Alt-J go from living rooms to US tour with one album

GOB_AltJ_0912

When Alt-J’s Gus Unger-Hamilton looks out into the crowd at an American gig, it’s not the scores of glowing iPhones that he finds himself distracted by, though they’re ever-present. It’s how “coupley it is.”

That, says the eccentric, self-described “awkward” British band’s keyboardist, is the biggest difference between their fanbase here in America and back home. More specifically, it’s all of the couples making out. “Oh God it happens the whole time, and it always happens during the same songs,” he laughs. “It’s really funny. It happens in ‘Matilda’ and it happens in ‘Taro.’”

He notes that their audiences in the U.S. also tend to be people whose tastes he’d imagine to be more mainstream than in the U.K., where the quartet are perceived as a more alternative band. But it’s the mating rituals of his American fans that he’s most amused by.

“It’s also hilarious watching; I was thinking this last night onstage, guys dancing with their girlfriends but making it super obvious that, you know, this is their girlfriend,” he says. “They always stand behind them and don’t let anybody, especially the band, probably, think for one moment that this girl is single. It’s very funny to watch because the guys are always looking so awkward, trying to come up with dance moves to sort of encircle their girlfriends.”

If it sounds like he’s being a jerk, he’s not. Soft-spoken and slightly meditative, he’s not a rock star out to poach anyone’s girlfriend, and it seems like he’s merely bemused by it all — not the least being alt-J’s suddenly massive success.

He and his bandmates met when they were undergrads at Leeds University (his collegiate roots frequently reveal themselves — he describes the glow of iPhones at a show as “chiaroscuro”) and had no real intentions of making music for a living, at first. And they certainly didn’t do it to get girls.

“Definitely not,” he says, laughing, when asked about the sex-related perks of being in a college band. “Not a lot of people even knew we were a band. Our set of friends knew that we were in a band and we’d play gigs and the same people would always come, which was basically our set of friends.”

That’s all changed now. The sudden, and perhaps unlikely, success of alt-J’s 2012 debut album An Awesome Wave, an enthralling mélange of complex and sometimes almost dissonant sounds and ideas, has sent the band off on a whirlwind year spent touring the summer’s festival circuit and ever-larger venues Stateside.

But, to them, he says, it hasn’t felt like the meteoric rise to stardom that it appears to be. “We don’t perceive it as having been that fast. Because we’ve been in the band for five years and for the first three of those years we were just writing songs, and we weren’t looking to go anywhere we were just kind of more interested in the songwriting aspect of it, having fun together, making music,” he says. “Because we kind of lived the band every day.”

Still, he does recognize that there was a turning point, a moment when, as he says “oh s—, people are paying attention to alt-J.” That was when they won the Mercury Prize, which honors a U.K. band for best album, earlier this year.

And pay attention they have. Alt-J — they were originally called Films but after signing to a label and realizing an American band had already claimed The Films, they changed it to the computer shortcut for the delta symbol (∆), as a screw you as much as to be “obtuse and mysterious” — have gone from playing living room shows in their off-campus house at Leeds to headlining 5,000-capacity arenas in significantly less time than it takes most quirky, hard-to-define bands of their ilk.

But, if they should be worried about following up such an impressive debut record or intimidated by the specter of the sophomore album flop, they’re not.

“We know that we’re not going to put out a substandard second album,” he says. “When we release a second album it’s only going to be when we’ve made a record that we’re really happy with, so in that sense, I’m not worried because I know we wouldn’t put out something that we didn’t think was good enough.”

But, if it all ended tomorrow, and they never got to that stage, he reckons he’s f—ed, ruined for “the world of normal jobs.” “I’m just going to have to have the band last as long time,” he says. “And then, I don’t know, open my own organic cafe or something, which would be quite nice. (pauses) Yeah, maybe I’ll do that.”



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Sprint and T-Mobile offer further price discounts

Sprint unveiled a plan on Thursday that gives subscribers access to unlimited data for $60 a month, the industry's cheapest unlimited data offering.

National

Hundreds pay it forward at Florida Starbucks in…

The spontaneous chain of kindness continued for about 11 hours, totaling 457 transactions by the time it ended.

National

Weather system east of Caribbean could turn into…

An area of low pressure located east of the Caribbean Sea has a 50 percent chance of becoming a tropical depression or storm in the next 48 hours, U.S. forecasters…

National

U.S. hospital to discharge doctor treated with experimental…

An American doctor who contracted Ebola treating victims of the deadly virus in Liberia has recovered and will be discharged on Thursday by the Atlanta hospital that treated him with…

Movies

Review: 'When the Game Stands Tall' is both…

The high school football saga "When the Game Stands Tall" fumbles around for a focus while Jim Caviezel offers the most low-key coach in history.

Movies

Girlfriend in a coma: Chloe Grace Moretz

Chloe Grace Moretz is the best cheerleader "If I Stay" could ask for. As the star of the film adaptation of the successful YA novel…

The Word

The Word: Summer lovin' for Zac Efron and…

Ah, the summer romance. So intense, so fleeting. With Labor Day fast approaching, it should come as little surprise that the incredibly surprising romance between…

The Word

The Word: The Zac Efron-Michelle Rodriguez summer fling…

  Ah, the summer romance. So intense, so fleeting. With Labor Day fast approaching, it should come as little surprise that the incredibly surprising romance…

NFL

Fantasy football draft guide: How to draft your…

Many are wondering if we’re entering a new age in fantasy football drafting — one where running backs take a backseat.

NFL

Jets vs. Giants: 3 Giants storylines to watch

The Giants have plenty to work on as they reach the dress rehearsal preseason game Friday night against the rival Jets.

NFL

Jets vs. Giants: 3 Jets storylines to watch

Metro looks at three Jets storylines to watch as they play the Giants Friday.

NFL

Giants expected to work Corey Washington into first-team…

The day of reckoning for the Giants' fringe players will fall upon them Friday night against the Jets.

Sex

Big weddings may lead to long-term happiness

Dreaming of a big wedding? A new study indicates that the longer your guest list, the happier you’ll be in the long run. l A…

Sex

Online dating for every generation

Frank Jackson and his mother Maggie are like lots of modern families: They have dinner together regularly, keep each other updated on their lives —…

Wellbeing

Going green could be the key to getting…

If we could just pursue the things that would actually make us happy, we could help the environment too, according to a New York researcher.…

Tech

Siren: A new dating app that puts women…

Online dating can be brutal, especially for single women. Noting that many women hate wading through inappropriate messages and photos, two tech entrepreneurs decided to…