Alt-J: “Nothing is off limits to us”

From guitars to beats, Miley Cyrus samples to folk songs: alt-j were and remain one of the most original names in the contemporary music scene. “For us, nothing is off limits”, Gus Unger-Hamilton explains to me via Zoom: looking at their course, one has to believe in them – and go and see them live: La Prima Estate will play the first evening, next June 23, in the Lido di Camaiore

Between rock, indie and electronics

a course that took them from clubs to arenas (they played at the Asago Forum) to headlining slots at festivals. Beginning, 10 years earlier, with “An Awesome Wave”, which immediately won the Mercury Prize for Best Album. Then there were the concerts, many, even if it didn’t seem so immediate to bring their music to the stage: “We didn’t have real instruction on how to write songs, we had very different backgrounds”, explains Unger-Hamilton on the composition method. Leads Alt-J to abandon the classic song form and experiment with songs with complex structures. “I have a classical education, Tom (Sonny Green, Ed) is a drummer who comes from heavy metal, Jim (Newman, vocalist and guitarist, Ed) learned to play with his father. When we finished a record So we spend a month in the studio learning songs to play them live, using samples, tracks, manipulating them, to get a sound that represents us. It’s a complicated job, Especially me, who plays bass, keyboards and string parts. And I only have two hands…”

Alt-J’s way of playing, the keyboardist explains, has more to do with electronics – a genre they frequent – ​​than rock: “It’s an influence on the way we are on stage.

I remember fifteen years ago I went to see Justice, it was a show in a club, there was a neon cross, they used their controllers and it seemed like little or nothing, but the atmosphere was very it was good. I understood that you can do a show without being a rock star. We’re not a band with a frontman, we don’t jump on the audience and we don’t get on stage: we just play. Over time we have become more confident on stage, more comfortable, even in the use of presentations. At first we thought we wanted to be judged mostly on albums. We thought we were better in the studio, recording, than live. Now it’s the opposite: we know we can put on a good concert.”

Festival Vs. arenas

The sets they bring to festivals are a bit different from arena sets, less production, more big hits: “The production helps us take the pressure off the band – but lately we’ve been playing a more stripped-down show”. In the past we’ve done shows with a sort of transparent tank that surrounds us,” he explains, quoting 10 years of “An Awesome Wave” show. Very cool, but the feeling was that it prevented contact with the public. In this sense, we have reduced production, especially at festivals, where there are probably not only fans, but also those who want to hear our hits, assuming we have any”, he joked.

An apparently generic approach, for a band that isn’t typical: “For us, nothing is off limits.

There’s nothing that defines or doesn’t define Alt-J,” he explains. A band sign of the times: “Once upon a time your taste was defined by where you found music, but now it’s from everywhere. comes This is why the public today has very broad tastes, genres don’t matter much and we draw influences and sounds from where it comes from and interests us. If I had to say what we are, we are an indie rock guitar band, but just for the sake of simplicity. But, even here, the distinction between indie and mainstream is a distinction that has a history but is less and less understood: I mean, we play in arenas, we’re not that indie”.

Definitely indie in approach: at the moment the band is “unsigned”: we are thinking about a new album, but at the moment we are a band without a contract, because ours ended after ‘The Dream’, Released the fourth last year. A band that looks to the future with gusto!

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