Alt-J makes songs out of headlines and maths, but they insist they are normal

  • Aastha Atray Banan, Hindustan Times
  • Updated: Jun 07, 2015 18:30 IST

They have the delta symbol for a name but you can also call them Alt-J, after the keys you press on a Macbook to create the triangular sign. But that’s not their claim to fame, thank God.

Alt-J’s album This Is All Yours was nominated for a Grammy this year for best alternative album. And with their offbeat lyrics, a collaboration with Miley Cyrus, and their cool vibe, Alt-J are the indie favourite of the moment.

Hear us out: (from left) Thom Green, Joe Newman and Gus Unger-Hamilton say success is all about just writing a good song.

They recently performed as part of the Emerge Festival in Delhi and Mumbai, and droves of 20-somethings came to witness the magic of Joe Newman (guitar/lead vocals), Gus Unger-Hamilton (keyboards/vocals) and Thom Green (drums).

Fans shut their eyes, put their hands up in the air and danced to a sound that was neither completely electronic, nor really rock, neither folk and not really pop. "That’s because our influences are different – I like classical music, Thom likes grunge and Joe likes Americana," says Unger-Hamilton in a phone interview.

No love songs here
So no Taylor Swift-ish heartbreak songs for this band. Instead they write about what they’ve read about or seen on TV. Taro is about the first female war photojournalist Gerard Taro and Tessellate talks of sex via mathematics (Triangles are my favourite shape, they sing).

It could be why those who hate mainstream music are crushing over them. But even the most ardent Alt-J fan would cringe when they hear the boys loved the Spice Girls and Britney Spears. “They made us dance, and that’s always the best,” Gus says.

Keeping it humble
As a band, their philosophy is not about being famous. “It’s not about your Twitter followers. It’s just about great songs,” he says.

Still, Alt-J has sold more than a million albums worldwide, and as The Guardian puts it, “found success without the fame”. They insist they are normal. “We have no groupies!” says Gus.

For their Indian fans, it may be interesting to know that they were previously called “Daljit Dhaliwal” after a British Indian TV host. “We had a crush on her. And, as a band, we loved how the words sounded.”

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