Interview by Annie Parker
The Strathclyde Telegraph managed to grab a quick chat with Alt J’s Joe Newman before their incredible live set at the Glasgow School of Art back in May. It just happened that their debut album An Awesome Wave was released on that same day. We’re glad we caught themwhen we did because with a sold out tour on the way, these boys are on to big things!
Hi Joe, Welcome to Glasgow for your first headline tour! Have you enjoyed it so far?
It’s been amazing. We’ve had a lovely time! The album is only out today and we’re already doing a tour, you dream about doing this stuff. We’re still so fresh to it all.
Ah yes, the albums out today! Talk us through it, the songs are quite obscure, for example can you tell us what the song Taro is about?
Its about two heroes, or lovers, they are both war photographers. It talks about a guy Robert Kappa whose area of expertise is war as was his fiancé Girna Taro. They met in Spain during the Civil War and then they fell in love and she died and he never got over her. He then died when he stepped on a landmine in Indo China and the song is about really that moment before and after he stepped on the land mine and also looks at the bigger picture of his love for her.
Are all your songs so well researched?
Not all of them! With Taro, it was well research. Other songs kind of have one big theme but all the lyrics come about from years and years of just writing things It depends on the song. A lot of the time the guitar riffs are written before the song. Basically that’s how it happens, I write the song on my own with an acoustic guitar. I mean like, Fitzpleasure, I wrote that bass riff and I then I just went through all my notes to see what could work and then I found a lovely story and worked out a
narrative from there. I suppose every song has its own birth.
Now then, where does the name ∆ (or Alt – J) come from?
We were originally called Films but we had to change because there was a band in America called The Films. It took us about 2 months and it was getting a bit hectic because we were getting more and more attention but we didn’t have a name! We like the idea of there being a way of saying the band name and a way of seeing it and them both being
different. We only go with things we all agree on because we can be very critical of ourselves.
What music are you currently listening too?
At the moment im listening to a girl called Princess Chelsea, she’s really really good. Thom (Green, drums) is the best one to talk about what we’re listening to because he just sits and searches for hours. He’s a bit of a nomad on Spotify just surfs it for hours and knows what he likes and then what he likes, we like.
Does that have any influence on your writing?
You’re always exposed to being influenced, you can’t turn it on or off. You don’t put a uniform on and then stop absorbing music around you. I wouldn’t say I was consciously inspired by the music I listen to at the moment but probably I am! Definitely subconsciously.
Do you have any websites or blogs that you go to to find new music?
There is one blog that I find myself going to, and that’s called The Needle Drop. We’ve got a bit of a band crush, Thom and I really respect him a lot, he’s really cool. He’s got a really healthy opinion on things. He’s like a big fan but also really articulate.
How do you feel about illegally downloading music? Is it something you can just accept happens today or do you feel a bit cheated?
No, we accept it. There are two mindsets. One is, if you’re a fan of the music and you want to support the band then buy the album or a t-shirt or something. If you like the music and you want to hear more then feed us! Equally downloading happens and it doesn’t annoy us. I haven’t personally because I’m not very technologically savvy but I know the band have and you know if you’re skint you still want to listen to music. We don’t condone it but nor do we condemn it. Jay Z said that you should use your album like a business card. You reel people in with the album and then make your money from the shows.
Ok, promise this is my last question!
Keep them coming!
You all met at Leeds University, what do you think you would be
doing now if Alt – J hadn’t taken off?
Well I mean, I went to university to discover musicians. I was always aware that I wanted to be in a band. But, if that had failed, I probably would have done something in the art world and probably lost interest in it. Like worked in a shitty little gallery somewhere. Or maybe I would have done my A levels again so I could do Zoology and worked in a zoo! But if that failed, I would work in a factory.
Ok, so a good job the band had taken off then!
Yeah I know right!
Thanks very much for speaking too us, we’re
really looking forward to the show tonight!
Really? Aw great. We’re totally nervous because last time when we supported Ghost Poet nobody really seemed
that interested up here and Glasgow is a big one for us. For a start we’re playing at the Glasgow School of Art but Glasgow has such a massive gig culture, the pressure is on!
All you lucky folk that managed to get
tickets will see Alt J at the Oran Mor on the 29th of October!