MTV Artist To Watch: Alt-J


Meet MTV's latest Artist To Watch: highbrow indie rock quartet Alt-J.

There are a few things to know about the Cambridge, U.K.-based, Leeds-formed Alt-J, the first of which being that they're an indie rock band who DO. NOT. MESS. AROUND. Each track in the four-piece's repertoire is its own perfectionist work of art, like the Wild Beasts-esque "Matilda," the heavier-than-expected "Fitzpleasure," and the xylophone-tinged "Breezeblocks." Their debut album, An Awesome Wave, a quirky mixture of folk, pop, hip-hop, trip-hop, and synth riffs, took a whopping five years to complete before the members were satisfied (who has that kind of patience?). But their dedication didn't go unrewarded -- Alt-J took home the prestigious British Mercury Prize for their 2012 disc. That's like the musical equivalent of being admitted to Harvard -- fitting, really, since Alt-J were originally a college band. But how many of those actually "make" it?

Read more about Alt-J after the jump.

Named for the keyboard shortcut used on Apple Mac OS X to insert the Greek letter Delta (nerds!!), Alt-J initially came together when guitarist/bassist Gwil Sainsbury, guitarist/vocalist Joe Newman, keyboardist Gus Unger-Hamilton, and drummer Thom Green met at Leeds University in 2007, where they wrote and practiced primarily in dorm rooms. After graduating from the university, the crew got to work on their eponymous four-song EP, which laid the groundwork for Alt-J's critically lauded An Awesome Wave.

Now signed to Infectious Music (Local Natives, The Temper Trap), Alt-J have spent the past year taking in some crazy positive feedback for An Awesome Wave, including three Brit Award nominations (British Breakthrough Act, British Album of the Year and British Group of the Year). An Awesome Wave is its own, for lack of a better word, awesome, listening experience, featuring a seductive selection of organic yet thoughtfully planned cuts that span every genre from traditional folk rock to R&B and Island-flavored beats. Get your feet wet with "Tessellate" (currently making the rounds on U.K. radio), a Radiohead-y ballad featuring toy piano key strokes, ominous bass lines, weirdo-beardo Devendra Banhart vocals, and anxious pitter-patter percussion. Keep riding the wave on "Breezeblocks," the album's first single, which showcases Alt-J's talent for multilayered vocal harmonies and nervous rhythm.

Lately the MTV Artists To Watch and 2013 mtvU Woodies Festival performers are busy touring the U.S. -- if you're in San Francisco on April 10, catch your new favorite band playing at the famous Fillmore Theater, followed by a bevvy of other dates around the country (see all of them here). If you're the outdoor concert type, then you'll find Alt-J performing at Montreal's Osheaga Festival and Lollapalooza in early August. Yet another reason to get psyched for summer! Till then, get to know Alt-J below.

+ Watch Alt-J perform "Breezeblocks" and "Fitzpleasure" live, and download "Tessellate."

Photo credit: Daniel Chertoff