesome Wave secured them a second round at the eminent music events, as well as T In The Park and Belgium’s Pukkelpop.
The British quartet have been very busy riding off the back of their debut, recently opening for Wild Beasts on a tour of the United States as well as headlining their own small UK tour, and have also just announced a two-date Australian tour occurring this October.
Drummer Thom Green states the band’s overall surprise and excitement for having the privilege of being invited many places, and in particular Australia.
“It’s so funny, because we really are just a small-time band, yet we are just so prolific right now,” begins Green. “When the four of us formed, it was just us that knew and we didn’t really bother to get ourselves out there. It was just a bit of fun between some friends. Now, we’ve had a fantastic tour with Wild Beasts under our belt, we’ve played hometown festivals and we’re getting all of this exposure. It’s great.”
They’v also noticed the significant jump in attention, “there was a really big change in the crowd number between our 2011 and 2012 Leeds shows,” explains Green.
While alt-J hail from Cambridge, the four met and formed their bonds at Leeds University, and as such, Green and the others were well aware of the value of playing to their hometown.
“Leeds this year was definitely our biggest show of 2012, both in crowd and sentimentality. It was really good to play to people who saw us grow from a local band, up into what we are today, and, it’s wrong to say we’ve gotten used to playing festival shows, because you can never really get used to it, but I don’t think there was anything that could have prepared us for how great everything was.”
alt-J seem to have conquered the better half of the Western world, inheriting more and more fans every time they tour, so are there high hopes for winning our nation over too?
“I wish we were spending more time in Australia to play more shows, but we’ve been ridiculously busy since our May album release. It sometimes crosses my mind if we even have a portion of fans over there to be honest, but I guess we’ll find out when we get there. We’ve heard that the crowds are lovely over there, so I think we’ll have some very fun shows.”
It’s certainly proven to be the case, with the announcement of their shows selling out in a flash, even despite the seemingly minimal support and knowledge of wider music fans.
As Green reminisces of his past year of festival appearances, he mentions a few bands –namely 2012 Splendour in the Grass goers Django Django and Zulu Winter- that he’s been acquainted with on more than a few occasions.
“I think we’re on the same level of show experience – as well as a lot of other things – with those bands, so it’s really good to see them and share experiences, as well as just get peace of mind knowing that there are people like us who are in the same overwhelming situation as us. They’ve told us about Australia and how wonderful it is too, so that’s given us a kick of excitement.”
As alt-J have previously said, they are very fond of what they’ve created with An Awesome Wave, as well as the general acclaim that it has brought. Despite the general positivity towards their debut, there will always be one written article that sticks with the band, whose opinion sits in the opposite direction.
As Green explains: “There was one review, actually. I won’t name names, but it was almost like the reviewer had odd perceptions of what we were. They said our album was ‘manufactured’, and I know we don’t majorly play guitars and stuff like that, but I don’t really agree at all on that.”
“A few others thought it was a bit odd too,” says the drummer. “Oh well, I guess they’ve severed their ties with us!”
It seems that alt-J’s success hasn’t come at the best time, with each of the four members recently graduating from university and ready to start their professions in English Literature and Fine Art.
“Yeah, I really miss my Fine Art work, and I know the other guys do too. It’s good that we’ve got that strong bond and understand that we are allowed to go to our professions any time we want to, but right now we can’t pass up all of the amazing opportunities we’ve recently been given.”
Other such opportunities include a return trip to Australia in February 2013 for the Laneway Festival lineup, it seems that the band with the unpronounceable band name will be very much the talk of the town down under for some time to come.
An Awesome Wave is out now through Liberator, you can read the Tone Deaf verdict here. alt-J play two dates for their debut Australian tour this October – full dates and details here – before returning in February next year as part of Laneway Festival 2013.