alt-J are an English indie rock band. They formed in Leeds, England, in 2007 by founding members Joe Newman (lead vocals and guitar), Thom Sonny Green (drums), Gus Unger-Hamilton (keyboards and vocals), and Gwilym Sainsbury (guitar and bass), who all met at Leeds University. The band’s actual name is the triangular-shaped Greek letter delta, with the band making frequent references to triangles in their music. The name “alt-J” comes from the key sequence used to create the triangular delta symbol on a Mac computer keyboard.
During their second year of studies, Newman showed Sainsbury some of his songs, with the duo producing music together on Garageband -- since the pair worked inside of student halls, they were unable to use bass guitars or bass drums due to noise complaints. After graduating, the newly-formed band moved to Cambridge, where they continued to work on their material.
They began work on their self-titled demo EP soon after, with a 7” single containing the tracks “Bloodflood” and “Tessellate.” The EP was released by Loud in Quiet in October 2011, and the group signed a deal with Infectious Music that December. Their first release under Infectious Music was a triangle-shaped 10” single, which was followed by single “Breezeblocks.”
Their debut full-length album, An Awesome Wave, was released on May 25, 2012 in the UK, Europe, and Australia, and on September 18, 2012 in North America under Canvasback Music, receiving favorable reviews. After playing minor headlining tours in the UK, Ireland, and the United States throughout 2012, they were announced as the winners of the Mercury Prize for An Awesome Wave, which resulted in the album reaching No. 13 on the UK album chart.
The year 2014 saw the departure of founding member Gwil Sainsbury in addition to the release of their second album, This Is All Yours, which debuted at No. 1 on the UK’s Official Albums Chart. They also embarked on another tour of North America. alt-J’s third studio album, Relaxer, was released on June 2, 2017. It was preceded by lead single “3WW” featuring lead singer Ellie Rowsell of Wolf Alice.
They also released an accompanying online video game in addition to a five-date U.K. tour at seaside venues. The album was additionally nominated for the 2017 Mercury Prize. On September 28, 2018, an alternative version of Relaxer was released, with the band calling it a “rap-heavy do-over”.
In September 2021, alt-J made their return to the spotlight with the announcement of their first single since 2018, “U&ME,” which was released six days later. Their fourth album, The Dream, was released in February 2022 to critical acclaim.