‘Hawaiian Air’ by Friendly Fires
this song, so 2011
‘Hawaiian Air’ by Friendly Fires
‘The Weeknd’ by Enemy is my new jam.
To commemorate the year of 2012 I thought I’d collate my best (and worst) pictures from the year. Thanks to everyone featured and I apologise in advance for highlighting these shocking photos of you all.
I started 2012 the way everyone should, wasted on Bideford Quay, dressed as a circus ringmaster. Said goodbye to home friends and went back to Southampton.
The month of my first interview (with Alex Gaskarth), the month of SUSU elections, one the best, worst and most tiring weeks of my life. Saw Two Door Cinema Club, Azealia Banks and Metronomy at the NME Awards Tour. Oh and got smashed on Valentines Day.
The month I went to Amsterdam with amazing friends. Saw my favourite band for the first time (The Maccabees). Got a couple of tattoos, went home for Easter and bought a shiny new car.
Continued beach and alcohol related fun with the home crowd, went on a lovely holiday to Portugal with the best people, got elected as live editor for The Edge and also EngSoc sports sec. Go April!
Photos tell me that a lot of partying went on in May 2012, seeing as us English students pretty much finished in mid May this was to be expected. Had an AMAZING EngSoc handover social, won a SUSU Media Award, celebrated a few birthdays and SUSU had a bloomin’ petting Zoo!
The start of the amazing festival filled summer. Spent 16 hours in Jesters to obtain the infamous Gold Card. Tig Wallace threw an awesome house party. Won intramural rounders with EngSoc! Met MC Lars. Got persuaded to go to the Grad Ball. Drove to Wales for BeachBreakLive, slept in my car for the entirety due to tent failure, saw Jay Z and Kanye West at Hackney Weekend and finally made it home to Devon for summer.
Late night dips in the sea, the house party to end all house parties (thanks Chloe Jury) and various nights out in Devon.
One of the busiest months of my life. My cousin’s beautiful wedding. 3 festivals: Boardmasters, Strummer of Love, Reading Festival. Interviewed people at these various festivals. Met tonne of awesome people, Simon Pegg being one of them.
Began in the best way possible (pun intended) by spending it on the Isle of Wight at Bestival. Met fellow Devonian Ben Howard amongst others. Stevie Wonder blew my mind. Settled into a beautiful new house and started year 2 of University.
The month of live music. Dedicated it to interviewing the likes of The Midnight Beast, Mr Hudson, Mayday Parade, Marina and the Diamonds (with Howell Davies) and To Kill A King. I decided to fuck up my knee. Highlight of this month: getting ‘on the beers son’ with Greg James.
Managed to control my fan-girl-starstruck-craziness when interviewing Conor Maynard. Interviewed Alt-J ∆ 48 hours after their Mercury Prize win. Went to the SRAs with Surge Radio. Participated in a naked calendar for RAG. Interviewed my childhood idol Charlie Simpson. Overall a great month.
Got well and truly annihilated before and at The Humanities Ball. Threw pre-drinks for my 20th birthday and didn’t make it out. Had my first experience of spoken word thanks to Kate Tempest and Scroobius Pip. Plenty of nights out including an awesome bars social. Spent my birthday on my own in Southampton before going in for surgery. Made it home for Xmas and new year!
THANK YOU EVERYONE!
I recently got the chance to interview the wonderful Gwil from Alt-J (∆). He plays guitar and bass in the band. We talk about everything from touring to their debut album An Awesome Wave. Check out the full version here (it is ludicrously long) and the highlights of the interview have been published via The Edge, and you can find that here. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did doing it!
How did Alt-J begin? You all went to University of Leeds, explain a little bit about how the band started.
Me, Joe and Tom all studied fine art, on the same course in the same year and Gus was in halls with Joe and Gus also took one of the History and Art modules that we were taking. In first year Joe and I were into the same music and we both played guitar and I think he’d been working on some stuff for a couple of years by himself and he showed it to me and we started recording little gags then over the summer and when we were back in second year we knew that Tom played drums in metal bands and we knew that Gus was just really good at lots of instruments like grade 8 on oboe and piano, so he was pretty sufficient. So I think we had Gus join us first and he did something amazing, we didn’t have a piano or anything, Joe had this keyboard that he had nicked from school, a crappy yamaha and he just did stuff on that and it sounded brilliant. The next week Tom was available to come and he just came with one snare drum and just drummed along on one snare and it sounded awesome. We just spent a lot of time together in each other’s bedrooms, we didn’t have much equipment, we had barely any equipment. We took it quite seriously in terms of discipline. We always turned up to practice and we didn’t really mess around with it and we were also just hanging out a lot and we just got excited by making tracks and sitting down in a room and having nothing at the beginning and maybe having a track at the end, it was just an exciting thing to do and I think we were at university, if you were gonna be a in a band at any point, it seemed like the best point to do it and we can have that responsibility and begin to extend. We just did it while we were at university, we started playing at other places and some people had seen us playing and we got some professional management and a booking agent and things and we just sort of started being a band and then we graduated and were an unsigned band for 6 months and then we signed on did touring based around signing on and then we got signed by Infectious, it was quite casual that when we graduated and were unemployed and become prepared, but it was just much harder.
In terms of this summer, how has your festival season been?
It’s been long, we’ve done loads. We’ve been to some pretty cool places, we’ve been to Japan! And all around Europe, we had an amazing festival in Spain this year that was on an island, of the coast, two islands that were connected by a bridge and we stayed there for two days doing this festival. We could only get there by boat. We’ve been to some pretty interesting festivals, we just came back from Reading and Leeds festival.
Yeh, how were they? How were the crowds?
The crowd at Reading was the most energetic crowd we’ve ever played to they were all moshing before we even started playing! Then there was actually a circle mosh during Matilda which was really bizarre. That’s not something that ever happens and then suddenly it happens at Reading Festival. I think it got people quite excited.
Reading Festival crowds are always excited aren’t they.
They are, they are.
How does it feel to see a sea of people holding up the triangle symbol with their hands? You must get that a lot.
Yeh, that’s pretty odd. That’s really weird. It’s more of a joke really I think to us than anything else. It started as a bit of a joke of us having a gang sign and to see people actually doing it at gigs, I didn’t expect it and also we didn’t really used to do it that much either. I don’t know which fan started doing it and turned it into a thing but it’s nice that they have. I think it’s really cool. It’s amazing for us when we look out at a crowd and the lights go up and they’re all doing it. We’ve got this photo from Pukklepop of the whole crowd doing it, Gus put the lights up half way through the set and got his iPhone and took a picture. I think we’ll upload that soon, but yeh, it’s been really amazing I think just going around to places, like Japan or Sicily or somewhere and realising you have fans there. It’s a very strange thing, from going from a band that’s touring the UK and no-one’s ever heard of us to going to places like that and there being a crowd that knows the words to your songs. It’s really weird.
You’re playing at Bestival next week, how’re you feeling about that because there are so many good acts on the bill, it must be an honour to play amongst them?
It is, yeh. It really is. Bestival’s one I’ve never been to that I’ve always wanted to go to. My family are going so that’s a bonus for me as well. It’s a strange thing to do, I think it’s only afterwards when you really realise what you’ve just done. Like who you’ve just walked past backstage or who you’re in a group with getting a drink afterwards, you sort of go “wow, that’s bizarre” If I see someone that is my idol, in someway shape or form I would never go up to them. I did it with The Horrors at Pukkelpop, I went up to The Horrors and said that when I was at university, I’ve only ever been in two bands and the first was pretty much a Horrors tribute band and yeh, I went up and told them that but I mean that’s really rare. Snoop Dogg’s entourage also came through Pukkelpop and I just sort of stand back and watch it, it’s pretty weird.
Are you going to try and catch any other acts at Bestival over the weekend?
I think it’s probably unlikely, because we’ll probably just be coming in for our set and we’re really busy, I know there’s a couple of days coming up when we’re playing two festivals in a day, one’s in Somerset and one’s in Kent so it’s gonna be a long day. So I think we’re too busy to really catch anything which can be quite frustrating and sometimes you end up watching something from the side of stage rather than actually going out into the festival and getting lost, we’ve watched a few from the side of stage which has been great we watched The xx and Hot Chip and Django Django, they were all great. It’s interesting to do as you see how other bands deal with things, interestingly Django Django had a real problem with one of their synthesisers and were replacing it and they had about 10 minutes where they didn’t play any tracks but they dealt with the crowd so well and that’s not something that we’ve really ever had to deal with, if it happened to us we wouldn’t know what to do! We’d all freak out. It’s great seeing other bands dealing with it really professionally and that you keep that energy going with the crowd and not get people leaving, you learn a lot when you watch other bands.
How has touring been in general for you guys, you supported Wild Beasts, how was that?
That was pretty amazing, because I’m a fan of the Wild Beasts as well and my brother’s a massive fan. They’re really nice for a start, and they had an incredible set, we were watching the sound check and I think they hadn’t played a gig together for 3 months or something, they hadn’t had any rehearsals and literally their rehearsal was their soundcheck and it sounded incredible. I think they were all moaning about how they needed to practice more and stuff and that they weren’t happy with it but they sounded incredible. I remember we played a few times opening for them and you’d turn around to the sound man or something and see the whole of Wild Beast watching your set from the side of stage, that’s pretty bizarre, kind of really off-putting. I ended up not being able to look back as it freaked me out too much. But yeh, that was a real honour to tour with them. It was a very short tour as well, it was only a week. Yeh it was really short because they split their UK tour into two stretches one was before Christmas and one was after Christmas. So it was quite a short tour, it wasn’t that long but it was still really good.
As your success is increasing, the venues must be getting bigger and bigger, how do you as a band react to the smaller crowds versus the larger ones? Do you have a preference?
I don’t think I have a preference but larger crowds I find are much easier to play, I think it’s much easier to play to thousands of people where you can’t really see their faces that well than play to 200 people and there’s no barrier and their head is sort of next to your peddle board sort of thing and they’re really really close, I think that’s much more scary, it’s much more intense as a performer seeing people that up close just wanting your music and watching you, it almost feels like you’re practicing your set, you’re much more in your own sort of space if it’s a bigger crowd. When the crowds a lot closer and smaller then it’s much more personal.
You’re going to America this year, are you looking forward to that?
We’ve been to America twice now, we were there about a month ago and we did 5 dates and that was amazing. I didn’t really know how it worked so I think every show we played was sold out. Yeh, it was really really odd. I think there were people at the LA show, two girls that had travelled from San Diego and paid $70 each for tickets. Yeh, it was mad, mad stuff like that. When we played Chicago, there were girls that had flown in from Canada to watch us, it was really weird, but yeh, amazing. I don’t really know what to say about it, which is a bit silly but yeh we’re going back now which is looking good, it’s going to be our first month long tour of America, sort of going around the whole country as a band, going from coast to coast, so it’ll be a proper journey.
After America you’re heading back to the UK to continue your tour, are there any places that you particularly like playing in the UK? Is Leeds a special place for you guys because you went to university there?
Yeh, I think, Leeds is somewhere that we definitely like to go back to. But I think in a way we have a bigger following in Manchester, it’s quite weird the way that that sort of works but I don’t know if we do or not, at the beginning we ended up getting booked in Manchester a lot, more than we did Leeds. I think just from playing there and being booked there by a promoter who liked us we ended up building up a fan base in Manchester quicker than we did in Leeds. Which is quite strange. London’s always an interesting one to do, it’s quite a funny one because the crowd always seem a lot cooler than you, I always feel a little intimidated by the crowd, so that’s quite a weird one cause it’s full of cool people watching you play and we don’t really feel that cool, we play in the clothes we just wear around the whole day, that’s quite a funny one. I’m going to really enjoy Bristol probably because my family are from there, I really like Bristol. I think Manchester is going to be the most interesting one. In the venue the audience goes around the whole thing. We’re doing like a matinee sort of thing so we’ll have two shows in a day. And also having to stand centre stage and with the audience all around you, it poses a lot of problems for me in terms of how to set up, are we all going to face in? Are we gonna face out? And how we deal with that, I think that will be pretty interesting. It’ll be a more interesting show to play and a more interesting show to come to.
Moving on a bit, a lot of people have recommended you as a band that’s something really new and unique with the concept of a ‘guitar band’, has this been a conscious effort on your part? What has inspired you to do something completely original? I couldn’t describe a band that sounds like you, is that something that you really strive for?
Erm, I don’t know if it is. I think it’s just the way that we work, we can’t take inspiration from each other, that sounds really cheesy, but it’s kind of like a desire to impress the rest of the group with what you can do. When we’re jamming, we sort of take it in turns to try stuff out and we have quite different musical tastes, all four of us agreeing that a person’s part is good, we’ll keep that, we’ll add that to this bit and hopefully what comes out of that sort of compromise musically, should be something good, should be something of value, it is to us and I think other people seem to value it to, so I think that’s how we sort of do that.
So it’s not necessarily conscious that’s just how you guys work.
Yeh, it’s just how it works, it’s never really found it very hard, it’s always something as a group, probably cause we’ve known each other for so long, we’ve spent so much time with each other, we just know what works really well.
Do you have any influences as a band as a whole? Or are there any for you in particular? Anything that influenced you to start music?
I think we’ve all been through musical phases, I think that’s quite an important thing, Joe and I were really into hip hop when we were like 15 and then we’ve all gone through other phases, I definitely went through an indie phase and stuff and came out the other side of that listening to EDM and stuff and now I don’t even think I have a musical taste, not really. I think all of our music tastes have gone a very sort of, we play each other stuff that we’ve heard and think is good, we don’t even think about a genre whilst we’re looking, it’s just about whether it’s interesting.
You must get asked loads about your band name, the change was more of a necessity wasn’t it? Because you were called FILMS before, how did you come to choose Alt-J?
Yeh, I mean it was a necessity, it got to the point where we were being booked for shows under FILMS for four months and we knew we weren’t going to be able to use that name any more, so we were under a lot of pressure to change the name as soon as possible, and we’d gone past deadlines again and again that our management had set us, so we were like ‘right, okay’ just really really spending all of our spare time trying to come up with it and I was on my computer and I was just looking up keyboard commands and just saw the one that made the triangle or delta to be specific and I thought it was cool and my flat mate agreed that it would be a good band name and I called the rest of the guys and they came over and I showed them it and they were like “Yeh, okay! We’ll go with that” We knew that the delta would look good on tee shirts and posters so we quite liked that and it was quite mysterious, when we chose it we didn’t know it was a Mac exclusive, we didn’t know it was the british Mac exclusive as well, so the ∆ (delta) was our band name but we didn’t know what to refer to the band name as because we didn’t want to be called ‘delta’ so we just used the keyboard command and it sort of stuck. We quite liked the way it sounded.
It’s definitely something different, something that stands out.
[laughs] Thanks! Yeh I don’t think we’re very attached to the name or anything like that. I don’t think we necessarily think it’s that great or anything but it’s just what it is and it doesn’t really matter anymore.
Your album An Awesome Wave was released earlier this year, some of the songs can’t be overly new to you guys anymore, what’s it like giving these songs to the public.
It’s weird because every time we’re playing, usually, the same place again, like, I dunno, every time we play Paris or something, every time we go back it’s like a level up from the last time we played there, more people know all the words to the songs and more people are up dancing and having fun and being more relaxed with it, it’s really nice, pretty flattering, it’s quite hard to really get used to. We find ourselves laughing quite a lot on stage because the response can be quite overwhelming when people are singing along, it’s so odd that we don’t really know what to do, we tend to laugh a lot actually, especially when I see people like really really into it on the chorus’ and stuff. You never get to be in that position and seeing a crowd enjoy our music which is quite a privileged position to be in and it’s just quite funny, we haven’t got bored of playing anything yet I don’t think. Every time we play it there’s a different response and it’s always interesting to do.
On the album there are quite a lot of interludes, when you were creating the album did you imagine that it would be played from start to finish as a whole entity?
Yeh we did. There was a but of a problem really because record deals are mostly based on albums and in a way I don’t think an album is that important nowadays in the way that people digest music, I don’t think an album is sort of appropriate but that’s what record deals are based on so you’ve sort of got to make an album, in a way there was a traditional way of breaking up music and going to an interlude where a lot of the tracks vary quite a lot in terms of intensity and tempo so we needed to break them up and have sections where we could reset what you’ve been listening to, going from one track to another and it not being too much of a change and to make it feel like a journey, to make it an album, to make like a body of work. We didn’t want to call something an album if it was just a collection of songs and so some of the tracks didn’t get on the album because we didn’t feel they fitted or whatever so a lot of time was spent choosing the order and putting things in the right place which included the interludes, so a lot of thought went into that.
Listening to it, it definitely feels like how people used to make albums, it’s not a collection of singles that are released, it flows well. But that’s just me being a fan!
Your songs are very influenced by art and literature is that something that Joe just pushes through as the main writer, or do you all contribute to the writing of the songs? Do you come together and throw ideas around?
We don’t interfere with lyrics, that’s very much Joe’s baby, we fiddle around with structure a lot, but sometimes Joe will give us a track and it pretty much gets reformed just sort of writing other bits to it, but sometimes it’s not like that at all and two songs end up getting cut up and put together to make one song and edited down. So I dunno, It’s more about making the tracks sound as interesting as possible and sometimes if two tracks are sort of interesting but more interesting being put together as one song. So you might get Joe’s lyrics that mean one thing in one half of the songs and a different thing in the other half of the song. Sometimes they don’t even make that much sense! That’s all Joe really. The guradian has called us an ‘intellectual’ which is quite funny because that has nothing to do with it at all really, Joe will watch some sort of art house film rarely, he’s more likely to watch really really crappy hollywood movies so he’s not some wordly pretentious person who reads ridiculous books, we call him ‘The Jock’ because he is definitely kind of the jock of the group so it’s quite funny when people think it’s quite intellectual, I don’t think it is, it’s just Joe and he’s not really intellectual he’s just Joe.
The video for Breezeblocks is quite intense and dark, how did this come about, how did you make the video and decide on the concept?
We took submissions from a site called radar I think, which is where you put up a budget for a music video and a track and you pick submissions for the track from video directors and you just get loads and loads of submissions hopefully. We had a lot of submissions for Breezeblocks, so we went through all of them and his was very very simple, he’s a music director that lives in Brooklyn and his was one of the simplest one’s in there and he pretty much put no effort into the presentation at all. Some of the other ones you could tell they’d taken a lot of time over it and formatted it really nicely and stuff. His was just bascially a parapgraph in font 12, Times New Roman, no effort at all but the idea was really good and it was clear that it was really good, so we decided to go with it and I think it turned out really well.
It’s got a big impact that video I think, definitely.
Yeh, it’s all him really we just sort of approved his treatment, we thought it was the best one we had, but it was all his creation.
You must be a photographers nightmare because in many of your promo shots you don’t show your faces, is this something that you want, is it to do with the enigma and mystery, do you want that to surround you guys? Because I see loads of band shots are just so cheesy, it’s something that’s very interesting with you guys.
It is. Our policy is basically that, it’s not really about showing faces, it was more about protecting ourselves from bad photographers when we had no power we couldn’t stop that, whereas nowadays we can choose the photographer and tell them what we want, back in the day, when you’re only really starting out as a band you don’t really have the muscle to say ‘I don’t really want to do that’. So we have a policy against standing against brickwalls and pose, and it’s something that we try and stick to if we have time, but we find increasingly that there is not enough time to actually come up with enough ideas to do something interesting cause you might be doing four photoshoots in one after the other in an afternoon so trying to have enough ideas in the back of your head for four photoshoots can be a bit too much and sometimes we have definitely ended up too tired or too dead to protest and end up doing those press-type band photographs, I mean we’ll do it but only if we have the time, if we can do something different then we really like to get involved, which is quite nice because now we get photographers who actually like doing that and they sometimes come to us and ask if we want to do something. Which is really interesting.
I have one last question, what does the future hold for Alt-J? Are you planning album number two? I guess you are always thinking about the next album.
We’re trying not to worry about it, the current album took four years to write, Joe might say even longer, I’m not worried about putting another album out in the next year and I don’t think we should feel pressured into doing that, I know if your a fan of something you want them to make another album as soon as possible but then as a fan I wouldnt want a band to make another album for the sake of making a second album too soon and it turning out a bit rubbish I think that’s where bands can go wrong. So I think we’re just gonna see how it goes and right now we don’t have any plans to work on a second album because we’re touring too much.
Just touring with the first album, getting it out there.
Yeh exactly. So we’ll see. I want us to take our time about it and not feel pushed that it needs to go out next year or the year after and put out another record straight away, I think it’s also more fun to take a bit longer on it and give us some time to enjoy what you’re actually doing rather than feeling pressured and do it by a certain day.
This is how our summer ended. Our fantastic flurry of full-on fun-filled festivals finally finished at the weekend as we took on Bestival.
We had a magnificent time which I will attempt to convey through the following photographs…
Catching the ferry made it feel like a holiday.
The wrist band count was ludicrously high.
The Maine - Don’t Give Up On Us (Southampton Guildhall, February 2012)
I’ve started up a new blog, so that’s been taking up a lot of my time recently. But for now, here are some of my most recent articles :) I will elaborate on them soon!
— Niels Bohr
Here’s a few of my recent articles.
First, a preview of The Hunger Games movie, I’m in the process of writing the review of the film, so watch this space. Oh and here’s a picture of my favourite element in the film, the beautiful Josh Hutcherson.
Next is a review of Chiddy Bang’s debut album Breakfast. If you haven’t hears it yet it’s definitely worth a listen.
And finally, my review of The Maccabees at the Guildhall in Southampton.
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