27 May 2017

Alt-J: 'You have to keep it fresh'

From RNZ Music
Alt-J

Alt-J Photo: supplied

In between the last Alt-J album and 'Relaxer' (released June 2) keyboardist Gus Unger-Hamilton opened a restaurant and he's quick to draw comparisons between being in the kitchen and being in a band. 

"Cooking food for people in a professional capacity is not fun necessarily in the same way that cooking at home is. You’re churning out the same dish over and over again. It’s much like being in a band really, the creative part is over very quickly.

"You come up with a song, or a dish, and that’s amazing and then you have to play it live or cook it hundreds and hundreds of times, which can become monotonous. As with cooking or playing live you have to keep it fresh and you have to remember that the person trying it or listening to it is doing so maybe for the first time and so their enjoyment has to become your enjoyment."

The comparison rings true and Alt-J know all too well the monotony and superficiality the music industry can create. Touring after their first album was so intense that one of their band members had to leave. The lifestyle doesn't suit everyone.

Alt-J are also a band that divide critics. They won the coveted Mercury Music Prize in 2012, but some critics are dismissive of the band - Gus says the band don't mind reading bad reviews because the good ones tend to outweigh the bad. He admits though that the role of music criticism is a changing one.  

"I think that music criticism is amazing and historically super important. I do worry that it is a dying art I mean if you think about the UK, NME is not what it used to be it’s now a free weekly magazine which is great for its circulation but it’s no longer a home for long-form music

"You don’t have to trust a critic or a recommendation to take a gamble and buy an album you can just check it out (these days). So I suppose music criticism and journalism largely exists for the sake purely of reading (hopefully) good writing or maybe even giving you new ways to think about music that you are listening to."