Few recent bands have made a splash quite like alternative rock band Alt-J did when it released its second studio album, "This Is All Yours," almost a year ago. What makes that splash so remarkable is the nature of the three-piece's music.
Guitarist and singer Joe Newman, keyboardist Gus Unger-Hamilton, and drummer Thom Green crafted an album that has more in common with experimental classics like Radiohead's "Amnesiac" than anything modern indie rock has offered over the last few years. There's an emotional quality to their songs as well as textures and sounds you're not going to find in too many other radio-ready bands. And yet there they are: songs like "Left Hand Free" and "Every Other Freckle" are playing all over your local radio station.
City Newspaper talked with Gus Unger-Hamilton about the band's growing mainstream presence, its eclectic sounds, and how success is resonating with the members. And edited transcript of that conversation follows.
City: It's been about a year since "This Is All Yours" came out, and you guys covered a lot of sonic ground -- and literal ground -- with that record. After touring it so much, how are the songs on that record sitting with you all now?
Gus Unger-Hamilton: We're very comfortable with the songs on stage now, and it's great seeing them get the same reaction as songs from the first album.
There are a lot of extremely emotional moments on the last record, with songs about the intimacies of love and about the long trials of loneliness. When you approached these songs, did they come from an outside looking in perspective, or inside looking out?
I think a lot of the songs very much take place inside the head of an unspecified character. They're quite imaginative in that way, like dramatic monologues, to borrow some poetic terminology.
Seeing how audiences react and thrive off of your live shows and performances, do you feel a deeper connection to the songs you've written when you play them live?
Certainly my favorite songs from the album are different now to before we toured the album. "Bloodflood, Pt. 2" has become a real favorite after playing it live a lot.
You've said that you take influence from the music Radiohead makes since you see it as just normal. With Alt-J opening up the musical climate with how well you've done, does that opens up a lot more opportunities for what's traditionally known as experimental music to become more normal on the radio?
We've never really been able to explain quite why we appeal to so many people. It's as surprising to us as anyone else. But if we have paved the way for more left-field music to get a broader audience (and I'm not necessarily saying we have) then that's a good thing.
Looking ahead to the future, what's really been inspiring you guys lately? Anything you might carry on into future writing?
The thing we find most inspiring is really just each other's company and the music chemistry we have together.
By the way, I remember in the interview you did with NME you were worried "Left Hand Free" would be used at a NRA convention. Has that happened?