“We just get on with it”: An interview with Gus from alt-J

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Alt-J, England own indie export, rise from strength to strength. Their second album This Is All Yours was released in 2014 and wait straight to the Number 1 album slot on the official chart. Since then the trio have toured shows and headlined festivals both in the UK and abroad. Below, Carly-May Kavanagh talked to keyboard and vocalist Gus Unger-Hamilton about everything from tricks of the touring trade to all important name inspirations.

What were your musical inspirations?
I had a classical upbringing, so a lot of that, but really just working together with the other and having established a musical rapport. Just piecing together different ideas until they work. And like actual musical influences other than classical. Indie, rock; bands like The Strokes. Meeting each other was what really sparked the idea of getting into a band and, yeah, that was the inspiration.

I read something from Joe saying that sometimes you guys spend years getting a song right – do you ever feel under pressure to get an album out sooner?
With the first one there wasn’t any pressure because nobody knew who we were, but with the second one… we sort of were from the label I guess just to get things out in a reasonable time frame but once we’d started work on it, it wasn’t a hard thing to get done in time.

How do you avoid letting the success go to your head?
Being on tour helps, surprisingly, because we’re all like a big family, we don’t get pampered by people, we just get on with it! And I guess we all look pretty average so we can go to the shops and not get recognised, it happens but not nearly as often as you’d think.

So what does the triangle mean?
Oh, that’s the delta sign so it’s used to show change or difference, which I think we try to show in our music. And you type it on a Mac by pressing ‘Alt’ and ‘J’ so… Alt-J.

Clever! And you were called Films but had to change that, before you were Alt-J… but way before that, you were Daljit Dhaliwal, after the newsreader. Why?
Honestly it just sounds nice, like it’s a nice name to say! And it’s just a little reference to our childhood and watching her on TV.

If you couldn’t be a successful musician anymore, what would you be doing?
Something with animals I think – I’d like to work in a zoo.

Any chance you have a surprise third album coming up?
This tour is just finishing off the second album, but we’ll have a new one out in the future. The tour doesn’t mean a new one will be out soon, but yeah we’re definitely going to be working on it.

How has your tour been?
I like going on tour; we’re just finishing up in the UK but yeah, it’s been good. It’s been good touring with Ghostpoet and The Horrors because, especially with Ghostpoet, we know them well. We’ve only done one show but yeah, it’s been good.

Do you have any tour essentials?
Just normal things, like standard week away or holiday things really you know; phone charger, things like that. We don’t really have any rituals or things we need to carry around with us, just things so we don’t go mad or totally un-showered.

What’s a highlight from tour?
Definitely playing the Pyramid stage at Glastonbury, that was- we love festivals, being out and playing, so that was definitely the best part for me.

And what’s next afterwards?
Chilling at home, just having a little break! And when we get back together after it – not ‘back together’, but, when we’re done having a break – we’ll be getting back out and putting together a new album.

 

 

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Third year PAIR student and live editor. Also the Wessex Scene's Head of Events. Fan of cats, gigs and a tea lover - find me rambling about politics and cats @_Carly_May on Twitter.

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