Bristol-based outfit Tungz make songs that are lighter, funkier and a whole lot more enjoyable than the resigned title of their new EP, ‘Why Do Anything?’, would suggest. Their second body of work, it’s very likely to be one of the remainder of the year’s most cheering, as chilly winter nights draw in and the need for a good time intensifies. Co-singers Nicky Green and Jamie Maier have teamed up to tell us more about their band, and what they’re up to.
Hi Tungz, how’s it going?
It’s going great! And weird! But mainly pretty good!
When did you first realise you wanted to make music?
School of Rock.
Who were the artists that inspired you when you were first starting out? Has that changed over the years?
When we started out we were fresh off of playing a lot of parties – we were playing a lot more straight funk, James Brown, the JBs, anything written by Nile Rogers. Making our own music initially we just wanted to make music people could dance to.
We always keep a groove in the music, and there will be some deep-rooted influences shining through, but we stopped trying to make funk a while ago. We still listen to all the oldies but collectively we listen to all sorts of modern stuff; Jungle, Kaytranada, Benny Sings, Bombay Bicycle Club, Nao, The Paul Institute.
I also think as you start playing and people make references to other acts you might be aligned with they can start to influence you too – I (Jamie) didn’t know much about Michael McDonald before last year when a DJ mentioned him, but now he’s a big old fave/inspiration.
Maybe we’re just progressing through the decades. In 2030 we’ll be inspired by Ke$ha.
How did you lot meet, have you known each other long?
We met through playing music, but we were all in the same friendship group too (or the group formed around the music – hard to say). But Rick, Nicky and Ollie were playing in the living room of Jamie and Rick’s house. Some cover or other needed some wah guitar, so Jamie came down in his pyjamas, and we played together as a group for the first time.
That would have been in 2014, so a whole six years! It feels both shorter and longer.
What drew you to wanting to be in a band, as opposed to being a solo artist?
It’s the only way we’ve ever really known to play music. Whenever musical thoughts arise the way to express them is through the medium of these four righteous dudes. I think it means there’s a lot more chemistry playing live too, we’re not just an assembled group of musicians for this one gig – there’s a real connection.
Also, it’s a huge part of what’s fun about music on the whole. Just four brothers against the world. (Hopefully not against I guess – four brothers supported by the world.)
What have Tungz been up to so far, any particular highlights?
Rockin’ and rollin’, recording and grooving in the city of Bristol. We’ve put out two self-released singles, one EP, one sweet UK tour, three homemade music videos, made our own TV show and had a comic strip made about us. Getting picked up by Jamz Supernova’s label for our first EP was a crazy moment. And now we’re releasing with the indie label Heist or Hit.
Lots of our favourite shows have been supports; Donny Benet, Her’s, Franc Moody, Boy Pablo. It’s been a lot of fun – can’t wait to get back on the road.
What’s it like being a new band in Bristol, are there lots of opportunities?
The music scene is wild here. We probably got overloaded with genres without really realising. Jazz, punk, afrobeat, house, disco, funk, indie flying all over the city. There’s a lot of free nights and shows, so we were always out looking for something to move to.
There’s a load of places to gig, but it can take a while for it to feel like you’re getting somewhere. We played shows in bars whereas a new band we’d be asked to play for like two full hours for a bucket split – so really more of a function set. We’d rock up and play as many songs as we had, get everyone dancing and run out of material after like 35 minutes. So we’d have to extend our songs like crazy and improvise the rest.
How did you approach putting together your new EP?
With our first EP, we were pretty much just producing the songs that we’d been playing live for a couple of years. This time we really got a chance to look at all the songs we’d written and consider what we wanted the EP to sound like. We even went back into writing mode for a bit when we felt like we weren’t quite there with the selection of songs we had. We took a bit longer to make it – it’s a longer EP, but I think each song really got the care and attention it deserved.
We produce everything ourselves, so we’re always gonna evolve with our process. We’ve really got hold of our drum production on this one. Rick has been perfecting recording from home and Nicky’s getting high on samples and drum loops. We’ve always recorded at home, so it’s been pretty normal for us to be stuck here, sending each other tracks and ideas.
Is there a particular vibe you like to aim for with your songs?
I don’t think so; I think it’s more about expression. Is the song saying what we want to say thematically and musically – that’s what feels important. We couldn’t necessarily describe it, but if there was a particular sound or instrument that popped up we’d be like, “that’s it that’s what the EP should sound like”.
For this EP we were pretty keen on showing the dance side of our music. Our live shows have always been bigger and groovier than our released tracks so far. So we wanted to take a bit of that to the streams.
What else have you got coming up?
We’re gonna do more of our DIY videos because we love those. We’d like to get more ambitious than we ever have before, but still with no budget and making it all ourselves. We’re thinking about making a bunch of videos all tied together into some overarching theme or narrative. If we say it in interviews enough, it might even commit us to actually having to do it. Plus it might land us that lucrative multi-picture movie deal that we’ve really been angling for the whole time.
Artist Guide: Tungz – Why Do Anything? EP
The big question. This song is about letting your thoughts do their thing without worrying about it. The lyrics and melody came all at once one late night. The best way to hear your subconscious. We spent a lot of time on the drum production and rhythms to take it to our dance roots as a live band. We always knew this would be the opening track to the EP. Play it at all your parties.
Somebody To Get Shy With feat. Bad Sounds
We’ve been fans of Bad Sounds for so long and always felt a spiritual connection to their vibe. We gradually got to know them through the Bristol scene going to each other’s shows and hanging out afterwards. So when the Tungzphone rang and the gang wanted to do a song with us we were buzzed as fuzz. We’ve only ever produced music at home so it was crazy to see the Bad Sounds mothership and sit side by side exploring new musical worlds. It was so cool to get to know the guys better, and bring into real life the connection we’d felt to them both as fans and Bristol music people. The song is about changing relationships: falling for a friend and not knowing how to deal with your new feelings.
I (Nicky) thought it was interesting that people’s first thoughts on seeing the title would be that it was about going out to a club but the song was actually about dying inside. It was written last year in the before times. Unfortunately we all got locked in our houses so the phrase took on a different meaning. Now everyone’s dying inside inside.
Lockdown finally made us record the drums at home which was the only piece of the puzzle we were still recording in a studio on previous releases. So Rick got some mics and recorded his drums. We all became our own engineers for this one (including Ollie’s dad) and the rest is music.
Can’t We Just Be Friends Again
In a previous song, Jamie said, ‘Maybe sometimes we should [fight]’. In this song he’s like ‘Actually no’. It’s about two people who’ve never really started an argument trying to end one.
In terms of the story behind the production of Friends, we (Nicky and Jamie) were in the Apple Store in Cabot Circus in bris and Nicky got distracted by the iMacs. I (Nicky) went into logic and they had a demo session of Beck’s Colors loaded up. For context we have very little opinion on Beck’s modern output. But from a self-taught home producer perspective it was insane to see the arrangement of a big pop track. I spent like an hour on that computer (which is a long time for someone to be on a computer in an apple store) looking at the session and playing with it. Eventually I found a way to email myself the session from the store computer. We got back home and immediately went crazy on the production for the demo of CWJBFA with millions of layers and fx and it became a completely new song.
What can we say? We’re losers baby. So why don’t you kill us?
Was one of the first songs we ever wrote as a band, it’s pretty crazy that it’s going to be out in the real world. It’s always been the closer to our live set even though it’s never actually been out there to listen to. Really we’re a dance band. We’ve written some sad songs along the way but we started off wanting to make people dance. So we got a lot of that into this EP and this song feels like the real early days of our sound.
A lot of the instruments here were written and recorded first take. We wanted it to be a spontaneous and emotional song. The outro is Nicky and Jamie singing together improvised and recorded at the same time with the lights off and no lyrics or melodies in mind. The guitar solo was recorded during a thunderstorm. We couldn’t decide which of Jamie’s chorus lyrics to use but Nicky woke up from a dream with one in his head so that was the one we went for.
We thought about calling the song ‘Emotional’, with the quotations included – it’s meant to be somebody else saying ‘You’re so emotional’, but it’s hard to tell when somebody is quoting in a song.
It’s also the first Jamie-written song not about ‘real stuff’ – the song is more about the performance what with it being mainly fictional. And that’s what the whole EP is about for me (Jamie). I do it because of itself.
Taken from the November issue of Dork. Tungz’ EP ‘Why Do Anything?’ is out 30th October.