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The Mystery Behind The Band Alt-J: Where Are They Now

Missy is a unique writer who enjoys inviting her readers into her thoughts through her poetry and other topics of discussion.  

Band members: Joe Newman (lead singer), Gus Unger-Hamilton (keyboards). Not pictured: Thom Green (drums) and Gwil Sainsbury(bass guitar)

Band members: Joe Newman (lead singer), Gus Unger-Hamilton (keyboards). Not pictured: Thom Green (drums) and Gwil Sainsbury(bass guitar)

To All the Alt-J Fans

This piece was written sometime around 2016 but it still seems to get a good amount of views. I believe it is because the article remains relevant to some extent today. Alt-J, as I state in this article, is a very unique band. I do not think that they make music on a timeline or strive to satisfy a quota. They have shown up again since I wrote this. The band made an album in 2018. However, I have lost track of them again here in 2020. That's what I like about them. They seem to be the phantom band of this generation. Separating themselves from the usual and sometimes boring monotonous Pop artists of today.

The Discovery of An Unknown Band

Where in the world did the band Alt-J disappear to? I came to know this band’s music around 2013, and apparently, that was a hellacious year for this four-member group. I, among others, found their unique style and take on indie music through songs such as; Matilda, Taro, and Tessellate, gathered with a few others that rose to the top on their album, “An Awesome Wave,” which was out in 2012. However, their popularity really reached star status in 2013. After this out of nowhere band’s music caught national attention, the world seemed to have discovered a new group of musical renegades to admire with a sound unlike anyone had ever heard before.

And then, 2014 rolled around and their album “This Is All Yours” was released. I love the song “Hunger of the Pine.” Along with this song, there was a bevy of different and interesting tunes on this album. Although I still could not make out a single word of the lyrics, the music and the words seemed to gravitate me to another world, spin my senses, and relax my mind.

Fun Facts:

Miley Cyrus has become a big fan and great friend to Alt-J lending her voice to the track "Hunger Of The Pine" with the term "I'm a female rebel." Keep an ear open for Miley's voice.

Miley also frequently sings Alt-J's song "Fitzpleasure" while on tour.

What Did He Just Sing: A Funny Take On Joe Newman's Lyrics

Afterwards, it was literally like they had risen to the top and as fast as they were lifted, they had sunk back into the paralysis of an everyday normal existence. I can't say this for sure. I’m just making my own prediction on what they did after the whirlwind of tour dates and fans of millions came to soak up the unexplained way to like a song we really did not understand; or did we? That was always the question, I, myself, had when I listened to lead singer Joe Newman belly out one of his self-written masterpieces that even his bandmates admit was too confusing for them to understand.

I had to laugh at that while watching an interview with two of the band members Gwil Sainsbury(bass) and Thom Green(drums). They explain that it wasn’t until they added the lyrics onto the album and read them back to themselves did they understand just what their lead singer was harmonizing? It was quite a funny interview I found of these two explaining this as you will see in the clip below.

Shakespearean Lyrics

Shakespearean lyrics is how this interviewer described Alt-J's titles and lyrics, and I think as a poet myself, I would agree that their music has a poetic tone. I'm not a Shakespeare fan, so I'm not so sure I agree with the Shakespeare reference to their style of music; no, I think it is an Alt-J original. I think like most poets or artists of any genre; they came up with something that resonated somehow with an audience. It made sense to the unique; the poets, the misfits, or the nerd in chemistry class that never talks to anyone, but loves to test and figure out things. In that way, Alt-J, to me, are chemistry.

They brought together four talented college students who wanted to make an uncommon mark in the world of music. Whether it was from boredom, the drive of fame, or just to test a hypothesis that they came up with on their own. Whatever drove them to form a band with an unorthodox title, write scrambled lyrics that somehow, we, who listened, liked to attempt to unscramble and make sense of, whichever their reason; it worked! I loved the process of how they made their music. I hope they are still making incomparable music as I talk about them now, and it is my thought that they are at this very moment entertaining the world somewhere.


It's Nerd Music! Yes, That Must Be It

However, this group makes sense in a weird nerd way. Again, this is just my take on them, but they made a statement from the beginning.

I mean, guys that name their band after a code on their computer; alt then j, which, by the way, is a delta sign when keyed in, says a lot doesn’t it? As unique as the band's title is, and even though it was formed from the keyboard of a computer, this symbol does have meaning, and in my opinion, fits Alt-J's personal vision very well.

Even if those of us, who listen, do not quite understand, we kind of understand, don't we? However, to make it a little more clear and to show how this sign coincides well with this group, the explained definition of a delta sign, which can be formed by the alt button and the j letter on a Mac computer is;

The Delta sign in Greek terminology is the fourth letter of the alphabet. It has a value of four, and denotes the meaning of change or change in quantity.

Cinematic Inspirations

The band met at Leeds University in the United Kingdom where they all were studying, so they sort of remind me of the Revenge of the Nerds band. You know, the movie where two nerds went to college, formed a fraternity, and made up this awesome band to show up the jocks? It’s no wonder that I think that, considering Joe Newman did say his songs are heavily influenced by cinema.

Fun Facts

The title of their first album, “An Awesome Wave,” comes from a line in the movie “American Psycho.”

The song “Matilda” gives homage to a young 12-year-old Natalie Portman’s character in the film “Leon.”


Emerging From The Woods

In 2016, I’m not at all sure where this lovely band went. I have looked around and found out that they recently got together to play at the “In The Woods Festival 2016.” This festival has been supporting unknown bands in the UK for 10 years now, and Alt-J was one of the bands that the festival showcased through some of those years. Alt-J took some time to come together and rally around this festival’s cause and apparently had a wonderful time by what I read on their Facebook page. I also read on their page that band member Thom Green is now promoting a solo album.

This is such an awesome thing for Thom. Many may not know that Thom suffers from a rare genetic disease called Alport syndrome. This disease causes hearing loss and kidney failure. The extraordinary thing about Thom is his perseverance and love for his music. Even though he lost most of his hearing by the age of six, and is now eighty percent deaf, he has conquered this by rallying through and keeping up with his gift of musical talent. Go Thom Green!

Final Thoughts

No matter what they are doing now, this band deserves a big applause for entertaining the crowd of misfits, and unique individuals like myself, who love to listen to different takes on popular music such as indie. In their few short years of fame, this band made a mark in the music industry that will never fade. I, for one, hope that they are not out of the musical biz yet. I hope they decide to come back better than ever and grace us all with some more of their unique talent and candy for our ears. Even though one band member has since decided to depart from the group (Gwil Sainsbury), I know Alt-J still has so much more to offer and a musical legacy to unfold to their fans and listening audience. Thanks, Alt-J! Here's hoping you will return soon with more musical genius and artistry to share with the whole world.

If anyone knows what Alt-J is up to these days and would like to comment, please do. Drop me a line in the comment section. Thanks!

© 2016 Missy Smith


Missy Smith (author) from Florida on April 30, 2018:

I'm aware this article is a little dated now, but thanks so much for taking the time to read it, anonymous. I hope you still found it interesting. Have tons of fun at their concert next month. They're Awesome!! :)

anonymous on April 29, 2018:

Can't wait to see them next month, yeah!

Missy Smith (author) from Florida on April 17, 2017:

This is a very unique band, Shyron. That's what fascinates me and others about them. Thanks!

Shyron E Shenko from Texas on April 01, 2017:

Missy, thank you for the journey with Alt-J, I understand what you meant, I love music and I did hear Miley singing backup.

Glad you found out the date of their next album release.

Beautiful hub

Blessings my friend

Missy Smith (author) from Florida on November 12, 2016:

Ah, that is awesome, Cassie! Thanks for the head's up on that good news! I can't wait! :)

Missy Smith (author) from Florida on September 11, 2016:

I'm very pleased you found them interesting, Deb. They are very smart, and marketed their unique talent well. :)

Missy Smith (author) from Florida on September 11, 2016:

Much obliged by your kind words, Frank. :)

Deb Hirt on September 11, 2016:

This band is very eclectic and different than the mainstream. They really are not that hard to see for what they are, a very intelligent marketing ploy for those that are different. This is what gave them success, the sound of the newest wave, similar to what The Beatles did in their day, but on quite a different note. Thanks for "discovering" them.

Deb Hirt on September 11, 2016:

∆Sounds like the group has defied to odds, especially Thom Green. Nice work, and thanks for "discovering" them.

Frank Atanacio on September 07, 2016:

a very good hub Missy.. Although I never heard of this band.. oh, and I love the fun facts.. they were entertaining :)

Missy Smith (author) from Florida on August 26, 2016:

Well, I may just know that movie in which you are referring to Bill. I watched it like a million times at least. Was it Eddie and the Cruisers? The band that was the original singers for that movie was John Cafferty and The Beaver Brown Band, and I do recall hearing it on the radio a few times. I don't know if that is the movie you are referring to. I watched it on HBO, and I'm not sure it made it to theaters, although I believe the intention was for it to.

My mind wanders so much...It's the reason for this article actually. I remember discovering this band, Alt-J, a few years back, and I listened to them constantly. I was so intrigued and fascinated with their process of making music. I would advise to look up a live show of theirs and watch some of the ways they play the instruments. It's very cool. Matter of fact, I think I will add a video to this article of a live version of their song "Fitzpleasure." It's so unique and original all the way around. I get extremely excited for different types of art and music. lol. I hope you take a listen. :)

Many blessings to you and yours as well! :)

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on August 26, 2016:

Interesting read, Missy, and I thank you for introducing me to this band. It reminded me of a tv movie many years ago of a band that made it big only to totally disappear. I still remember the hit song they recorded...."Dark Side"....and the song was actually played on real life radio stations....anyway, my mind is wandering. It's always good to read an article by you.

Peace and blessings, my friend...peace and blessings!

Missy Smith (author) from Florida on August 25, 2016:

Paula...I have been back and forth editing my words here at least five times now. lol. I am not big on writing pieces like this, but I wanted to try something out of my comfort zone again. I do this from time to time. I used to write this way when I took a stab at doing freelance, but I really hated it.

Their music is a little out there. When I first discovered this band, I was like...??. I knew I liked the sound; it was different, but I had no clue about the lyrics, and the words are usually my most favorite part of the song.

Then, I listened to another song, next another, and I watched interviews and live shows on YouTube of this band, and what I liked about them most were their complete originality. You know me; I think that is a striking quality to have in anything, whether it be music, art, writing, or even someone's personality. I really started to love them, then it was as if no more; suddenly, they were incognito.

The other day this group crossed my mind, and I listened to some of their songs again, and visited their Facebook page, and just decided I would write something about them. I think they are touring, but I'm not sure. I suspect that the fans will hear from them again soon though. :)

Thanks for being the first one to comment. You may be the only one. lol. Hey, but that's good enough for me! ;) Peace to you too sweet lady!

Suzie from Carson City on August 25, 2016:

Missy.....All I can say is Thank you for the intro and info on a band that this old lady has never heard of. (Sorry!) LOL Just for the heck of it, I listened to the song you included. I cannot tell a lie.....not my style at all, but that probably wouldn't surprise you.

When it comes to music, I've come to the conclusion that "musical tastes" are extremely unique to each individual. I feel it has so much to do with our era and history, don't you think?

I also have to say that as did a great job! Peace girl!