alt-J in 2013. Left to right: Gus Unger-Hamilton, Joe Newman, Gwil Sainsbury, Thom Green.
|Genres||Indie rock, art rock, experimental rock, indie folk, 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, by Gwil Sainsbury (guitar/bass), Joe Newman (guitar/lead vocals), Gus Unger-Hamilton (keyboards/vocals) and Thom Green (drums).
The band's debut album An Awesome Wave was released in May 2012 in Europe and September 2012 in the United States, and won the 2012 British Mercury Prize. Gwil Sainsbury amicably departed the band in early 2014. Their second album, This Is All Yours, was released on 22 September 2014 and went straight to UK number one. As a replacement for Sainsbury, Cameron Knight became 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. According to Newman "I basically went to art school to start a band."
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. Thom Green suffers from Alport syndrome, a rare genetic disease which causes hearing and kidney failure. As a result, he is now about 80 percent deaf.
An Awesome Wave and touring: 2011–12
After graduating the band moved to Cambridge, where they spent a number of months working on their music before signing a deal with Infectious Records in December 2011. Their self-titled 4-track demo EP, ∆, was recorded with producer Charlie Andrew in London and featured 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 10" "Matilda"/"Fitzpleasure". It was followed by "Breezeblocks" which preceeded their first album. An Awesome Wave was also produced by Charlie Andrew and compiled at Iguana Studios, Brixton, where the band recorded tracks during the 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 album received largely favourable reviews and was described as a "captivating blend of insatiable grooves and profound poignancy".
alt-J supported Wild Beasts in April 2012 and played a minor headlining tour around the United Kingdom and Ireland in October of that year. The band have featured regularly on summer festivals, including Latitude, Bestival, Reading and Leeds, T in the Park, Green Man, Pukkelpop, and Lowlands. They also did concert tour in the United States in December 2012 and performed at the Laneway Festival tour in Australia. In November 2012 the band were announced as the winners of the Mercury Prize for their album. Besides the prize-money, the band saw an increase in their profile resulting in An Anwesome Wave reaching 13 in the UK album chart. The band would later descirbe the event as "life-changing, there was a sense of [being] imposters, that the band had somehow got this far without not being a real band, we’re just guys from Leeds who muddled through it and magicked a Mercury award".
Departure of Sainsbury and This Is All Yours: 2013–present
Gwil Sainsbury left alt-J as of 13 January 2014. It was announced on Twitter that he had decided to leave, but the band would continue, stating that they were still be 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 started in Vancouver, B.C. on October 14 and ended in Washington, D.C. on November 19. On 9 June 2014, they announced their second album This Is All Yours, that was released on 22 September 2014. This Is All Yours went straight to Number 1 on the UK's Official Albums Chart. It was announced that Alt-J will headline the September 2015 edition of Boston Calling Music Festival.
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.
Several of their tracks, including "Something Good" and "Fitzpleasure", have been used for BBC 2's channel idents. "Fitzpleasure" was also featured at the end of the season 8 episode, "Allosaurus Crush Castle" 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, and was featured in an episode of the television series "Broad City" Season 1 Episode 1. "Tessellate" was featured at the beginning of Sons of Anarchy Season 6 Episode 5. Their songs were used in multiple episodes of Scrotal Recall, with "Breezeblocks" and "Left Hand Free" in the second episode and "Every Other Freckle" in the third.
The song "Something Good" was also used for the soundtrack of the 2015 video game Life Is Strange.
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. This Is All Yours received a Grammy Award nomination for Best Alternative Music Album at the 57th Grammy Awards, and for IMPALA's European Independent Album of the Year Award.
- Studio albums
- ∆ (Demo EP) (2011)
- iTunes Session (2013)
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- Listing for the Bloodflood/Tessallate 7" single on Discogs.com, (accessed 29 May 2015).
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- "Alt-J: 'We didn't want to blow loads of cash working with Rick Rubin in LA'". nme.com. Time Inc. (UK). 25 June 2014. Retrieved 2015-05-29.
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- "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.
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- Perez, Ashley. "23 Things You Really Should Know About Alt-j". Retrieved 14 October 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.
- "alt-J Nominated For 3 Brit Awards". Retrieved 21 February 2013.
- "#3:alt-J - Breezeblocks Hottest 100 - 2012". abc.net.au. Retrieved 30 January 2013.
- "23 albums up for European Independent Album of the Year Award". IMPALA. 29 January 2015.