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Alt-J Fall Tour 2015 live in Charlotte
alt-J: Fall Tour 2015 live in Charlotte. Left to right: Gus Unger-Hamilton, Joe Newman, Cameron Knight, Thom Sonny Green.
Background information
Also known as
Origin Leeds, England
Years active 2007–present

alt-J, stylised as ,[5] are an English indie rock band formed in 2007 in Leeds, by Gwil Sainsbury (guitar/bass), Joe Newman (guitar/lead vocals), Thom Sonny 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.[6] 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.[7] As a replacement for Sainsbury, Cameron Knight became a supporting member for alt-J's live shows, playing guitar, bass and sampler. In 2017, the band released their third studio album, Relaxer, and are currently playing as a trio. The band have sold over 4 million records worldwide, including 2 million records in the United States.[8]


2007–10: Formation and Early Years[edit]

alt-J (∆) were formed when Gwil Sainsbury (guitar/bass), Joe Newman (guitar/lead vocals), Gus Unger-Hamilton (keyboards/vocals) and Thom Sonny Green (drums) met at Leeds University in 2007.[9] 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."[10]

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.[11] 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[citation needed]. Thom Sonny Green suffers from Alport syndrome, a rare genetic disease which causes hearing and kidney failure. As a result, he is about 80 percent deaf.[10]

2011–12: An Awesome Wave and Touring[edit]

After graduating, the band moved to Cambridge where they spent a number of months working on their music before signing a deal with Infectious Music in December 2011.[11][12] 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".[13] A 7" single containing "Bloodflood" and "Tessellate" was released by Loud and Quiet in October 2011.[14] Their first 2012 release for Infectious Music was the triangle-shaped 10" "Matilda"/"Fitzpleasure".[15] It was followed by "Breezeblocks" which preceded their first album.[16] 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.[17] 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.[18] The album received largely favourable reviews and was described as a "captivating blend of insatiable grooves and profound poignancy".[19]

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.[20] The band have featured regularly on summer festivals, including Latitude, Bestival, Reading and Leeds, T in the Park, Green Man, Pukkelpop, and Lowlands.[19] They also did concert tour in the United States in December 2012 and performed at the Laneway Festival tour in Australia.[21][22] In November 2012 the band were announced as the winners of the Mercury Prize for their album.[23] Besides the prize-money, the band saw an increase in their profile resulting in An Awesome Wave reaching 13 in the UK album chart.[7] 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".[24]

2013–2016: Departure of Sainsbury and This Is All Yours[edit]

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.[25] In early June 2014, alt-J announced a 2014 tour to take place in North America over October and November.[26] The 23-day tour started in Vancouver, B.C. on 14 October and ended in Washington, D.C. on 19 November.[27] 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.[28] alt-J headlined the September 2015 edition of Boston Calling Music Festival.[29]

2017–present: Relaxer[edit]

On March 3, 2017, alt-J began teasing their third studio album on their social media accounts with an audio clip captioned "00110011 01110111 01110111", which translates to "3WW".[30] Stereogum reported later that day that the band's third album would be titled Relaxer and was scheduled for release on June 2, 2017.[31] On March 6, 2017, alt-J released "3WW," which featured Ellie Rowsell of Wolf Alice, as a digital single. Three weeks later, on March 29, they released "In Cold Blood," the second single from Relaxer.[32] In anticipation of their third album, Relaxer, the band released an online video game, soundtracked by their single ‘3WW’.[33]

In May 2017, alt-J announced a 5 date UK tour playing seaside venues, starting on 4th September 2017. [34]

On May 24, 2017, alt-J released "Adeline," the third single from Relaxer.[35]

On June 2, their album Relaxer was released to favorable reviews.

On July 12, they released "Deadcrush", the fourth and final single from the album.[36]


The band's symbol is the capital letter delta, Δ, 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).

The cover art of their debut album An Awesome Wave shows an overhead view of the largest river delta in the world, the Ganges. alt-J were previously known as "Daljit Dhaliwal" and then "Films",[37][38] but were later forced to change to "alt-J" because an American band called "The Films" already existed.[39]

In popular culture[edit]

In February 2013 the band announced they would be composing the soundtrack for Toby Jones' new film Leave to Remain.[40]

Awards and nominations[edit]

In 2012, alt-J's debut album won the British Mercury Prize.[41] alt-J were also nominated for three Brit Awards (British Breakthrough Act, British Album of the Year and British Group of the Year).[42] 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.[43] 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.[44]




Studio albums


  1. ^ Monger, James Christopher (2012). "Alt-J". Retrieved 7 July 2012. 
  2. ^ "Indie pop group Alt-J take Britain's Mercury Prize". Entertainment Weekly. 1 November 2012. Retrieved 30 July 2015. 
  3. ^ Sullivan, Caroline (20 June 2012). "Alt-J – review". The Guardian. Retrieved 30 July 2015. 
  4. ^ Empire, Kitty (28 September 2014). "Alt-J review – what’s all the fussiness about?". The Guardian. Retrieved 30 July 2015. 
  5. ^ "Δ (alt-J) on Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved 7 December 2015. 
  6. ^ Wolfson, Sam (30 August 2012). "Alt-J: a cut above". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 September 2014. 
  7. ^ a b Listing for Alt-J at the Official Charts Company (UK), (retrieved 29 May 2015).
  8. ^ "alt-J - RIAA platinum & gold awards". RIAA. Retrieved 12 August 2017. 
  9. ^ Barson, Rachel (2 November 2012). "Alt-J win Mercury prize". Leeds University. 
  10. ^ a b Weiner, Jonah (27 November 2014). "How Alt-J Sold a Million Records and Made Miley a Fan". Rolling Stone. 
  11. ^ a b Downing, Megan (16 September 2012). "An Interview With Gwil From Alt-J ∆". The Edge. 
  12. ^ Luo, Sophie (27 June 2013). "Interview - Alt-J". The Cambridge Student. 
  13. ^ Lindbloom, Ben (28 January 2012). "[Album Review] - Alt-J - Demo". Retrieved 2015-05-30. 
  14. ^ Listing for the Bloodflood/Tessallate 7" single on, (accessed 29 May 2015).
  15. ^ Listing for the Matilda/Fitzpleasure 10" release on, (accessed 29 May 2015).
  16. ^ Listing for the Breezeblocks 7" release on, (accessed 29 May 2015).
  17. ^ "Alt-J: 'We didn't want to blow loads of cash working with Rick Rubin in LA'". Time Inc. (UK). 25 June 2014. Retrieved 2015-05-29. 
  18. ^ Listing of the An Awesome Wave album on, (accessed 30 May 2015).
  19. ^ a b Lester, Paul (24 May 2012). "New band of the day: Alt-J, The Guardian, Paul Lester". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 9 July 2012. 
  20. ^ "Alt-J announce autumn tour of the UK,, 26 June 2012". 26 June 2012. Retrieved 9 July 2012. 
  21. ^ Staff, Writer (3 December 2012). "Alt-J announce 2013 tour dates". Townsquare Music. 
  22. ^ Triple J. "2013 Laneway line up announced". ABC. Retrieved 26 September 2012. 
  23. ^ Griffiths, Sarah Jane (2 November 2012). "Mercury Prize: Alt-J album An Awesome Wave wins award". BBC News. Retrieved 2015-05-30. 
  24. ^ 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 News & Media. 
  25. ^ "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."". Retrieved 18 September 2014. 
  26. ^ "Alt-J announce new album & tour (dates & presale)". Retrieved 18 September 2014. 
  27. ^ "- alt-J - This Is All Yours". Retrieved 18 September 2014. 
  28. ^ Kreisler, Lauren. "Alt-J score first Number 1 album with This Is All Yours". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 28 September 2014. 
  29. ^ Buckle, Jenna. "Boston Calling Announces September 2015 Lineup". Sound of Boston. 
  30. ^ "Δ (alt-J) on Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved 3 March 2017. 
  31. ^ "Preview New alt-J Song “3WW” In LP3 Teaser". Stereogum. Retrieved 3 March 2017. 
  32. ^ Reed, Ryan. "Hear Alt-J's Horn-Blasted New Song 'In Cold Blood'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 4 April 2017. 
  33. ^ "Alt-J share new web video game - NME". NME. 2017-04-11. Retrieved 2017-04-11. 
  34. ^ "alt-J – New Seaside Shows". GetToTheFront. 
  35. ^ Moore, Sam (24 May 2017). "Listen to Alt-J’s new song ‘Adeline’". NME. Retrieved 3 June 2017. 
  36. ^
  37. ^ "Alt-J's name explanation". Archived from the original on 18 July 2012. Retrieved 18 July 2012. 
  38. ^ "Alt-J Announce 'An Awesome Wave' Headline UK Tour Dates & Tickets". Retrieved 1 September 2012. 
  39. ^ Perez, Ashley. "23 Things You Really Should Know About alt-J". Retrieved 14 October 2014. 
  40. ^ "Alt-J to score Toby Jones film". 3 News NZ. 21 February 2013. 
  41. ^ 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. 
  42. ^ "alt-J Nominated For 3 Brit Awards". Retrieved 21 February 2013. 
  43. ^ "#3:alt-J - Breezeblocks Hottest 100 - 2012". Retrieved 30 January 2013. 
  44. ^ "23 albums up for European Independent Album of the Year Award". IMPALA. 29 January 2015. 

External links[edit]