After three long years of touring, Alt-J finally released their third record Relaxer last year. Ahead of their headline performance at Good Vibes Festival ’18, Gus talked to JUICE on the inspiration behind the craft of new album, the importance of sex education and the name of his hypothetical book.
Congratulations on your 3rd album. Relaxer distinctively has a different sound to your previous albums, was there a difference in how you approached this new album as opposed to your previous albums?
I don’t think we approached it differently, no. But I think probably our music or tastes have evolved over the last few years of being in a band. Also I think we always wanted to be a band that are innovating and naturally that means our sound will evolve from album to album.
Did you ever feel pressured (by your fans) to produce this album after the successes of your previous albums and being on tour for many years?
Yeah, I think you know that people want a new album as quickly as possible, and as much as people appreciate that we have to tour to promote albums, that we can’t write an album overnight. Whether its fans or the record label, there’s always someone wanting a new album yesterday as quickly as possible, y’know? But luckily we are quite good with resisting pressure and we know that if we take our time the results are going to be better.
There are so many artists/bands/groups debuting because of social media, are there any whose sound inspire you guys recently?
We tend to take inspiration from things outside of music like books and films, art things like that. In terms of what influences us musically, it tends to be achieved more through jamming together and using the spark that we have and as musicians when we play together.
So what inspired this album?
Well for example, the final song on the album ‘Pleader’ is inspired by the book called How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn, a Welsh mining community in the 19th Century, its a very beautiful book. And you have references to artists Jeff Koon in the song ‘In Cold Blood’ and we also have inspiration from the photographer Lee Miller in ‘Deadcrush’, the first verse of that song is about Lee Miller. So y’know if you unpack the lyrics there are all kinds of references here and there.
I heard you partnered up with LifeBeat to promote safe sex, what do you think is the most important part about sex education?
I think the most important think about it now is to remind people about consent and the politics of sex and respecting each other. Especially in the current climate of the revelations of the rise of sexual abuse in the entertainment industry and we are keenly aware of that. I think it all starts with education, other concerns have been there for a long time: like teenage pregnancies, Sexually Transmitted Infections which are still a problem. So all of that combines to a situation that needs education and conversation as much as possible.
Hypothetically, if you guys weren’t doing music, what would you be doing now?
I mean in terms of myself I’d like to do some writing in some way; like writing in books or journalism. As for Joe I think he said he’d be working with animals. As for Thom, I’m not sure. When we were at university, Tom said he wanted to work in a factory and then concentrate on making art in his spare time. So I guess he’d be making art and working in a factory. (laughs)
So you said you would like to write a book, what would be the name of your first book in that scenario?
I think I would have to judge it on the content of the book but uhh maybe, A Lovely Big Bunch Of Flowers.
I heard in an interview you mentioned that you were involved in a pop-up restaurant, do you consider yourself a good cook?
Yeah, I would consider myself a good cook, compared to most people. I love cooking, it’s probably one of my favourite hobbies, so yeah I would.
If you could only cook 5 dishes for the rest of your life what would they be?
Five? Gosh, probably toast and Marmite (which is a British spread, it is what I eat for breakfast a lot), I couldn’t live without toasted Marmite. I also love cooking roast pork, I think a nice chilled tomato soup. Fourth would be uhhhhh, goodness this is quite hard, how about three? I’ll give you those three.
Don’t worry, somedays I don’t know what to eat as well… So since you’re coming to Malaysia soon, do you have any dishes that are on your “must-eat” list whilst you’re here?
Yeah, I’m keen to try as much Malaysian food as possible when we’re there. I’m not sure how similar it is to Indonesian food.
Oh yeah, there are some similarities, but Malaysia does have distinct staple dishes that set it apart from anything else.
Laksa is a very popular Malaysian dish, right?
Yeah! It’s a staple here and there are many different Laksa’s from different cities.
Yeah, so we would like to try the different laksa’s properly and try as many other things as I can.
I think you’ll enjoy it a lot! Anyway, you have had immense success over the years, headlining multiple festivals like Coachella, Latitude and selling out MSG in 2015. Did you ever think when you guys debuted as a band/met in uni that you would headline these big festivals?
Uh, no. We never thought or planned.. never something that we thought we would do. We kinda just wanted to make music together and see what happens, but we are obviously very excited about where we are now.
What should people who are going to see you at Good Vibes Festival 2018 be ready for?
Well, we’re going to be playing songs from all three of our albums, providing a very great lightshow and just having lots of fun.