For some reason I was cursed! I had tried to see Alt-J about four times. I had even interviewed them with the intention of going to the show last year. With an emergency keeping me from that show and other commitments keeping me from the others, I thought I would never have the joy of seeing the boys of Alt-J live. Thanks to a good friend of mine, I broke the curse! That said, it was more than worth the struggle to get to the show. After a few flights back to LA that were less than lucky, we jumped in the car and made our way to The OC Observatory and found a nearly perfect view of the stage. I did not shoot this show, so I am sorry about my lack of photos, but please enjoy my interview.
Alt-J, made up of Joe Newman (guitar/vocals), Gwil Sainsbury (guitarist and bassist), Thom Green (drums) and Gus Unger-Hamilton (keyboards), formed after the members met at Leeds University in 2007. Late in 2012, I was able to speak with Sainsbury as the band made its way through Europe while on tour.
When I spoke with him, the guys had just checked into their next hotel. He sounded happy about the tour and excited about where it would soon lead.
“We’re headed to Portugal after this and then, I believe, right on to the US. We have a 10-day tour there,” said Sainsbury. “Boston will be the first show, but then off to the west coast for the rest.”
This time around, the shows will be quite different. The band was not known for large productions, but with a bigger tour coming up some changes have been made to the show.
“These will be special shows,” said Sainsbury. “Usually when we do gigs, there isn’t any production. I don’t want to spoil it really, though. We have added to the production and possibly some special guests too.”
No need to spoil the surprise; the music on its own will be more than enough to get people to the show. Alt-J’s eerie, rock sounding music and videos have a dark and offbeat undertone. When the band gets together to bring out new songs, the songs (at first) come from Newman.
“Joe [Newman] usually comes up with lyrics and a main melody with an acoustic guitar,” said Sainsbury. “Sometimes it will be just a riff, and we will all sort of restructure it and build it into the song.”
The band makes sure to keep everything relaxed during recording as well.
“It’s hard to keep it a relaxing environment when we record because we know how precious that time is,” said Sainsbury. “But we appreciate the happy accidents that can come out of it too. You can play a song hundreds of times, but then when you go to record, something that seems like a mistake can really be a great thing.”
He continued, “The spontaneity is important; we have to be open to the happy accidents in the studio. There has to be a little bit of messing around.”
The guys were on and the show was everything we were hoping for. Playing my one of personal favorites, Fitzpleasure I joined in the dancing, but I was blown away by the performance that closed out the night. Ending with Taro that breaks into amazing instrumentals was the best way to close out. It left me wanting an hour more.
Now on tour in support of its album An Awesome Wave, Alt-J will be touring North America for the rest of the month and they will be off to a European tour. When you get the chance, go see them! Do not let a curse stop you!