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Alt-J: The Awesome Wave Returns

The British indie act’s Gus Unger-Hamilton talks about coming back to India, getting big in the U.S. and their aesthetic

Anurag Tagat Jan 17, 2018

(from left) Gus Unger-Hamilton, Thom Sonny Green and Joe Newman. Photo: Mads Perch

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Is there anything Gus Unger-Hamilton hasn’t been asked about in his interviews? The keyboardist and vocalist for British indie act Alt-J has even spoken about making scotch eggs in great detail for a radio show, but he assures us that it wasn’t the only time people have asked him about food. “It gets onto recipe swapping quite frequently actually,” Unger-Hamilton answers over email from Hamburg.

The trio – completed by drummer Thom Sonny Green and guitarist-vocalist Joe Newman – are on tour through Europe promoting their third album Relaxer until early February, after which they’ll be in Pune for Vh1 Supersonic on February 9th.

In an exclusive interview with Rolling Stone India, Unger-Hamilton talks about returning to India and the success of Relaxer.

This is your third visit to India. What was your last trip like?

It’s remained one of the parts of the second album tour we still talk about the most. When we found out we were coming back it was amazing.

Relaxer was out last year. I feel like it was presented with a very specific aesthetic, such as the artwork and the music videos. And I can tell it’s very important for the band. How do you guys decide that kind of stuff? 

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Luckily, we all share a sense of when something is ‘good’ or not, so it’s not too hard to make aesthetic decisions as a band. Also we have a good team at our label who get what we are trying to do.

Over the last few years, Alt-J have been getting bigger and bigger in the States – like you had the Red Rocks DVD and now you’re coming up on your next Coachella appearance – what is it like doing the whole Late Night show appearances and things like that the first time around?

It’s very exciting – you really feel like you’re in America, in the center of the entertainment world. And getting to meet the hosts and the other guests is pretty thrilling.

In that sense, Alt-J’s music is globally popular now. What’s the weirdest context in which you’ve heard an Alt-J song? 

I did see on one of my royalty statements that our music has been used on adult channels…

When “3WW” came out, it got a few references to music like the Doors. Like “The End.” It does seem to have a classic vibe, extending to a bit of classic rock, even. Is that fair to say? 

I think it is fair to say. We are quite influenced by bands like the Doors, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, the Beatles and so on.

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What is your setlist in India going to be like this time around? 

It’ll be a good mix of all three albums. Hopefully no one will be left disappointed.

India is the last stop on your current run of shows – are you guys planning on staying back for a while and hanging around? 

We have to get back to London unfortunately, to do some shows there. Otherwise we would!

Ellie Rowsell from Wolf Alice, who sang on “3WW,” will be in India just a week after you guys for two shows. What’s the most important advice you’d give them? 

Experience as much as possible, be daring with the food you try, and take lots of photos.

Alt-J performs at Vh1 Supersonic at Laxmi Lawns, Pune on February 9th. Watch the video for “3WW” below.

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