FORMER King’s Ely pupil Gus Unger-Hamilton and his band, Alt-J won the prestigious Barclaycard Mercury Prize on Thursday (1) for their debut album, An Awesome Wave.
Named after the Apple keyboard shortcut for the triangular delta symbol, Alt-J beat other shortlisted acts including Plan B, Richard Hawley, the Maccabees, Ben Howard, Django Django, Lianne La Havas and Jessie Ware. They collected their award, which recognises the best British album of the year, during a star-studded event at the Roundhouse in north London, which was hosted by Lauren Laverne and Nick Grimshaw.
Gus’ singer teacher, Peter North said: “Gus was a pupil at King’s from 1997 until 2005. He was a chorister at Ely Cathedral during his time at the Junior school before moving up to King’s Ely Senior, where he became a music scholar and joined The King’s Ely Barbers.
“From an early age, Gus showed a keen interest in text and the use of words, something which we can see in Alt-J’s lyrics, and seemed always to be destined to do something unusual and interesting.”
Gus went on to study English Literature at Leeds University in 2007, where he met fellow Alt-J band members Joe Newman (vocals/guitar), Gwil Sainsbury (bass/guitar) and Thom Green (drums), who all studied Fine Art. This may explain the band’s artistic influences; the video for the single “Tessellate” was filmed in a triangle motion and is a rework of Raphael’s The School of Athens, which depicts many great philosophers and scholars including Pythagoras. Their music was also recently used during an art installation at the Louvre.