August 15, 2015 - 8:30 pm
UK alternative rock band Alt-J has achieved a cult status in just two albums. Their sharp songwriting, combining rock, folk and electronic music has created classic hits for the millennium generation: “Breezeblocks”, “Tessellate”, “Matilda”, “Hunger of the Pine”, will no doubt be sung along by thousands of Lebanese fans eagerly awaiting their show.
A brilliant conclusion to Byblos Festival 2015 edition!
Alt-J was formed when Joe Newman (guitar, vocals), Gwil Sainsbury (guitar, bass), Gus Unger-Hamilton (keyboards) and Thom Green (drums) met at Leeds, UK University in 2007.
Unger-Hamilton studied English, the other three Fine Arts. In their second year of studies, Newman showed Sainsbury a handful of his own songs and, inspired by his guitar-playing dad, the pair began recording on GarageBand in their hall rooms with Sainsbury acting as producer. That’s where it all started. The band’s unusual sound stems from the fact that due to living in student halls, where noise had to be kept to a minimum, they were unable to use bass guitars or bass drums. The Band was originally called “Daljit Dhaliwal” after a British TV presenter of the same name and then “FILMS”.
In 2010 they had graduated and moved to Cambridge where they worked on their music whilst claiming benefits. The four friends spent the next two years playing around town, developing a precise and unique brand of Alt-Pop that draws on poignant folk verses, crushing synths, smart hip hop syncopations and tight vocal harmonies. They dropped the various monikers they had used in the meantime to avoid any confusion and took on the name Alt-J.The band’s symbol is the delta sign, ∆, which is traditionally used in scientific study to indicate “change” or “difference”. It gave them something unique to go with the genre-bending sound they concocted in the basement of a terrace house in Cambridgeshire.
Admiration and favorable comparisons came thick and fast for Alt-J. Before the release of their instantly sold out debut single “Breezeblocks”, the band were described as “Nick Drake meets Gangsta Rap,” and they were linked to Wild Beasts, ‘In Rainbows’ era Radiohead, The XX and Anthony & The Johnsons – acts acclaimed for their ability to create the kind of patient, sophisticated, intricate music that Alt-J do. The band signed with Infectious Records (The Temper Trap, These New Puritans) in December 2011, shortly after which they released their eponymous debut EP. The record was produced by long-time collaborator Charlie Andrew and featured the likes of ‘Breezeblocks’ and ‘Matilda’.
Alt-J’s debut album An Awesome Wave was released in May 2012 and went on to win the Mercury Music Prize later that year before being named Album of The Year at the 2013 Ivor Novello ceremony. The album allowed them to tour all over the world including at prestigious festivals such as Glastonbury, Coachella, Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza and many, many, more. And just as success came their way and a new album was in the works, guitarist Gwil Sainsbury announced that he had left the band – who stated they would still continue and that their close friendship with Gwil remained intact.
As a replacement for Sainsbury, Cameron Knight is now a support member for Alt-J’s live shows, playing guitar, bass and sampler.
But by now if we had not realized how special Alt-J were following their first album, the release of their second studio album makes it obvious.
In the build-up to the launch of their second studio album the band premiered the first single “Hunger of the Pine” in June 2014 and the track features a sample of a track by none other than Miley Cyrus who claims to be a fan of Alt-J. The full album This Is All Yours was released in September 2014 and went straight to Number One in the UK’s Official Albums Chart and received very positive reviews in the press. The album has also been nominated at the 57th Grammy Awards for Best Alternative Music Album and for IMPALA‘s European Independent Album of the Year Award.
Some of the most enjoyable music on This Is All Yours is simple, kind and funny – songs like “Warm Foothills,” a rustic ditty withchopped-up vocals from Conor Oberst, or “Left Hand Free,” which sounds like an alt-rock hit from the Nineties, with a Southern-fried beat and some low-fi guitar action. Other tracks such as “Arrival at Nara” or “Pusher” are calmer but dreamier. Alt-J have clearly become recognized as a band who are willing to chuck any and every kind of organized mess into their ring and tirelessly work to come out the other side with something strange, beautiful and ultra-stimulating.
In what promises to be yet another explosive year for Alt-J, the band have included sold out shows in the UK, the US, Australia and all of Europe including headline performances at massive arenas such as London’s O2 or New York’s Madison Square Gardens and making a stop-over at Byblos Festival.
- An Awesome Wave (2012)
- This Is All Yours (2014)