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alt-J's getting used to making music for the masses

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

Posted: Monday, September 21, 2015

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The title of alt-J's "This Is All Yours," sums up the way the British modern rock quartet felt as it was making its sophomore album.

"We realized we're not longer a band who just exist writing songs in sort of anonymity in our bedrooms in Leeds," keyboardist Gus Unger-Hamilton explains by phone. After the group's 2012 debut, "An Awesome Wave," won that year's prestigious Mercury Prize, he says alt-J understood that "we're sort of making an album for our fans as much as for ourselves. So that was part of the thought behind that title."

But the transition was not an unpleasant one, Unger-Hamilton adds.

"It's nice, obviously," he says. "It feels good that people appreciate our music. But I suppose there was a certain innocence to writing before. When we were writing the first album we weren't even writing an album; we were just writing songs and building a nice collection of songs, and that was very nice.

"But I think I'd rather be in this position now than the position we were in then."

"This Is All Yours" is certainly no sophomore slump. The album debuted at No. 1 in the U.K. when it was released a year go, and at No. 4 on the Billboard 200 in the U.S. It also scored three Top 10 British hits from the album with "Left Hand Free" doing the same in the U.S.

Making the triumph sweeter for alt-J was that it came after the amicable departure of co-founder Gwil Sainsbury. He, singer-guitarist Joe Newman and drummer Thom Green made "This Is All Yours" as a trio (Cameron Knight has joined as a touring member), and the keyboardist says there wasn't much time spent hand-writing over what lay ahead.

"We were about to start the second album when Gwil left, so we didn't really have time to sit around and reassess anything," Unger-Hamilton recalls. "We just had to go, 'Right,' and get on with it as a three-piece. So we had something to distract us from the whole thing; we couldn't think too much about having lost Gwil because we had to concentrate on doing the album.

"So I think that was a good thing because it made us more focused, oddly. Things were happening very quickly, so we sort of moved right on ahead and didn't look back."

alt-J and San Fermin

8 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 22.

Meadow Brook Music Theatre on the campus of Oakland University in Rochester Hills.

Tickets are $49.50 and $39.50 pavilion, $32.50 lawn.

Call 248-377-0100 or visit www.palacenet.com.

Web Site: www.palacenet.com

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