One Year of Living The Dream: Gus Unger-Hamilton on alt-J’s fourth album

Subscribe to Forte Magazine


One Year of Living The Dream: Gus Unger-Hamilton on alt-J’s fourth album

Credit: George Muncey
Words By Tammy Walters

2019 saw Joe Newman, Thom Sonny Green, and Gus Unger-Hamilton, the triangle behind alt-J, take a breather.

After a whirlwind of seven years of album releases and what has been labelled an overnight success story, the band were exhausted but only needed a quick year-inhale to jump back into the studio. This time it was a studio of their own.

“It works really well for us that we feel at home when we are recording. I think on the third album [RELAXER] we went to record in this quite swanky studio in Shoreditch London called Strongroom which is a very good studio, but it was very expensive and very much like, a bit of a flex on our part and I think it didn’t work on our part. We agreed to an unrealistic deadline and the album turned out poorer in so doing,” explains keyboardist Gus Unger-Hamilton.

Keep up with the latest music news, festivals, interviews and reviews here.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by alt-J (@unrealaltj)

“We’ve found a place to write and record in which was really nice because it wasn’t like write, write, write, record, record, record. It was write for a couple of weeks and then record for a couple of weeks, go back to writing. It was a nice way to work. I’d like to continue that in the future.”  

Plastered and decorated with alt-J accolades and shining achievements, the London studio shrines their successes, serving as a cocoon to help them build The Dream, sans deadlines.

 “[The pandemic] was obviously a big disruption but in the end, I think having these big breaks and lockdowns were a good thing because it meant we didn’t go stir-crazy in the submarine atmosphere of the studio. On the whole, I think it meant we took longer to make the album and write more songs, and the album turned out better than it would have done had we taken less time. Creatively, it was a net gain for us but I don’t want to say that the pandemic was a good thing because it wasn’t,” he comments.   

The same year their debut master An Awesome Wave hit the double-digit milestone, The Dream would become the fourth player in alt-J’s album game. That was a year ago but The Dream lives on. Extending their sonic story through songs ‘U&ME’ and ‘Hard Drive Gold’, The Dream both proposed and answered a burning question.

“I think it’s more trying out new things and seeing how far we can go whilst it still being alt-J and I think the answer to that is pretty far. On this album, we’re doing some house music, some barbershop, doing this post-punk fuzzy 80’s rock whilst all the while remaining true to ourselves as alt-J. I think it’s just this perpetual answer as to, “What is an alt-J song?”. Anything can be an alt-J song if alt-J writes it and that’s a really nice feeling,” Unger-Hamilton says.

The Londoners will be heading down under, paddock hopping on the Groovin’ The Moo touring festival. They’ll be joining fellow UK artists Fat Boy Slim, Nothing But Thieves, Laurel, Sophie May and Eliza Rose alongside Ball Park Music, Denzel Curry, Ocean Alley and triple teens; Teen Jesus and the Jean Teasers, Teenage Dads, and Teenage Joans. 

“It’s great to know there are going to be other UK artists on the bill. Certainly, when we have done touring festivals like Laneway in the past, it has been really nice to make friends with other bands on the bill and moving around the country together is a nice feeling. I’m looking forward to the backstage atmosphere a lot.”


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by alt-J (@unrealaltj)

Additionally, they will be spilling songs across stages for their own The Dream headline shows across the east coast and west coast with an eager excitement to visit fans across the country.

“It feels like a home away from home for us. We’ve never had quite a response like we’ve had in Australia I would say and New Zealand as well. Back in 2012 when we first came out it was really incredible. It seemed like people had really taken us to their hearts in Australia. Particularly being a country we had never been to before, it was extremely heartwarming really for us. 

“It’s something we always want to come back to and I think as a part of the world for us it feels a bit more at home than say America culturally speaking; it feels like you can be yourself a bit more which is great.”

Make them feel at home during their Bendigo for Groovin’ The Moo appearance on Saturday 29 April. Tickets at