London-based duo Jungle are back with infectious new single Talk About It, which is taken from their hotly anticipated new record, Loving In Stereo.
In terms of both sonics and visuals, there are few music producers who can create bold and striking pieces of art to the high level that Jungle can. Josh Lloyd-Watson and Tom Mcfarland’s music is synonymous with euphoria and brilliantly choreographed dancing, thanks to the accompanying visuals. Each track stirs different emotions within the listener. Songs like the 2014 breakout hit Busy Earnin or Keep Moving, which is taken from their forthcoming third studio album, will make you want to groove and immerse yourself in the cinematic universe that the pair has created.
With Loving In Stereo dropping on August 13th, the duo has now unveiled Talk About It, the second track to be taken from the record. It’s a song which feels like an instant Jungle classic while also offering up something new, thanks to its leading drum groove, hypnotic bassline and sheer unmatched energy.
To celebrate the release of Talk About It, 1883 Magazine spoke with Tom Mcfarland about the new single, the pair’s forthcoming new album and their live return, which will see Jungle perform a four-day-stint at London’s Brixton Academy in September.
Hi Tom, congratulations on releasing Talk About It, it’s the second track to be taken from Jungle’s forthcoming new LP, Loving In Stereo. How did the track come about?
I guess it all started from the drum groove really, it sort of felt like a break that we’ve never really explored, it automatically felt quite raw, a bit more energetic compared to the stuff we had been doing before you know. There was a bit more polyrhythm and with the bass line there is a bit of syncopation as well. So, when we came to put the record together what we generally do is spend a couple of years writing a lot of stuff essentially from different sessions and with different people.
We then put a line in the sand and say ‘let’s release a record’ and then we listen to all the ideas that we had been concocting or the sort of half ideas or the little snippets of things that we’d been working on and Talk About It is just one of them that really caught our attention because of its vibrancy. It’s just got an attitude and energy that I don’t think we’ve reached before. Maybe we sort of got there with tracks on the second LP like Smile but Talk About It just really grabbed our attention and I think it sort of set the tone for what we were choosing and what we ended up working on for the rest of the record.
In a way, it was almost that and a track on the record called Fire as well which has a very similar sort of attitude, I guess that’s the best way to describe it. Songs have attitudes and this one’s got a big attitude. It’s just a really nice, fun, vivacious, bouncy track. I seem to recall that it didn’t take us long to put it together and finish it off which is a really good sign because sometimes you can just sit there and over-polish things for a while and they just end up becoming a bit lifeless. I think with this record we were just really keen that when we found the nucleus of the idea, we just really wanted to maintain that integrity rather than overworking/overthinking things.
The new record doesn’t sound rushed but I think we definitely had a bit more of ‘alright, there’s an idea, let’s finish it quickly and move onto the next one’ because otherwise you just sit there beating yourself up and crushing your ideas. I’m sure you’re the same with writing? You know, when you sit there on a piece too long, tweaking it and overthinking it.
You can get so consumed by it, so you’re totally right, it’s best not to overthink things too much when working on something.
Then essentially it all becomes fucking meaningless haha! It’s like, we’ve been making artwork recently for the singles and you’re just typing out Talk About It three times to put it into a photoshop document and you do it again and again, then by the end of it you’re like ‘are those even words?’ ‘Am I spelling talk right?’ haha.
Haha either way it’s a really impactful track and it will sound great live!
What I love about Jungle is that each music video is a spectacle and the choreographed dancing is just beautiful. Can you tell us a bit about the Talk About It music video? It’s slick and fun, just like the Keep Moving visuals. How long did it take to shoot the video for the new track?
Exact timings are very difficult but it took roughly three hours to make Talk About It because we stupidly set ourselves a challenge of trying to make a video collection for the whole record. We’ve always had this really strong vision for our music videos. Dance has always been a massive component in our music videos because for us it’s a beautiful way to represent music. It gives people like us hope and belief that we could dance in a similar way to the amazing people on screen. We’ve always really admired artists that have done bold things like concept records where the music never finishes, like Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys or Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon or What’s Going On by Marvin Gaye. That sort of scope, vision and artistry is something that is probably our biggest influence.
I think the ability of an artist to have that vision and run with it for a really sustained period of time, whether it’s like Kiss who have done it for their whole career by painting their faces or it’s Bowie by doing it every album by completely changing his identity. We thought ‘what could be our through-line?’ and it’s the visual aspect, it’s the artwork. I don’t know if you’ve seen the artwork for the third album but it’s essentially just like another piece in the collection. It’s not different, we like that idea that it’s like a collectors card, we essentially can look back on our career and be like ‘yeah, that was fucking cool that we managed to do that’.
But back to the video shoot, we decided to try and make a video for every song on the record and you then look at a budget and be like ‘fuck, that’s going to be quite pricey, how do we not spend that much money?’. So we decided to try and do them in five days, fourteen videos in five days and we did it. We found a cast, we worked with two of London’s best young choreographers, Cece Nama & Nathaniel Williams, the cast of dancers they put together alongside us and our creative director Charlie, we all pulled it off. We had two camera crews bouncing between locations, we basically found this old abandoned fort in Dover that had so many locations. In Talk About It you saw the sport hall but there was also like canteens like the one you saw in the Keep Moving music video and there were loads of adjoining rooms, so there were loads of spaces like that.
It was essentially like being on a Warner Brothers studio lot, we had so much room and scope available to us, so that made it a little bit logistically easier as you could have one set of gaffers setting up the lighting on one set while you’re filming on another set, so you’re flip-flopping throughout the different locations in the week, it was just a really beautiful experience.
And with Talk About It, we always had this vision that Cece would have her group of girls that she choreographed and Nathaniel would have his group of boys and it would all be in quite contrasting styles and when they come together it’s really beautiful to see. I guess Talk About It is sort of like this dancer’s anonymous meeting and they’re all sitting around, having a go at each other and chatting and having that age-old-human method of communicating with each other, opening your mouth and having eye-to-eye contact and having a conversation with someone. And that’s what the song is about essentially.
We’ve lost that connectivity within humanity, being able to sit there eye-to-eye and cheek-to-cheek and have a good old natter about things. I think that is a really important thing as mammals and as animals to be able to have that human interaction, so the video is a little bit of a comment on that and it’s just fun. Again, it just gives those guys the chance to showcase what they can do and how versatile they are, how energetic and how passionate they are about what they do. We were so lucky we could film it in the way that we did and get the results that we got.
It’s an incredible feat to be able to produce fourteen music videos in five days, so props to you guys and your team.
We also wanted to say congratulations for starting your own label for Jungle! Can you please tell us about the reasons for why you and Josh decided on starting one, it must surely give you so much more creative freedom right?
Yeah, completely. We were very lucky to work with XL for two records, they gave us an amazing platform but we’ve always been… we’ve always wanted to be total masters of our own fate. There is nowhere to hide if you’re at the top of the pile, leading the charge and making all the decisions. That accountability is really important to us in art, you live and die by what you create. So it just made sense, moving forward, to do things at our own speed. Essentially, it’s artistic freedom, it’s ultimately what everybody is striving for and you know, we are very lucky that we are in a position where we can do that. Obviously we’re getting help with distribution and label servicing with AWAL but them as a platform is amazing. The way that they treat their deals in terms of the artists and the label stuff is so much more fair.
So hopefully more record labels will see that as a bit of a blueprint moving forward because I think it would benefit artists worldwide.
It feels like that there are a lot more artists that are moving towards setting up their own labels and releasing music that way. Record label support can be amazing of course but I guess if you have a clear vision for your art, your vision could get diluted if you have some sort of input from a label.
With the record coming out in August, it feels like it’s going to make the perfect soundtrack for a euphoric point in time where we can all get back to a bit of normality and enjoy ourselves without distancing from each other (hopefully). Did Josh and yourself have this in mind when making the LP?
Not really when we were making it, I think the majority of the writing for the record took place in the backend of 2018 and throughout 2019. Actually the session that we did in The Church Studios which is Paul Epworth’s place in North London, where we essentially put together a choir and a little band and got our guys at Wired Strings and a horn section down as well, to do a big session to finish off some of the tracks. So actually a lot of it was written before then and a lot of the themes were themes that already existed in our lives. Like Keep Moving was written in 2018 and finished off in that session as well, so we actually had the album and decided that we wouldn’t be doing the record justice if we released it without being able to play it live.
I think our fans deserve that, our fans deserve to hear our music when it’s fresh and when we’re in a venue together, that’s the sort of ultimate 4D experience for us. You can have the music on Spotify and you can have the amazing music videos, you can have the whole visual aspect of it covered and the sonic aspect. But like the extra dimension of Jungle is the live experience and connecting with the fans in that way. So I think we decided to take our foot off the gas a little bit, last year, which was nice in many ways for your mental wellbeing and just being able to enjoy life a little bit more sometimes.
So we decided that the beginning of this year would be a good time to sort of start reconnecting with people and putting new music out, and yeah, hopefully we’re moving into a different phase of life.
Keep Moving was the first single to be released from the record and it felt like another Jungle classic, the strings at the beginning of the track sound phenomenal. As a producer, making music can be all-consuming, you must both get obsessed with every little sonic detail in your music, but how do you guys stop obsessing and just move onto another song?
I think that obviously it’s kind of our jobs to be really picky about how something sounds and I think that we are quite harsh on ourselves as creatives. We expect very high standards of ourselves, as a lot of creative people do. I think that can have its drawbacks as well as having its benefits. I think ultimately we’ve learnt on this record that what helps the process along is to make what sounds good first before you start the creative splurge essentially. So just making sure the source is great and then you don’t have to edit it as much later.
I guess that’s just come from picking up tips, knowledge and bits of gear and you get older and wiser. When we made the first record, we were very much like one laptop, one keyboard, one guitar, in Josh’s bedroom with some really shit headphones. Now going back and looking at those processes, you’re like ‘we could have done that better’ but you didn’t know how to do it better at the time. Now, you know how to mic a drum kit, you’ve got better equipment to do that with, you know how to get better results quicker because it’s just practice.
It’s like a golfer, you’re going to get better every one-thousandth ball you’ve hit, you know what I mean.
You and Josh are life-long friends which is so heartwarming, simply: what do you most admire about your bandmate and fellow producer?
One-hundred-percent his work ethic and his attention to detail. I think we have a good balance with that, I tend to be able to step back and have more perspective and offer that to him. And he can delve in and look at the minute details, his vision is like nothing I’ve ever seen.
Choreographed dance has always been at the heart of Jungle’s visuals, each video is quite the spectacle. If live shows weren’t cancelled, would you have continued the ‘live gig music video’ approach for the visuals for this new LP? We remember that your creative director Charlie Di Placido mentions at the end of the Smile video that this could be a new dynamic which is implemented for the visuals moving forward…
I think that Smile is definitely a moment in time, we got asked to play that festival for Nile Rodgers quite late that summer. Josh and Charlie had the idea to do something, like do we do something special and have dancers on stage or do we do something where we essentially film the music video for Smile as we hadn’t had the chance to do one yet. We used Ché to come through the auditorium, it was actually blocked during soundcheck at 4pm that afternoon. The bit that I love about the most is when Nile Rodgers accidentally comes out backstage, you couldn’t have fucking written that or paid him if you tried haha. So all the stars aligned really on that one.
I think going forward we kind of want to do and what you might see from us is something interesting in terms of streamed content from a space where we can make it look amazing and film it really well and get the dancers involved in that sort of way. I’d personally love to see Jungle do a sort of Soul Train thing with the cast from the music videos, I think that would be really special. And I think we could make look and sound really cool. But yeah, who knows, it’s a case by case thing, we might get the chance to do gigs where the dancers are on stage, we might film them and use it as video content in places, essentially the options are endless. So we’re always looking at exploring them.
Yeah that makes sense, there are so many possible routes to go down. I love all the videos but that one was really fun to watch. But on another topic, when I was doing some research for this interview, I was just floored that the dancer Ché Jones is only nineteen. What a talent.
Don’t… they all make me feel like a grandad, when you’re on set and they’re doing like fucking backflips and you’re like struggling to walk up the stairs in the morning haha!
Don’t worry about it, everyone’s got their own strengths and weaknesses, it’s fine haha!
Following on from that, it surely can’t get any better when Nile Rodgers calls Jungle one of his favourite bands in the world right?
The thing about that is I’d like to of been there every night to see how he announces every act because you never know, he might be like ‘and now here is… my favourite band in the world…’ haha.
Haha that’s true but he still picked Jungle to perform, so that is still amazing.
I think it’s very flattering obviously. A massive part of musicianship is sort of being accepted by your peers. If you’re a footballer, you want to be good enough so other footballers think you’re good because that’s where you get like shared ideas, mutual appreciation and rivalry which can be good for creativity as well. But yeah, he’s a fucking legend so it was very humbling.
There are two artist features (Bas & Priya Ragu) on the forthcoming new LP which are really cool. Have you ever thought about writing with Nile Rodgers, surely a conversation surrounding that has arisen before? Personally I’d love to see a Jungle collaboration with the likes of Arlo Parks or Little Simz… but tell us how your collaborations come about.
I think these things always tend to happen incredibly naturally and by accident. I don’t think we’d ever reach out to anyone in that respect, a lot of the times, we met Bas, Bas is on the record because we met him backstage at a festival we were both playing at Coney Island, New York in 2018. He was the nicest guy that I’ve ever met in my life, he literally bounced into our dressing room after our show and was like ‘what’s up, let’s chat, I want to meet you guys because I love your stuff’ and we just spent a couple of hours hanging out with him. We got a burger, chilled out and chatted and then when we were in The Church Studios doing that session, he literally texted me saying ‘Yo, I’m in London, do you wanna hang?’ And I was like ‘we’re in the fucking studio, come in!’ And he came in and recorded Romeo.
That’s how we always envisaged old-school collaborations like in the 70s, you know. Like Crosby, Stills & Nash were in the studio and one of them is like ‘Joni Mitchell is next door’ and another says ‘Joni, do you want to come sing on this track?’ And suddenly you’ve got Crosby, Stills, Nash & Joni Mitchell. I don’t think they would have got their managers to get in touch with each other. So we’ve always seen collaboration like that. And the same thing happened with Priya, Josh met Priya and Japhna who is sort of like her… I think he is her brother and does a lot of her production for her and helps with writing. Priya and Japhna were in town and Josh was in town, so they got together and wrote a couple of tracks.
Goodbye My Love was something they whipped up in the last hour of the session they were doing and so those really beautiful and natural collaborations are where we definitely see them bearing the most fruit because I think when they are forced it tends to be like ‘so… what are we doing?’ And there is a weird question and energy there but when it’s…
I think it tends to breed the best results, yeah, collaborations are something we love, it’s really only one of the ways where musicians can learn by working with other artists because you learn different processes or different scales or different ways of thinking about creativity. I think it was the first time where we felt brave enough to put other voices on the record because essentially Jungle could be anything. Jungle is essentially what we put on a record, it doesn’t have to be us singing it, it doesn’t have to be our voices, it can be us and our mates just doing stuff together.
With live music returning later this year that also means new Jungle shows! You have massive four-day-stint at Brixton Academy coming up in September just after the album launches. It’s surely going to be a special and very emotional live return for you all?
Yeah, it will be quite emotional, especially as it’s London. I just think that London has given us both so much as a city to grow up in, both culturally and spiritually and just in terms of the worldview. I think it’s one of the best places to grow up in with that in mind. Coming back to play is always really special, usually you come back to London at the end of a campaign and you’re like ‘thank fuck I’ve got home’ but to start it off in London, that’s going to be really special. I think ultimately it’s going to just be a great four evenings.
Like with people in a room, playing music, even just being on stage again with your friends and doing what you love most, it could be anywhere, it could be Shepherd’s Bush Empire or it could be my mum’s back garden, it’s just going to be a nice thing to do. It’s going to be made even more special by the fact that it’s in London, yeah. I think Brixton Academy is the best venue in London for both the artist and the audience.
Do you have any talents or hobbies your fans might not know about? For example, I believe Josh likes to paint in his spare time…
Josh is a very talented painter, I’ve actually got one of the first things he painted hanging above my bed at home. I like to play sports, I love cycling, it’s one of my favourite things to do and I also play golf which I’m getting better at I think. It’s just a nice way to spend four hours on a Sunday for peace and quiet, go for a walk and try and hit a golfball.
Jungle’s music can make anyone with two left feet want to dance (AKA myself) and your songs really stir different emotions within the listener. Are there any bands out there that you are a big fan of that make you feel like that? Any you’d recommend? We’d recommend London-based collective, Franc Moody…
James Brown makes me want to get down, he’s the king of it, all of those grooves are just infectious. Marvin Gaye is a bit more of a slow jam one with the lights down. So Marvin Gaye, James Brown and Prince, just three undeniable groove makers.
Speaking about James Brown, I don’t know if you’ve seen it but I would recommend you check out a music journalist called Nardwuar the Human Serviette, he’s absolutely mad but does some fun in-depth music interviews and he chatted with James Brown years back, it was interesting.
Alright, I will check it out!
With this new record, did you feel like there was any certain pressure to appease fans at all? A lot of artists get to the third album and there can sometimes be a bit of pressure…
I think we’ve been through the pressure thing, the pressure thing for us was the second album one-hundred-percent. And so now, we’re just like… not like ‘fuck it, we don’t care’ but ‘fuck it, we can do anything’ and as long as we like it and put it on a record then other people will love it, we really believe that. Essentially you can still hear the soul of Jungle in it whether it’s a rap by Bas or a song sung by Priya Ragu, our DNA is so strong within all of these ideas and everything we create. So it can be anything but I think we did get quite hung-up on having to be a certain thing for the second record after the success of the first album, it sort of took us by surprise quite a lot.
We were quite precious about it, we couldn’t let go of the first record and so the second album was sort of bit of an in-between, half going somewhere new, half not and I think this record feels much fresher to us, much more open, lively, less introverted and a little bit more looking out into the world and trying to look at other stories rather than just your own story.
Finally, what’s been the biggest lesson you’ve learnt from making this new record and why?
I think the biggest lesson has been actually re-understanding how Jungle is the most important thing here. It’s not me, it’s not Josh or anyone else involved in the project. Jungle to us is a living thing, it embodies a lot of things and we are a part of that, we sort of help Jungle as a thing that exists. It’s not about myself or Josh as individuals, we’re kind of the creative directors of this weird project in some sort of way and we’ve always preferred being behind the lens rather than being in-front of it and directing things from behind the scenes.
So I think we’ve come back to that a little bit more which to us feels way more natural and way more like we’re doing Jungle justice rather than trying to make it about our own egos.
‘Talk About It’ is out now. Follow Jungle via @jungle4eva
Interview by Cameron Poole