Essentials shelf-stacker wins Mercury prize


Four former Leeds students have hit the jackpot after scooping the prestigious Mercury music prize.

Alt-J beat a number of other acts that were shortlisted, including rapper Plan B, Django Django and Jessie Ware.

Joe Newman, Gwil Sainsbury, Thom Green and Gus Unger-Hamilton started out as a small group whilst studying in Leeds in 2007. After leaving uni, the group were given a record contract with Infectious Records, and in May this year released their first album, ‘An Awesome Wave’.

Speaking to the Guardian, keyboardist Gus Unger-Hamilton, who used to work at the Union’s Essentials store, said: “When it came to the announcement we could see [presenter] Lauren Laverne form an ‘Alt-J’ shape with her mouth and it was like, ‘Oh my God, I think we’ve won!’ It was a bit like a shell going off in a trench. I think I’ve repressed the feeling – it was too traumatic and overwhelming.”

He added that he didn’t think the band was going to win, even though they were the bookies’ favourite. “There were all these rumours flying round the room: “No, no, no – it’s Plan B, it’s Plan B.” 20 minutes later everyone’s going, “Richard Hawley’s got it, it’s obvious.'”

Jill Watt, who used to work with Gus, told Leeds Student how proud she is of the boys. “When I was watching the telly on Friday morning and heard the news I just couldn’t believe it! I said to him before he left that he shouldn’t forget us when he becomes famous, we are all so proud of him and are thrilled that he is doing so well”.

Words: James Greenhalgh

Photo: AP

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