Write On – Alt-J On Their 2012

Gus Unger-Hamilton on the band's life-changing award-winning year

“Back in January I think we’d signed our record deal with Infectious and we felt really positive about that. Getting the opportunity to go into the studio for longer than we ever had – we spent about three weeks doing the album. That was really, really exciting for us. We had half the songs already recorded, then we went into the studio in January to do another six or seven tracks – and that took about three weeks – so by the end of the month we were done.

I remember being in Guildford playing at the student union and somebody from our label came down with the mastered copy of the album. We played it a lot in the van on that tour and that was incredibly exciting because we were out on the road and listening back to our mastered album. We were all really pleased with it but we didn’t have any expectation that it would do as well as it did.

It’s all been fairly gradual. We’ve been on tour all year so we don’t really have the opportunity to monitor how popular we’re getting at home. Radio’s been very supportive. The singles have gradually moved up the playlists until we got the A-list. It has been quite gradual. We’re doing it every day so it’s like watching a child grow up. If your Grandma sees you once a year she’s like, ‘Oh my God, you’ve grown!’ But you don’t feel that every day when you’re growing. Every morning doesn’t feel different. Looking back on it – yeah, we’ve come a long way.

Next year we’re playing venues that even I still can’t quite believe – we’re doing two nights at the Brixton Academy! That’s absolutely crazy – I watched my first ever gig there. It’s hard to talk about the year without talking about the festivals. You remember going to festivals when you were fifteen to see your favourite band and for a lot of people we became that band. So many people came to see us, making signs and holding things up. It was like, Christ!

I think we weren’t admitting even to each other how much we wanted to win the Mercury. We spent a long time saying how amazing it would be to be nominated – then we got nominated. Once you get nominated you’re like, ‘Brilliant! Now I want to win!’ It was a genuinely enjoyable night – I was thinking before we’d won, ‘Well, I’ve had a great time here, it doesn’t matter what happens’. Then we bloody won! I couldn’t believe it. I had to watch the footage back to remember the moment because I totally forgot it and couldn’t remember it. Up until that point we felt like we weren’t a proper band. I felt that we’d got this far just by chancing it and nobody had told us to go away. So we kept on going. Then finally it was like, ‘Oh my God, now we have to take ourselves seriously!’”

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