alt-J in 2013. Left to right: Gus Unger-Hamilton, Joe Newman, former bassist Gwil Sainsbury, Thom Sonny Green.
|Also known as||∆|
|Genres||Indie rock, art rock, experimental rock, folk rock, folktronica, electronic|
|Labels||Loud And Quiet, Infectious, Atlantic, Canvasback|
|Past members||Gwil Sainsbury|
alt-J (also known as ∆) is an English indie rock band formed in 2007 in Leeds, England, by Gwil Sainsbury (guitar/bass), Joe Newman (guitar/lead vocals), Gus Unger-Hamilton (keyboards/vocals) and Thom Green (drums). Their debut album An Awesome Wave was released in May 2012 in Europe and September 2012 in the United States, and won the 2012 British Barclaycard Mercury Prize. Gwil Sainsbury amicably departed the band in early 2014. Their second album, This Is All Yours, was released on 22 September 2014. As a replacement for Sainsbury, Cameron Knight will be a support member for alt-J's live shows, playing guitar, bass and sampler.
Formation and early years: 2007–2010
alt-J (∆) was formed when Gwil Sainsbury (guitar/bass), Joe Newman (guitar/lead vocals), Gus Unger-Hamilton (keyboards/vocals) and Thom Green (drums) met at Leeds University in 2007. Unger-Hamilton (younger brother of Ferdy, head of A&R for Polydor Records) studied English, the other three Fine Art. In their second year of studies, Newman showed Sainsbury a handful of his own songs and, inspired by his guitar-playing dad, the pair began recording on GarageBand in their hall rooms with Sainsbury acting as producer. The band's unusual sound stems from the fact that due to living in student halls, where noise had to be kept to a minimum, they were unable to use bass guitars or bass drums. The band's renowned alternative and unique lyric choices can be linked back to the lead vocalist, Newman's, use of Magic Mushroom in the first year of studying at Leeds.
An Awesome Wave and touring: 2011–2012
After graduating they moved to Cambridge, where they claimed Jobseeker's Allowance, spending two years rehearsing before signing a deal with Infectious Records in December 2011. Their self-titled first 4-track EP ∆, was recorded with producer Charlie Andrew in London and showcased the tracks "Breezeblocks", "Hand-Made", "Matilda", and "Tessellate". A 7" single containing "Bloodflood" and "Tessellate" was released by Loud and Quiet in October 2011. Their first 2012 release for Infectious Records was the triangle-shaped 7" "Matilda"/"Fitzpleasure", followed by "Breezeblocks" as an advance of their first album An Awesome Wave, which was also produced by Charlie Andrew and recorded in Brixton, playing tracks as it fit into the recording studio's spare time. Their debut album was released on 28 May 2012 in the UK, Europe, and Australia, and on 18 September 2012 in North America via Canvasback Music.
The band's symbol is the delta sign, ∆, which is traditionally used in scientific study to indicate "change" or "difference". The ∆ symbol can be typed on an Apple Mac with the key sequence alt + J (on certain keyboard layouts). "alt-J" were formerly known as both "Daljit Dhaliwal" and "Films", but were later forced to change to "Alt-J" because an American band called "The Films" already existed. The group's signature blend of layered, folk-inflected dub-pop and soaring alternative rock has been compared to artists such as Hot Chip, Wild Beasts, and Everything Everything.
alt-J supported Wild Beasts in April 2012 and started a small concert tour in the United Kingdom and Ireland. The tour kicked off on 24 May 2012 at Dublin Academy and ended on 1 June when the band headlined Bristol Cooler. The band played a large number of the summer festivals in 2012, including Latitude, Tramlines, Bestival, Reading and Leeds, End Of The Road, In The Woods Festival, Milhões de Festa, T in the Park, Green Man, Pukkelpop, Lowlands, and Into The Great Wide Open. alt-J played the main stage of Clockenflap Multimedia Arts & Music Festival in Hong Kong on 2 December 2012, and behind Bob Boilen's desk at National Public Radio (NPR) in a Tiny Desk Concert on 17 December 2012. The band completed another small headline tour of the UK starting in Manchester on 27 October 2012 and taking in Birmingham, Brighton, London, Oxford and Bristol, before the final gig of the tour in London on 19 January 2013. They also performed a small concert tour in the United States in December 2012.
Departure of Sainsbury and This Is All Yours: 2013–present
alt-J played a host of festival shows throughout 2013, including Reading and Leeds Festival, Bonnaroo festival, the Optimus Alive! festival in July 2013 and the Australian 2013 Laneway Festival, which visits five cities in Australia and New Zealand as well as one date in Singapore during one week in late January/February. They played Lollapalooza 2013, Coachella 2013, Bonnaroo 2013,Sasquatch! 2013, Bilbao BBK Live 2013, the Other Stage at Glastonbury Festival 2013, the Tent Stage at Open'er Festival 2013, Rock Werchter 2013 in "The Barn" and Osheaga Festival in Montreal, Quebec, in August 2013. They performed as a main stage act at the Rocking The Daisies music festival in South Africa in October 2013, opening for The Hives and Skunk Anansie. On 7 December 2013, alt-J performed in the annual Live 105 concert, Not So Silent Night, in Oakland, California, at Oracle Arena. The next day, alt-J performed in the annual 91X concert, Wrex the Halls in San Diego, California  Six European dates and a full U.S. tour also filled 2013, beginning on 2 March in Boston and ending on 10 April in San Francisco. Many of alt-J's shows have been sold out or have had a venue change due to high demand to see them live. Alt-J also completed a ten-date UK tour that kicked off on 5 May at O2 Academy Birmingham and ended on 17 May at Brixton Academy,
As of 13 January 2014, Gwil Sainsbury is no longer in alt-J. It was announced on Twitter that he had decided to leave, but the band would continue, stating that they were still best friends with Gwil. In early June 2014, alt-J announced a 2014 tour to take place in North America over October and November. The 23-day tour starts in Vancouver, B.C. and ends in Washington, D.C. On 9 June 2014, they announced their second album This Is All Yours, that was released on 22 September 2014.
Several of their tracks, including "Something Good" and "Fitzpleasure", have been used for BBC 2's channel idents. "Fitzpleasure" was also featured as a theme song in an episode of the television series Weeds. In mid-2013, Nokia used the track "Fitzpleasure" in their commercial for the Lumia 925 in Europe and Lumia 928 in the United States. "Fitzpleasure" was also used in the UK trailer for The Way, Way Back.
In 2012, alt-J's debut album won the British Mercury Prize. alt-J were also nominated for three Brit Awards (British Breakthrough Act, British Album of the Year and British Group of the Year). An Awesome Wave was announced as BBC Radio 6 Music Album of the Year 2012. Three of the tracks from this album gained entry into the Australian 2012 Triple J Hottest 100, with "Something Good" at number 81, "Tessellate" at number 64, and "Breezeblocks" coming third overall. In 2013, An Awesome Wave won Album of the year at the Ivor Novello Awards.
- Studio albums
- ∆ (Demo EP) (2011)
- iTunes Session (2013)
- Monger, James Christopher (2012). "Alt-J". Allmusic.com. Retrieved 7 July 2012.
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- [dead link]
- "alt-J Nominated For 3 Brit Awards". Retrieved 21 February 2013.
- "Alt-J Search". Retrieved 21 February 2013.
- "Δ (alt-J) on Twitter: "With regret, Gwil is leaving alt-J. This is purely a personal decision and as our best friend we support him completely."". Twitter.com. Retrieved 18 September 2014.
- "Alt-J announce new album & tour (dates & presale)". Brooklynvegan.com. Retrieved 18 September 2014.
- "- alt-J - This Is All Yours". Altjband.com. Retrieved 18 September 2014.
- "Alt-J to score Toby Jones film". 3 News NZ. 21 February 2013.
- Topping, Alexandra (2 November 2012). "Mercury prize celebrates 20 years with award for alt-J's debut album". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 21 February 2013.
- "#3:alt-J - Breezeblocks Hottest 100 - 2012". abc.net.au. Retrieved 30 January 2013.