Jun­gle juiced

Jun­gle talk a good game, know all about play­ing smoke and mir­rors – and have the al­bum of the sea­son to prove it. “Jun­gle is an es­cape from those ideals of what peo­ple think bands should be all about,” Josh Lloyd-Watson tells Jim Car­roll

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - MUSIC -

There will al­ways a place at the ta­ble for bands who can talk a good game. On the phone from Seat­tle on a day off on a re­cent US tour, Josh Lloyd-Watson strikes you as a man who knows his way around a good quote or two. That’s a relief, be­cause the signs from the past few months weren’t great about his band. Jun­gle seemed to be just another act in thrall to the cur­rent fad of groups spend­ing too much time and ef­fort en­sur­ing that the pub­lic doesn’t know who they are. Most peo­ple don’t seem to care, so putting an em­pha­sis on in­trigue and sub­terfuge by not ap­pear­ing in pho­tos or videos is more an­noy­ing than any­thing else.

When the smoke cleared, it turned out that Lloyd-Watson and his Jun­gle part­ner, Tom McFar­land, were for­merly with Mer­curysigned Brit­pop re­vival­ists Born Blonde. They’re now bet­ter known for their Jun­gle con­nec­tions; so much for the dis­guise.

How­ever, as Lloyd-Watson points out, they were never go­ing to stay hid­den. “It was never about re­main­ing anony­mous be­cause we were al­ways go­ing to play the live shows. We didn’t want to get a rep­u­ta­tion for hid­ing or be­ing mys­te­ri­ous; we wanted to cre­ate some­thing other than us to look at in the live shows and the videos. I don’t want to look at my own al­bum sleeve and see my own face – just as I didn’t want the usual band shots where the band are stand­ing against a wall.

“Look at Da­mon Al­barn with Go­ril­laz, for ex- am­ple. Think of David Bowie; that’s not even his name, it’s a cre­ation of another world for the mu­sic to live in. You try to cre­ate some­thing vis­ually which is more in­ter­est­ing than two guys’ faces.”

Lucky for them, Jun­gle have the mu­si­cal chops to back up those au­da­cious com­par­isons. Their self-ti­tled de­but al­bum is a beaut, all su­per­fried funk, disco and soul fu­elling a slew of feel-good, sero­tonin-rich pop grooves. Jun­gle is for blast­ing through open win­dows on sunny days and summer nights.

Ac­cord­ing to Lloyd-Watson, the al­bum was in­formed more by vis­ual than au­dio prompts.

“Some­thing like Grand Theft Auto was a huge in­flu­ence, but more as a con­cept. So many peo­ple just es­cape into those games, and it’s another world. You can come home from your job and es­cape into this world where you can roam around Los An­ge­les. Ev­ery track on the record is a film in it­self, and they’ve all got lo­ca­tions. For ex­am­ple, The Heat is the beach, which is a metaphor for hap­pi­ness, and that al­lows you to write in a cer­tain way.”

The prob­lem with bring­ing records into the stu­dio, he says, is that you end up copy­ing them. “We had lis­tened to records in the stu­dio be­fore and you’d go, ‘I want to sound like this’. Two hours later you’d have a track which sounded ex­actly like what you’d just been lis­ten­ing to. It didn’t seem very hon­est.

“There was a time when I loved the Tame Im­pala record and I just wrote songs ex­actly

“The best way we thought was to just go in with no pre­con­di­tions and make some­thing that sounded great. If it sounds good, you can fil­ter out all the dif­fer­ent opin­ions about good or bad. You have to trust your­self and not go in with walls or bar­ri­ers. If you don’t think about it all that much, you’ll en­ter an in­stinc­tive creative process rather than some­thing which is very thought out.”

The records the pair ad­mire tend to be hip-hop records by artists such as J Dilla or Madvil­lain. “We wanted to make our sound sam­pled with­out us­ing any sam­ples or hav­ing to clear sam­ples or go through all that. So with Busy Earnin’, we recorded it in a very DIY way and then cut it up and re­sam­pled it into new tracks. It had, like, 18 dif­fer­ent ver­sions, and the groove for what peo­ple hear now only came about on the last 45 sec­onds of this ex­tended eight-minute edit. That song took three months all in all, but the ac­tual song peo- like that. You lis­ten to them and go ‘it sounds cool’, but it’s a copy. It felt much more beau­ti­ful and nat­u­ral when we didn’t do that. ple know only took 10 min­utes.”

It all makes for a record Jun­gle are happy with, a much dif­fer­ent state of af­fairs to their time in Born Blonde.

“We learned a lot from that”, says Lloyd- Watson. “We were friends who played in that band rather than it be­ing our band. We learned how to play in a band and do gigs, but it never got off the ground. It didn’t feel hon­est, and we weren’t happy be­cause the whole thing sounded like some­thing try­ing to sound like other peo­ple.”

The aim with Jun­gle, then, was to fol­low their own star. “Jun­gle is an es­cape from those ideals of what peo­ple think bands should be all about. We wanted to cre­ate some­thing else com­pletely. Same with the pho­tos. We’re pro­duc­ers, so it feels weird to take a photo of your­self and put that up. The mu­sic in­dus­try ex­pects that and the press ex­pects that, but it shouldn’t be about who you are and what you like. It’sabout the mu­sic, the art. The creative pu­rity we have found is re­ally cool.”

Lloyd-Watson is af­ter the best of a cou­ple of dif­fer­ent worlds. “We want to be part of that world where you make the mu­sic and also be in the au­di­ence. One of the big­gest things for us as

Jun­gle is out now on XL Records. Jun­gle play the Elec­tric Pic­nic on Au­gust 31st

artists is how can you lis­ten to your own record. I want that Men in Black thing where you can erase your mem­ory so you can lis­ten to your record from a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive.”

The most im­por­tant thing for Jun­gle is to keep their egos out of the room. Hence the pho­tos and videos. “That’s why we call each other T and J, our nick­names when we were grow­ing up. I want to keep Josh out of it be­cause the day that Josh comes into the room is when the ego comes in. I al­ways feel quite awk­ward about self-pro­mo­tion, which is why I’m keen to stress that there are up to 20 peo­ple in­volved with Jun­gle.

“This world is about try­ing to be liked and that’s a Face­book thing. By in­vent­ing a like but­ton, they have cre­ated this world where you mea­sure and quan­tify your suc­cesses by how many likes you get. So it’s very easy to be­come ob­sessed by the in­di­vid­ual ego. When that hap­pens, you don’t get an hon­est free ex­pres­sion.

“That might sound a bit pre­ten­tious, but that’s what I be­lieve.”

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