Alt-J interview

We get to know Brit alternative band ahead of An Awesome Wave release

The Brit alternative indie band’s debut album, An Awesome Wave, bagged this year’s coveted Mercury Prize – an influential annual award for the best album from the UK and Ireland. Just before the news broke, we got to know each of the quartet a little better.

Joe Newman (vocals/guitars)
‘If we don’t win the Mercury Prize, I’ll throw a wobbly at the ceremony and I might get violent. No, let me just clarify that’s not true. But honestly, when our name isn’t announced, there will be a waterfall of disappointment inside me. It was at university that I first thought: Why not leave your comfort zone and show people the songs you’ve been writing? I started singing in front of Gwil and realised I had quite a good range.’

Gus Unger-Hamilton (keyboards)
‘When we all lived together in Cambridge, I suppose my role was cooking. Well, a combination of that and trying to stop people snacking because we were all on the dole [aka unemployment benefit]. I guess either way, next year we’ll grow a bit more but… how big are stadiums? Massive, right? Yeah, I don’t think we’re going to be playing huge places like that, but
you never know.’

Thom Green (Drums)
‘I met Jamie XX (of The xx) in Belgium and I was amazed because I really respect what he does and look up to him. It’s weird being starstruck because now I know what it’s like. Our fans are all really nice, but you do get crazy people. This guy in Canada bought me a massive [short drink] and came over like, “You’ve gotta drink it.” There was no way I was going to drink it! You wouldn’t do that to anyone else, why do it to me?’

Gwil Sainsbury (guitars/bass)
‘I often get called the bassist, but I only play bass in two songs. As our equipment has changed over time, it’s changed how we approach things. You realise that the rhythm section doesn’t have to be guitar and bass: it can be guitar and keyboards. I think it happened quite subconsciously over three or four years. We’re not textbook rock stars at all. We end up singing folk songs and harmonising. We’re more like 40-year-old men in the pub.’
An Awesome Wave is out now.

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