The British indie rockers of alt-J went from a debut EP in 2011 to winning a Mercury Prize (British equivalent of a Grammy) for their debut album a year later and worldwide acclaim on the festival circuit. That’s a big change in circumstance to deal with when entering the studio to record the sophomore LP, “This Is All Yours.”
“We tried our best to get away from the spotlight to record this album,” band keyboardist Gus Unger-Hamilton says. “Let’s just go back and find the space where we feel like some mates just hanging out, occasionally making music.”
amNewYork caught up with Unger-Hamilton in advance of the trio’s performance Monday at Madison Square Garden.
Your music doesn’t really scream “arena tour.” As alt-J has grown in popularity, has playing on big stages been intimidating?
We’ve never felt like a band that would play big venues. The fact is that the demand is there — not because they want to see a great show, but because they really like the music. So we feel comfortable, and we feel like we can do it because the people want it.
How has the band adjusted to the departure of founding member Gwil Sainsbury?
I don’t think either’s been a big adjustment, really. The biggest thing’s been losing Gwil on the road, losing a friend on the road. Recording an album as a trio is quite easy, but I think being on the road I miss having him around. But these things happen, we all grow up, and we’re still friends and wish him well.
The Miley Cyrus sample on “Hunger of the Pine” from “This Is All Yours” raised some eyebrows among indie music purists. What is it that you found fascinating about that “I’m a female rebel” line?
[alt-J drummer] Thom [Green] had done a remix of that song [“4X4”], and he had isolated that vocal, the “female rebel” thing. And hearing that remix, we thought it was a cool line — just one note, and really from the heart. When you isolate it, it’s this one anguished, tormented note.
IF YOU GO: alt-J performs at Madison Square Garden on Monday at 8 p.m., 4 Penn Plaza, 212-465-6741, $39.50-$49.50.