With their new album ‘Volcano’ and a coveted headline spot at All Points East, this is the year London producer duo JUNGLE erupt.
Words: Finlay Holden
Photos: Arthur Williams
Believe it or not, J Lloyd and Tom McFarland have now been working together under the Jungle moniker for a decade. Having dropped their eponymous debut record in 2014 and following it up with ‘For Ever’ four years later, the electronic duo were already flying high, soaring above the field. Their third effort, ‘Loving In Stereo’, set a whole new wheel in motion, and that energy hasn’t stopped spinning since, setting global bests, hitting Number 3 in the UK and landing the pair support slots alongside household names like Billie Eilish. The game and Jungle’s place within it has never stood still for long.
“It’s so hard to have any sort of perspective on these things,” Tom admits, struggling to summarise a ten-year journey in a few sentences but focusing on the latter of those as the most significant. “We definitely noticed that the third record connected more with people on a wider scale, and I think that’s reflective of what the music is and what we’re capable of delivering now. We’re in a place where we’re so confident with what we do, why we do it and how we do it, and that naturally has a knock-on effect.”
That comfort and assuredness resulted in some dramatic creative choices; although the off-white artwork of that last effort revealed little, the world within bloomed with luxurious auras, first-time guest appearances and a wondrous mash-up of sonic styles. Opening the vibrant gates of ‘Loving In Stereo’’s successor and Jungle’s fourth LP ‘Volcano’, it is immediately obvious that the duo’s brave approach has only continued to unlock new pathways for the band.
“Life’s too short, so fuck it. Go and make music that is surprising and decisions that are bold”Tom McFarland
Although it’s hard to maintain an objective point of view on such an unexplainable phenomenon as success, the guys find it much easier to reflect on their own personal evolution. “We were definitely more nervous about everything, less confident in ourselves and our own creative ability; now we’re in a place where we’re so happy with what we do, and it seems to come to us much easier,” Tom explains. “When you’re younger and more naïve, you feel like you need to apologise for yourself a lot for some reason. It’s something to do with society, but being English never helps; we’re always saying sorry for no apparent reason. There was something mildly apologetic about what we were doing – we were trying not to offend anyone, and it left us stuck in this limbo land of toeing the line and not ruffling feathers. “
“We’re mature now, a bit longer in the tooth,” he jokes, “and life’s too short, so fuck it. Go and make music that is surprising and decisions that are bold both creatively and in life in general. No fear, no self-consciousness, no second guessing. That attitude shows in this album a lot. We were starting to get somewhere with that concept and mindset already, but ‘Volcano’ really does feel like the cornerstone of that new vision.”
With innovative choices and sparkling ideas spinning around their heads, Jungle didn’t hesitate to expunge all their excitement out into the world and quickly compress that sizzling energy into a dense 14-tracker. “We got all the jigsaw pieces out on the table and started to work out which ones fit together, which ones needed a bit more painting,” Tom recalls. “It was a simple process because we had so much clarity in our vision that when we were asking the tough questions, we’d immediately know the answers. We knew how to make each track more finished and presentable to an audience. There was a lot less thinking, basically, and that’s been a massive weight off our minds.”
Part of that ease might come from a focus shift from gospels and organic instrumentation to self-created samples, darting between distorted textures and upping the ante with their electronics – all of this goes hand-in-hand with their live experiences, too.
“We’d been DJing a lot more, and naturally, we’d been exposed to a lot more dance music,” he recalls of ‘Volcano’’s inception. “Going to clubs was something I did before I went to gigs, so making tunes that are cut up and sampled feels like a natural state of being. We’re creating and writing the loops, which we then mash up into our own songs, but the process feels much more electronic. The live shows are going to start reflecting that; it’s really exciting. We’re going to be able to achieve what we’ve always wanted to in that live environment but haven’t previously had the material to achieve it with.”
While listening through the new discography additions, it’s easy to see how diverse a space the band’s setlist is rapidly expanding into; you’ve got Brazilian club tracks (‘Coming Back’), soul ballads (‘Good At Breaking Hearts’), classic disco (‘Palm Trees’) and hip-hop tinged cuts (‘I’ve Been In Love’, ‘Pretty Little Thing’) standing side-by-side. As Tom aptly proposes, “Why limit yourself to a genre? For us, as long as it sounds good, it’s going on the record. There should never be any limitation as to what we can or can’t have on the album; that’s put walls up around you and will impact the creativity negatively. You should be able to create anything you want without apologising for it.”
Now that Jungle are less self-conscious, they’re also better equipped to embrace the voices of others; their last record may have featured the first guest appearance, but almost half of this new album benefits from the vocal contributions of various stars. “Working with other people is eye-opening, educational even. We’ve always wanted to provide a platform for other people’s creativity.” These things are easier said than done, but only when you witness the original motion picture paired with the ‘Volcano’ tracklist can you appreciate the artistry enabled by these two guys from London.
“Why limit yourself to a genre? As long as it sounds good, it’s going on the record”Tom McFarland
That is exactly what the band strive to remain; just two blokes messing around with sounds to find something fresh. Jungle was initiated as an escape from ego, and, despite being able to headline events like All Points East, the duo remain mostly anonymous – and they love it. “Ultimately, the only thing we can present to people is the music, the art, the performance,” Tom shares. “That’s really freeing; we’re not having to waste our time engaging people in a way we’re not comfortable with. We know deep down as people, we don’t want to be cover stars or the face of anything; we just love sitting behind a computer and making music together – that’s it for us.”
Although they may be less inclined to respond to event invites and public appearances, one email Jungle couldn’t resist was the opportunity to rework Taylor Swift’s material. “Remixing other people’s stuff is always exciting because you get a glimpse into their creative process, you get to see the bones of their work. With pop stuff, you’ve got to appreciate how well-made and well-written it is. Taylor is at the top of her game, so being able to dig into that a little bit as producers and creators was certainly intriguing. Plus, we got to piss off some Swifties.”
Jokes aside, Jungle aren’t at all afraid of a mainstream fan base, but they want to get there in the right way, not by forcing their sound into other people’s hands but by creating a world for those who follow the journey. Relating his own chance discovery of Tame Impala through their artwork alone, Tom relays a view of creation that stands against social media trends. “The weird catch-22 of the world at the moment is that the way art is given to people is dictated by the assumption that people’s attention spans have shrunk – I think it’s completely the opposite. If you give someone something ambitious that they can digest over a long period of time, they will form a much deeper emotional attachment to it. If you allow someone to unearth something naturally rather than forcing it down their throat, again, it creates a stronger bond.”
Fans will forever keep discovering new stops on the Jungle journey, with ‘Volcano’ certainly manifesting the band’s upbeat dance era – but what comes next? As Tom concludes: “Our next album could be heavily electronic, or it could be complete minimalism, who fucking knows, but that’s the main thing that keeps us doing it, that’s why I get out of bed every morning – you don’t know what’s going to happen, you don’t know what you’re gonna create. We’re in a place where we can do anything we fucking want, and as long as it sounds good, it’s going to be released into the world.” ■
Taken from the September 2023 issue of Dork. Jungle’s album ‘Volcano’ is out now.
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