Bands that have taken home the United Kingdom's Mercury Prize in the past have included Suede, Pulp, Primal Scream, and Arctic Monkeys. Typically, it's a controversial award to win, and the winner is rarely the most popular. Alt-J picked up the 2012 edition in November for An Awesome Wave (Infectious), and it was met with immediate backlash. Telegraph journo and Killing Bono author Neil McCormick was most derisive, saying of the victory, "The prize nobody cares about was won by a band nobody really loves."
That might not be entirely true. Although the record wasn't paid much attention to right after its May release, there has been an organic buzz about the English foursome with the unique art-rock sound. "We read our press — I like reading what people say about us whether it's good or bad," guitarist Gwil Sainsbury says via phone. "It doesn't really hurt, because I feel that at the end of the day all sorts of press is good press. For us, it's just good to get another article talking about us." Calling the win a "shocking blur," Sainsbury says the group "wanted to make a record, but beyond that we didn't really have any goals or any real expectation. Most of our expectation is that people wouldn't really get it and we'd be a one-album band."
Dubbed "boffin rock" by some, and "smart rock" by others, Alt-J (the moniker comes from pressing those two keys on a Mac, which results in the Delta sign, representing change) don't sing about girls in cars, or cigarettes and alcohol, but rather cult novels and onetime French colonies. Curious topics, to a degree. Sainsbury shrugs off any negativity. "If you're told something is really bad, I think it's quite good, because people want to hear how bad it is."
ALT-J :: Paradise Rock Club, 967 Comm Ave, Boston :: March 2 + 3 :: 8 pm :: 18+ :: SOLD OUT :: 617.562.8800 or thedise.com
NOW PLAYING ON WFNX.COM :: ALT-J "FITZPLEASURE," "BREEZEBLOCKS"
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