∆, spoken as alt-J, are an English indie rock band formed in 2007 in Leeds, by Gwil Sainsbury (guitar/bass), Joe Newman (guitar/lead vocals), Thom Green (drums) and Gus Unger-Hamilton (keyboards/vocals).
The band's debut album An Awesome Wave was released in May 2012 in Europe and September 2012 in the United States, and won the 2012 British Mercury Prize. Gwil Sainsbury amicably departed the band in early 2014. Their second album, This Is All Yours, was released on 22 September 2014 and went straight to UK number one. As a replacement for Sainsbury, Cameron Knight became a supporting member for alt-J's live shows, playing guitar, bass and sampler.
Formation and early years: 2007–10
alt-J (∆) was formed when Gwil Sainsbury (guitar/bass), Joe Newman (guitar/lead vocals), Gus Unger-Hamilton (keyboards/vocals) and Thom Green (drums) met at Leeds University in 2007. Unger-Hamilton (younger brother of Ferdy, head of A&R for Polydor Records) studied English, the additional three Fine Art. According to Newman "I basically went to art school to start a band."
In their second year of studies, Newman showed Sainsbury a handful of his own songs and, inspired by his guitar-playing dad, the pair began recording on GarageBand in their hall rooms with Sainsbury acting as producer. The band's unusual sound stems from the fact that due to living in student halls, where noise had to be kept to a minimum, they were unable to use bass guitars or bass drums. Thom Green suffers from Alport syndrome, a rare genetic disease which causes hearing and kidney failure. As a result, he's now about 80 percent deaf.
An Awesome Wave and touring: 2011–12
After graduating, the band moved to Cambridge where they spent a number of months working on their music before signing a deal with Infectious Music in December 2011. Their self-titled 4-track demo EP, ∆, was recorded with producer Charlie Andrew in London and featured the tracks "Breezeblocks", "Hand-Made", "Matilda", and "Tessellate". A 7" single containing "Bloodflood" and "Tessellate" was released by Loud and Quiet in October 2011. Their first 2012 release for Infectious Music was the triangle-shaped 10" "Matilda"/"Fitzpleasure". It was followed by "Breezeblocks" which preceded their first album. An Awesome Wave was additionally produced by Charlie Andrew and compiled at Iguana Studios, Brixton, where the band recorded tracks throughout the studio's spare time. Their debut album was released on 28 May 2012 in the UK, Europe, and Australia, and on 18 September 2012 in North America via Canvasback Music. The album received largely favourable reviews and was described as a "captivating blend of insatiable grooves and profound poignancy".
alt-J supported Wild Beasts in April 2012 and played a minor headlining tour around the United Kingdom and Ireland in October of that year. The band have featured regularly on summer festivals, including Latitude, Bestival, Reading and Leeds, T in the Park, Green Man, Pukkelpop, and Lowlands. They additionally did concert tour in the United States in December 2012 and performed at the Laneway Festival tour in Australia. In November 2012 the band were announced as the winners of the Mercury Prize for their album. Besides the prize-money, the band saw an increase in their profile resulting in An Awesome Wave reaching 13 in the UK album chart. The band would later describe the event as "life-changing, there was a sense of [being] imposters, that the band had somehow got this far without not being a real band, we’re just guys from Leeds who muddled through it and magicked a Mercury award".
Departure of Sainsbury and This Is All Yours: 2013–present
Gwil Sainsbury left alt-J as of 13 January 2014. It was announced on Twitter that he had decided to leave, but the band would continue, stating that they were to still be best friends with Gwil. In early June 2014, alt-J announced a 2014 tour to take place in North America over October and November. The 23-day tour started in Vancouver, B.C. on 14 October and ended in Washington, D.C. on 19 November. On 9 June 2014, they announced their second album This Is All Yours, that was released on 22 September 2014. This Is All Yours went straight to Number 1 on the UK's Official Albums Chart. Alt-J headlined the September 2015 edition of Boston Calling Music Festival.
The band's symbol is the delta sign, Δ, which is traditionally used in scientific study to indicate "change" or "difference". The cover art of their debut album An Awesome Wave shows an overhead view of the largest delta in the world, the Ganges. The ∆ symbol can be typed on an Apple Mac with the key sequence Alt+J (on certain keyboard layouts).
"Fitzpleasure" is featured in episode 10, season five of the television series The Vampire Diaries. It is additionally featured as theme song in episode six, season eight of the television series Weeds in 2013. Likewise it was featured in the pilot episode of the television series Broad City. Nokia used the track in their commercial for the Lumia 925 in Europe and Lumia 928 in the United States. It is additionally used in the UK trailer for The Way, Way Back and the trailer for the 2016 video game Battleborn. "Fitzpleasure" was additionally used in season 2 of Suits, and "Left Hand Free" was later used in season 4.
Several of their tracks, including "Something Good" and "Fitzpleasure", have been used for BBC 2's channel idents. "Tessellate" was featured at the beginning of Sons of Anarchy Season 6 Episode 5. Their songs were used in multiple episodes of Scrotal Recall, with "Breezeblocks" and "Left Hand Free" in the second episode and "Every Other Freckle" in the third.
In February 2013 the band announced they would be composing the soundtrack for Toby Jones' new film Leave to Remain.
The song "Something Good" was used for the soundtrack of the 2015 video game Life Is Strange.
The song "Left Hand Free" is used in the title sequence for the BBC drama The Interceptor.
In 2012, alt-J's debut album won the British Mercury Prize. alt-J were additionally nominated for three Brit Awards (British Breakthrough Act, British Album of the Year and British Group of the Year). An Awesome Wave was announced as BBC Radio 6 Music Album of the Year 2012. Three of the tracks from this album gained entry into the Australian 2012 Triple J Hottest 100, with "Something Good" at number 81, "Tessellate" at number 64, and "Breezeblocks" coming third overall. In 2013, An Awesome Wave won Album of the year at the Ivor Novello Awards. This Is All Yours received a Grammy Award nomination for Best Alternative Music Album at the 57th Grammy Awards, and for IMPALA's European Independent Album of the Year Award.
- Studio albums