Our Interview with Alt-J

Spotify definitely helps keep us all sane on the tour bus…”, Alt-J

Seemingly from nowhere, Alt-J have arrived, fully-formed and near perfect, with a string of great singles, a deliriously happy fan base and an astonishingly good debut album. Formed five years ago in Cambridge, the four-piece played in front of hundreds of thousands of people across last summer’s biggest and best festivals. More recently they recorded a session for Spotify, but they had to pile into a car and head off straight after, so we wrote a few questions in an email and sent them to drummer, Thom Green. He was kind enough to answer them all – even the ridiculous ones – and send them straight back. Thanks Thom!

Hello Thom. Where are you and what are you doing?
Right now we’re at the BBC in London filming for Later with Jools Holland. We’re on a break so I’m listening to music.

Tell me, what music was playing in the house when you were growing up?
My Dad used to play a lot of Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra. Its a nice memory, very soothing music.

What were the first records you personally fell in love with?
Nirvana’s Bleach, Beastie Boys’ The Sound of Science, Deftones’ White Pony and Chemical Brothers’ Surrender.

What bands made you want to make your own music?
Chemical Brothers really wanted me to play the drums. I also had the Space Jam soundtrack which had some amazing beats on it. I don’t think there was a particular band or artist that actually made me want to be a drummer though, I kind of found it myself.

We like this line from your biog: “Joe played Gwil a handful of his own songs inspired by his guitar-playing dad and hallucinogens…” What were those songs like? Do you still play any of them?
They were great, very basic but very well written. You could hear how unique a voice Joe had very early on. We don’t play any of them anymore.

And, importantly, just how good a guitarist is Joe’s dad?
Exceptionally Good.

What five records couldn’t alt-J exist without?
We all have different tastes in music, so it’s hard to say as we never really listen to the same albums, but there were a few I remember the others listening to like, Radiohead’s In Rainbows, Metronomy’s The English Riviera, Laura Marling’s Alas I Cannot Swim and Portico Quartet’s Knee Deep In The North Sea.

Do you think such a thing as the perfect song exists?
No, I don’t think so. People have different opinions on what they like. Thom Yorke said that after recording Pyramid Song he thought it was the best track Radiohead had ever recorded. They are one of the best bands in the world, so that could be the best track. I’d be happy with that. Either that or Missing You by John Talabot.

Are Alt-J Spotify users?
Joe, Gus and I are.

Have you discovered any new music through Spotify?
Every day, I love Spotify. I’m really into John Talabot at the moment his latest album Fin is beautiful. I like the radio feature on iPhone, i’ve discovered a lot through that. It definitely helps keep us all sane on tour, in the bus. I use it a lot on my Tumblr which has a lot of followers.

What new bands are you all listening to at the moment?
Princess Chelsea, Hundred Waters, Stealing Sheep and Romare.

Were you surprised by the Mercury nomination?
We weren’t too surprised, just very relieved. We’d been tipped to win before we’d even been nominated so the pressure was on. We’re very pleased.

Could you express, in a percentage, exactly how likely you think you are to win?
8.3%. If we win we’ll get extremely drunk at an after party with our friends and family.

Who would Alt-J give an Album of the Year prize to?
Hot Chip for In Our Heads.

What new element do you think Mumford and Sons brought to their version of Tessellate?
I think they gave the track a lot of space, it sounded great. It was odd at first hearing his very recognisable voice singing our lyrics that i’m so familiar with.

What five records would you literally fight you way to the decks to put on at a drunken Christmas party?
Simon and Garfunkel’s, The Sound Of Silence, Jose Gonzales’ Veneer, Laura Marling’s Alas I Cannot Swim, Princess Chelsea’s L’il Golden Book and John Talabot’s Fin.

And what records would you lie on the sofa and recover to the following day?
Radiohead’s In Rainbows and Monstar’s Harder / Bastard

Finally, what’s your favourite noise?
Fingers down a chalkboard.