Follow Us:
Tuesday, August 09, 2022

‘We play with people’s uncertainties’

Gus Unger-Hamilton of Alt J talks about crafting a new sound.

Written by Kevin Lobo |
Updated: February 28, 2015 12:00:32 am
Thom Green, Joe Newman, and Gus Unger-Hamilton of Alt J will perform in Delhi as part of Emerge festival. Thom Green, Joe Newman, and Gus Unger-Hamilton of Alt J will perform in Delhi as part of Emerge festival.

In 2012, when Joe Newman, Thom Green, Gus Unger-Hamilton and Cameron Knight released An Awesome Wave as Alt J, praise came swiftly. Comparisons were drawn to Radiohead, Britain most prestigious award for music, the Mercury Prize was awarded to them the same year, and festivals from across the world wanted them to perform live. Two years later, the press were calling them too “nerdy” to be rockstars. The bass player, Gwil Sainsbury left the band because he couldn’t deal with the touring life, and a second album, This is All Yours was released. But none of the criticism or hype takes away from how new and fresh their music sounds, a rare feat in today’s times. Keyboardist Unger-Hamilton takes time out for an email interaction before their gig at Emerge Festival in Bangalore on February 28 and in Delhi on March 1.

The band was formed while you were still in art school. Does your interest in art still persist, or has music taken over your lives?
It was a wonderful experience, but making music is a greater passion I suppose. We haven’t given up art. We try and stay connected to it as much as possible, but given our schedule these days, it gets difficult.

Your unique sound is defined by Joe Newman’s vocals, while musically you shift genres on every track. How do you describe your music?
People cannot define our sound so we play with their uncertainties. We have never set out to be a certain kind of band. Naturally, we all brought different musical influences to the table and that means the songs go in lots of different directions. We’ve never had a musical manifesto about what sort of band we should be. I’ve never been able to figure it out too. That we don’t have a particular name of a genre, I think that’s the best way to be as a band.

Tell us about a few of your influences.
The music we listen to has shaped the sound we have. I liked a lot of metal bands and grunge bands while growing up, and I played drums in bands like that. At Leeds, I heard more folky stuff. Then I met these guys, and I now listen to mostly electronic music and hip hop and experimental music.

Subscriber Only Stories
Nitish-BJP break-up in Bihar: Why Modi’s BJP is right to be nervous...Premium
UPSC Key-August 9, 2022: Why you should read ‘Eggs and faith’ or ‘Transge...Premium
Streetwise Kolkata – Beckbagan: Named after an emissary from Awadh ...Premium
As PM Modi again refers to Rajya Sabha ‘hurdle’, some House truthsPremium

Your sophomore album, This is All Yours, sounds like a more mature, sober version of An Awesome Wave. Has the sound changed because you guys have grown up, or are there other reasons behind it?
I will not be able to point out a particular reason for its change but we try to play music we like to hear and in the process we absent-mindedly sound like no other band at the moment. I believe that is a good thing. We work very hard, and in some cases we spend years on trying to get songs right. Because we were all friends before we were musicians, we naturally understand one another.

Does it surprise you that you have so many fans in India? What do you think of the internet and what it does for musicians, be it positive or negative?
Yeah! We are quite surprised. Especially after the whole buzz about Emerge on social media and our fans’ responses on it, we are truly stoked to come to India and perform for them.

Do you have a list of things you would like to do in India?
Yes, this is our first trip here. We have heard so much of this country and cannot wait to 0explore what it has to offer. Hoping to try out some of the most talked about spicy Indian cuisine. We would definitely like to try it all. Hopefully our stomachs will agree too. But sadly given our tight schedule, I don’t think we would be able to have a chance to see much of India other than Bangalore and Delhi.


Alt-J will perform at HUDA Grounds, Leisure Valley, Gurgaon on March 1. Tickets are priced between Rs 1,500 and Rs 2,500, and are available on

📣 Join our Telegram channel (The Indian Express) for the latest news and updates

For all the latest Entertainment News, download Indian Express App.

  • Newsguard
  • The Indian Express website has been rated GREEN for its credibility and trustworthiness by Newsguard, a global service that rates news sources for their journalistic standards.
  • Newsguard
First published on: 28-02-2015 at 12:00:29 am

Featured Stories