alt-J in 2013. Left to right: Gus Unger-Hamilton, Joe Newman, Gwil Sainsbury, Thom Green.
|Also known as||∆|
|Past members||Gwil Sainsbury|
∆, spoken as alt-J, are an English indie rock band formed in 2007 in Leeds, by Gwil Sainsbury (guitar/bass), Joe Newman (guitar/lead vocals), Thom Green (drums) and Gus Unger-Hamilton (keyboards/vocals)
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 supporting member for alt-J's live shows, playing guitar, bass and sampler.
Formation and early years: 2007–10
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 preceded 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 Awesome Wave reaching 13 in the UK album chart. The band would later describe 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 to 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. Alt-J headlined 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 cover art of their debut album An Awesome Wave shows an overhead view of the largest delta in the world, the Ganges. The ∆ symbol can be typed on an Apple Mac with the key sequence Alt+J (on certain keyboard layouts).
"alt-J" are 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. In the modeling application known as Blender, Alt-J is a keyboard shortcut to triangulate faces. This is considered by some to be a homage to the group's triangle imagery.
Fitzpleasure is featured in episode 10, season five of the television series The Vampire Diaries. It is also featured as theme song in episode six, season eight of the television series Weeds in 2013. Likewise it was featured in the pilot episode of the television series Broad City. Nokia used the track in their commercial for the Lumia 925 in Europe and Lumia 928 in the United States. It is also used in the trailers for The Way, Way Back (UK trailer) and the upcoming 2016 video game Battleborn. "Fitzpleasure" was also used in season 2 of Suits, and "Left Hand Free" was later used in season 4.
Several of their tracks, including "Something Good" and "Fitzpleasure", have been used for BBC 2's channel idents. "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 used for the soundtrack of the 2015 video game Life Is Strange.
The song "Left Hand Free" is used in the title sequence for the BBC drama The Interceptor.
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
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- Barson, Rachel (2 November 2012). "Alt-J win Mercury prize". leeds.ac.uk. Leeds University.
- Weiner, Jonah (27 November 2014). "How Alt-J Sold a Million Records and Made Miley a Fan". rollingstone.com. Rolling Stone.
- Downing, Megan (16 September 2012). "An Interview With Gwil From Alt-J ∆". theedgesusu.co.uk. The Edge.
- Luo, Sophie (27 June 2013). "Interview - Alt-J". tcs.cam.ac.uk. The Cambridge Student.
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- Listing for the Bloodflood/Tessallate 7" single on Discogs.com, (accessed 29 May 2015).
- Listing for the Matilda/Fitzpleasure 10" release on Discogs.com, (accessed 29 May 2015).
- Listing for the Breezeblocks 7" release on Discogs.com, (accessed 29 May 2015).
- "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.
- Listing of the An Awesome Wave album on Discogs.com, (accessed 30 May 2015).
- Lester, Paul (24 May 2012). "New band of the day: Alt-J, The Guardian, Paul Lester". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 9 July 2012.
- "Alt-J announce autumn tour of the UK, NME.com, 26 June 2012". Nme.com. 26 June 2012. Retrieved 9 July 2012.
- Staff, Writer (3 December 2012). "Alt-J announce 2013 tour dates". consequenceofsound.net. Townsquare Music.
- Triple J. "2013 Laneway line up announced". ABC. Retrieved 26 September 2012.
- Griffiths, Sarah Jane (2 November 2012). "Mercury Prize: Alt-J album An Awesome Wave wins award". BBC News. Retrieved 2015-05-30.
- Bray, Elisa (26 September 2014). "Alt-J interview: Collaborations with stars like Miley Cyrus signal a whole new direction for the boys from Leeds". independent.co.uk. Independent News & Media.
- "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.
- Kreisler, Lauren. "Alt-J score first Number 1 album with This Is All Yours". www.officialcharts.com. Official Charts Company. Retrieved 28 September 2014.
- Buckle, Jenna. "Boston Calling Announces September 2015 Lineup". Sound of Boston.
- "Alt-J's name explanation". Archived from the original on 18 July 2012. Retrieved 18 July 2012.
- "Alt-J Announce 'An Awesome Wave' Headline UK Tour Dates & Tickets". Retrieved 1 September 2012.
- 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.