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

GOB_AltJ_0912.jpg

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 intimated 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.”

Alt-J go from living rooms to US tour with one album
Event Category: Hot Tickets
When: September 13, 2013
Time: 7:30pm
Where: Bank of America Pavilion
More Info: http://www.livenation.com


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

At 91, Marvel creator Stan Lee continues to…

By Piya Sinha-RoyLOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Marvel Entertainment's chief emeritus Stan Lee may be in his ninth decade, but it hasn't stopped him from adding…

National

Islamic State says beheads U.S. journalist, holds another

Islamic State insurgents released a video purportedly showing the beheading of U.S. journalist James Foley, who had gone missing in Syria nearly two years ago.

Local

VIDEO: NYPD seeks shooter in East New York…

Cops are on the lookout for an unknown shooter who aimed and missed hitting a man on a bicycle, instead nearly striking a nearby officer in East New York.

Local

NYS state forces thrift shops comply with ban…

Nine New York City thrift shops were reprimanded by the state attorney general for selling children's clothes with drawstrings around the neck and waist.

Television

'Pretty Little Liars' recap: Season 5, Episode 11,…

Caleb's not a ghost. Spencer might still be an attempted murderer. And Hanna's going to die next week. In other words, we actually got some…

Movies

At 91, Marvel creator Stan Lee continues to…

Marvel Entertainment's Stan Lee is adding outposts to his creative empire to interest a new generation of children in super heroes of all shapes and sizes.

Television

Mira Sorvino explores immortality on 'Intruders'

Mira Sorvino's new show "Intruders" centers around a secret society that achieves immortality by taking over the bodies of other people.

Television

5 things you need to know about new…

"Doctor Who" returns Saturday with a new star, Peter Capaldi. Here's some things to know about him (mainly his turn as sweary spin doctor Malcolm Tucker).

MLB

Shane Greene travels unlikely road to Yankees stardom

Shane Greene was throwing a bullpen session on a quiet field at Daytona Beach Community College one day when the ball started moving.

NFL

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL…

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL tight ends (TE)

MLB

MLB Power Rankings: Angels supplant A's, Nationals climb

MLB Power Rankings: Angels supplant A's, Nationals climb

NFL

David Wilson returns to triple jump, sets sights…

Giants fans know David Wilson can jump. They are just more used to seeing him go for backflips, not distance.

Style

11 timeless gifts for registries or just because

Gifts to prove you're a style maven once and for all.

Parenting

How everyday moments can inspire kids' creativity

"The Artist's Way for Parents" author Julia Cameron gives advice on how parents and children can be creative together.

Tech

How to stay safe online

Stop worrying about keeping your online passwords safe, and start worrying about keeping your username a secret. Actually, worry about both. According to Shaun Murphy…

Tech

OpenTable now lets you pay your bill via…

The restaurant app OpenTable added the ability to pay your bill (and tip) with your phone, thus cutting back on a few dining annoyances.