Alt-J doesn’t take hallucinogens to have a transcendental experience. For frontman Joe Newman, all he needed was a trip to Cornwall, England, and Radiohead’s “Everything in Its Right Place” on repeat to take him to another orbit. “The mood of the song matched the mood of the weather, and it was just phenomenal,” recalls Newman, who, along with Gus Unger-Hamilton and Thom Green, won over the indie-rock world after the group’s 2012 debut, An Awesome Wave, sold 298,000 U.S. copies (according to Nielsen SoundScan) and landed Britian’s coveted Mercury Prize. “Stormy seas with Radiohead in my ears and an abandoned beach. If you find the right landscape and the right music, it’s kind of like you don’t need to use drugs.”
For its second album, This Is All Yours (Sept. 23, Infectious), the buzzy British trio wanted to relay that magic, creating a mobile app that forced listeners to go outside to hear it. “We’ve always liked people describing where and when they listen to our music,” says Unger-Hamilton. The app allowed fans to pre-stream the LP across Europe and Australia in select locations — mostly parks and landmarks, but also the Leeds University house where the act formed as a quartet in 2007.
The album, a florid collection of evocative songs, sticks to the same film-style storytelling that catapulted the band to critical acclaim. The group has become known for music that paints vivid pictures, oftentimes literally with cinematic videos like “Hunger of the Pine,” where a man is hunted by invisible archers with arrows.
While This Is All Yours doesn’t sonically stray from Wave, the January departure of guitarist-bassist Gwil Sainsbury altered the band’s dynamic, forcing it to “reaffirm bonds.” “If you’re a threesome, you can’t fall out,” says Unger-Hamilton. “We’ve felt like a closer group since [he] left.”
The act’s new chemistry will be put to test on its current world tour. As always, expect a picturesque musical (and visual) experience. “Video and music go really well together,” says Unger-Hamilton, “but even better than video is real places.”