Fighting On Red Carpets // The 405 meets Alt-J
It can be tough for new bands trying to reach as many ears as possible, to put a stamp on their sound and proudly proclaim originality away from the rest of pack. Alt-J however, have no such problem. Eclectic may be an understatement when describing the Leeds group as their array of output thus far has touched upon numerous genres while also possibly creating some new ones. But is there anything they won’t go near? "Ruling things out isn't something we like to do; we just play to what fits the mood of the song - our different musical backgrounds make that sound quite varied I guess. Although I certainly wouldn't try and attempt to sing scream-core or anything like that - it's a skill I don't think I possess."
It's this diversity and willingness to try out more abstract ideas that makes Alt-J so exciting, although it’s made it a tough job for music reviewers to actually describe the band sometimes. The band seem to revel in the confusion of labelling though; "it's always nice to hear opinions on who we sound similar to. Someone once described us as Nick Drake meats Gangstarr." Comparisons such as this may sound far-fetched at first but listening to the singles they've released so far, you can sort of see where it comes from. Notably all their tracks released so far have been superb, the freak-folk styling of 'Tessellate', the more straight up Indie rock flair of 'Breezeblocks' and the druidic chanting / almost dubstep infused banger 'Fitzpleasure'. So what’s the song writing process like behind the tracks and how do the intricacies build up into the final results?
"Most is written before jamming, lyrics and melody and rough structure are normally laboured in isolation and separate from rehearsals. When brought to the group we normally have a good healthy discussion about it all, and play from there, then polish it all off when recording."
Support for Alt-J has been wide-ranging, with steady vortex of hype swirling around them including a place on The 405 ones to watch 2012 and other tip lists. I ask whether they are flattered by the hype and if it puts any pressure on the band
"Hype is flattering and helpful but has been known to sink ships. Hype delivers a lot of interest but also a lot of expectations; it can be a bit of a double edged sword. I think we have always kept our heads down and focused on writing material that we like to hear and not focusing on what we think others would like to hear. If we stick with that then hype is welcomed with open arms."
A lot of love has also come from the BBC’s introducing scheme which has presented them with a Maida Vale session and radio play from DJs like Huw Stephens, and unsurprisingly Alt-J have nothing but praise for the "amazing national platform for our songs to be heard" no doubt echoing the view of so many other British bands that have massively benefitted and had their profiles bolstered by Introducing.
After recently playing shows with Ghostpoet, Alt-J’s live show is now another way that many people are hearing about them. The band however, try to keep their live shows similar to their recordings. "The recording process can often change the sound of our songs dramatically and so repeating the atmosphere on the track to a stage setting is very important. The track delivers our sound perfectly. So hopefully not too much of a noticeable difference between track and live." This kind of detail would suggest Alt-J might be quite a technical band, they certainly seem keen to give across a ‘full package’ kind of set up, and their name is taken from the shortcut function for the delta sign on an apple computer. So are they actually tech geeks?
"Not at all - I'm certainly not (Joe). The others may label themselves as computer literate and overly skilled but for me I can confidently state that I can use Microsoft word and the easy bits on the Internet, but for most of it I'm like a grandad."
With all this attention the question begs, what’s next for Alt-J? "Playing as much as we can, writing, pubs and fighting on red carpets!" Who knows? Maybe if Alt-J play their cards right, the red carpet fights might not be a million miles away.
Alt-J are set to release their debut album, An Awesome Wave, on May 28th through Infectious Music.
Purchase and listen
I like to listen in to the lyrics. I always have. I really irritated my Dad some twenty years ago when I snapped his Rumours tape, after rewinding the B-Side to play 'Go Your Own Way' again and again and again, all the way to Grandma’s house, every weekend, until one day the tape just gave up. Sorry Dad. [read more]
Last November Wild Beasts announced they'd be touring the UK this March, but it has now emerged that alt-J will be the main support band on the tour, making these shows even more special. [read more]
Indie star singer-songwriter Ellie Goulding, whose done fair enough damage on her own as one of the UK's brightest young pop figures, has released another one of her stellar covers. This time, it comes from Alt-J, a band which is slowly making its own way to the same level of success. [read more]