Whether it’s the richly catchy soul tunes or the on-point videos that have gone viral, there’s something beautifully mesmerising about JUNGLE – two Londoners, comprised simply of T and J, who have sprung up almost out of nowhere. Since releasing their first single Platoon, visually accompanied by the enormously talent B-girl Terra, they’ve played a handful of small shows – a seven-piece live set-up engulfed in smoke- and rightly earned themselves a spot on BBC’s Sound of 2014 list. From the get-go, the two childhood friends have always been about letting the music speak for itself, so in a similar vain, we’ll keep it short and simple: T and J were everything but the elusive pair they’ve been described as; friendly and chatty, they readily opened up to me and were one of the most gregarious duos we’ve ever had the pleasure of interviewing.
Hey, it’s certainly great to finally meet you…
Josh: We understand that people are interested in hearing about what we do and why we do it and I think it’s good to talk about it, we understand the importance of people being able to connect to what we do – on a written level as well as a sonic level. It’s a weird one with the whole anonymous bollocks… we didn’t put a press shot out and everyone really got up in arms about it, ‘everyone has to have a press shot, oh my god.’ People panic if they can’t see who you are – I quite like that, the way that people got nuts, go apeshit. This is not possible – who has created this? It’s a weird one because we didn’t really do to do that- we made the videos and there was a picture at the end of it…
Tom: We used it as the artwork as well as adding it to the end of every video…
Josh: We put so much into those things; it’s like why would you then take a photo of two fucking guys on a wall. Boring. I don’t think it’s about that, it’s not about us personally… like y’know, obviously I’m Josh and he’s Tom – but removing that aspect from it, the ego – that’s what drives us mad. We found in our process of recording and writing together, that that has to stay at the door. You can not let that person in, when you bring your own name into it… we’d be starting to figure out who would be talking more in interviews or who would be at the front of the shot… We love the way it is; it feels really natural, really beautiful. If I’m myself and I’m not in JUNGLE, you’d get this urge to prove yourself. But in this space we’ve created, it feels like the ego is just not here and it’s such an amazing feeling.
Tom: It helps you escape… from things you worry about on a day-to-day basis. Like phone bills…
Josh: Or being liked…
Tom: We live in culture where the Internet and Facebook and Instagram and Twitter mean that people are always searching for accreditation for their opinion. It means that no one actually gets a true response to what they’ve posted. If I posted a JUNGLE song on Facebook, people aren’t going to be honest because its came from me, from a direct source.
Tom: That’s what we tried to do with this whole thing, we didn’t tell anyone because we wanted everyone’s opinion to be honest, and their own.
Josh: It’s crazy – you see your friends who you haven’t told, you see their Facebook pages going nuts with the videos being shared. We told nobody.
So how did they react when you told them?
Josh: We didn’t, we still haven’t. People have found out naturally.
Tom: You’ll get some people coming to gigs and afterwards being like, ‘Shit, it’s you.’
Josh: I had it with a friend of mine… somebody had just found out I’d written Drops and he was going absolutely apeshit. It’s hard to react to that too, because once the ego is out, it’s really out and you make a point of it being out. It helps our process of creating: there’s no right or wrong, there’s no one proving something, no one’s better than the other; we’re as good as each other. It’s that collaborative process that really makes something quite special and quite honest.
Tom: Whenever we create, I’m not creating to impress anyone else apart from Josh – because his opinion is the only thing that counts for me. It creates this incredible bubble of honesty. We’ve known each other since we were 10, if I write a shit melody, he’ll tell me and I’ll understand that instantly.
Josh: It’s got to a point where we don’t even have to say; I mean if I don’t react he’ll know it wasn’t very good. If something is good, you know, you react in a way; we search for that feeling of jumping around the room. There’s that energy, and that energy gets captured – that’s the good thing about the record, at some point, everything on the record we’ve jumped around the room at. We’ve got the new single, Time, coming out and when we first heard it we were like ‘Oh my god!’ We had to make sure that every song on the record had that feeling for us, because we’re pretty critical so if we get that feeling for every song and try not to be biased – then at least one other person will have that feeling too. (laughs)
Let’s talk about how you’re always depicted as a collective… and when playing live, there’s always seven on you on stage – but when recording, its just the two of you, right?
Tim: I think it’s difficult when you’re in the studio… it’s like an atom, there’s like a nucleus and in order for that nucleus to move anywhere in the world, it’s got to have its energy from its electrons and for us, the people who work with us live and our videos and our manager, everyone on the team- they’re all part of that energy and what they give to us is invaluable. We wouldn’t be where we are without them. But in order for us to be really pure in the studio, and honest with our creativity, it’s just got to be us two.
Josh: I think if you started bringing other people into the studio… it takes long to build up that honesty and that brothership. A lot of people produce by themselves or write in twos, if you write in a pair you have to grow, if you bring somebody in… if we three were to write a song together now, you wouldn’t deliver a melody that you could deliver because you’d be conscious of what I thought, or I’d be always checking ‘Is she gonna like this?’ and that feeling is crap. You’re changing it to fit someone whereas it should be pure. It’s almost like a little arrogant thing; you’ve got to be so sure of it, if you keep trying to change things to please people. That’s the great thing about XL Recordings I suppose, they fucking let you do it. Rather than having a label who are like ‘We’re terrified that people won’t like this’ so let’s change it and change it until we suck all the soul out of it. There’s so many mistakes on that record, which I love. There’s so many fuck-ups, but there’s an honesty in that. The vocals and guitars are recorded first time, we’ve tried to go back and record them properly but that just doesn’t work.
Tom: The guy that makes our record for us, David Wrench – who’s worked with CARIBOU – he’s such a genius, there’s a couple of tracks where he’d ring us up and be like ‘D’you want to re-record that? ‘Cause there’s so much noise on that guitar part’ and we’d go back and try and do it again but you’ve lost that moment in time you captured originally and it doesn’t matter if there’s noise on the record.
Josh: If you focus too much on perfection… Oh, it’s weird bcause perfection works on so many different levels. I strive for perfection every time and then I’ll be knocking my head saying, ‘I want this to sound rubbish, I want this to sound stupidly wrong.’ When we first mixed Drops and put it out we had this thing in our head about mixing it like it’d be mixed by an idiot, I just love the idea of it being so shit that it was good, yknow? It’s past the point of caring, the guitars are too loud and they hurt everyone’s ears.
In terms of influences, who can you list? There’s a definite soulful, studio 54 vibe to your sound, which you’re bringing back for 2013/4 and onward.
Josh: We tend not to be influenced by music; we try not to listen to too much music when we’re recording… we don’t want to end up stealing shit, so we ban listening to stuff. We tend to watch a lot of stuff, its influenced a lot by places and feelings and landscapes and… video games, GTA is obviously an influence… although, its easy to say ‘I’m influenced by GTA’ but if you actually dissect that video game and how powerful it is as a tool of escapism, it’s pretty fucking amazing. It’s the feeling of that game and what that does to people. People live like that; people switch off from 6pm to 3am living this life because that’s where they can go do to shit they can’t do in normal life. I think we try to create that sort of stuff in our songs, The Heat for example, before the song had even been written, the song was about this beach… and its like Where’s Wally… you have that image of that hot beach with millions of people on it, sharks in the ocean, people surfing, monkeys driving Ferraris, all sorts of weird shit, people rollerblading on Venice Beach, Miami and Rio all mixed in with this Where’s Wally sort of craziness. Its that feeling of going on holiday, you’re carefree- sunshine is so powerful, you feel so free. And we try and re-create that with every song we write. They’re all different emotions.
Tom: And they’re all different places and different times of days.
Tom: Yeah, yeah.
Josh: Yeah, like Lemonade Lake, for example…it’s probably our favourite in a way… it was the last one that got written but the initial idea was very early on and it’s very much inspired by … The visual was Bon Iver in his cabin, for the first record he made, he talked about this cabin he went and recorded in and I see that cabin and its by this lake I imagine, in Wisconsin, surrounded by trees, you see him on the porch in a rocking chair with a guitar. So that vision, is about seeing someone from this lake and being so absorbed by your own thought that you start to hallucinate your own images, and you start to tell this story and I think that’s that place for that song. For example, if you were recording and you were trying to put down….
Tom: Think about how you sang that vocal… if I’m standing in a studio in West London singing that vocal its not going to sound the same as if in my head I’m sitting in that rocking chair.
Josh: We keep doing that and talking to each other, talk each other through visually, really put that thought in each other’s heads. I’d say to him, Stop recording like that, T. Think about where you are, think about that woman, think about Halle Berry in James Bond coming out of the water, but imagine that’s just made of sweets, like a level on Candy Crush, you’re almost tripping out. Then he’ll sing it with this style, he hasn’t sung it any differently; it’s just something in the air, that’s magical: always searching for that magic. You have to put yourself in a place to get there…
You might’ve just indirectly answered this question, but we always like to ask artists: how would you describe your sound to a deaf person?
Josh: Yeah, I’d probably just show them a picture of the beach. That’s the thing, the record starts with the voice ‘Right on time, back by the beach, still bring the heat’ and that’s actually a reference to Platoon and the fact that we convinced ourselves that we couldn’t write a song better than Platoon. In Platoon, there’s a lyric that goes…
Tom: ‘Under the rocks, down by the beach…’
Josh: Yeah, ‘I’m not where you want me.’ It’s this idea of hiding, there’s revenge/confidence sort of thing going on in the track and with The Heat you’re back and there’s this vigour… It works on so many levels, it’s almost works a response to the industry in a way. If the album wasn’t called Jungle, it’d probably be called Back By The Beach. But I think, without having to explain it every time, it might get construed as being something a little bit cheap.
How did JUNGLE come about as the name then?
Josh: It’s bonkers. It means everything. It’s a big word. We quite like the fact that we can’t actually handle how obvious it is. It’s like calling your band Money or Peace. They’re big words.
Tom: It’s like Yes. Why not, y’know? Why not have a name that’s so universal?
Josh: Nobody really had it.
Tom: My dad was just like, what a stupid thing to call your band, how is anyone going to be able to search for that online.
Josh: We don’t give a shit! Y’know people will find it, if they wanna find it and I think that’s the whole point; you can’t quite find it. I love the way the Internet reflects that: it’s a massive library but with the light switched off. Imagine walking into the library in New York and being like, ‘Yeah!’ and then finding out that you can’t see a thing. It’s like going online and the first thing you type in is ‘F-A-C-E’ and you’re like, ‘Fuck, again.’ There’s so many cool things on the Internet but we just don’t know how to use it.
Let’s talk about the videos… It seems like they’re very much part of what you set out to do. Is that fair to say?
Josh: Yeah, they are. The location thing that we’ve been talking about, and we’ve actually gone into quite a lot of depth with you about… We have to re-paint the picture at the end of the process. We see all these things… I love how they all link up, the idea of the beach and The Heat… that room at the end, that’s the apartment by the beach in Boogie Nights and with the girl in Platoon, its about the confidence of this six-year-old girl, this naivety. The videos all have that sorts of feelings with the guys in Busy Earnin’, they all represent the meanings of the songs but just in their eyes. I love that human emotion and it’s very honest to what we’re about… for example, with that communication of the six-year-old, being able to see that emotion in her eyes – you don’t need a million dollars, you don’t need helicopters in videos; just show her eyes and she can say it in thirty seconds of a video clip.
Tom: It’s about human emotion and connecting with a human being on a really plain, simple level and that’s where you get the most honest answer from someone, when it’s just you and you’re looking them in the eye. What we were really conscious about having in our videos… we didn’t want it to be just us playing our songs in a warehouse. So, how are we going to ensure that an emotional connection is made with our artists and our friends that are in those videos?
Josh: It’s interesting seeing the response to those videos… I’m sorry, we haven’t done anything crazy new… I think what we did – we were a little bit brave about how we presented the idea. Keep it so simple. And it will stand out. We try to do that in the music – we try and make it as complicated as possible but as simple as possible at the same time. It starts with simplicity and then there’s all the other bits, so you can listen to it a million times. T would’ve gone out and recorded loads of environmental stuff, and they always sit below the tracks, there’s boxing matches in Accelerate – he went to that fucking fight in East London, it’s got that energy.
Tom: I’d record things on my mic… so I’d be in the woods and record the fire crackling and in Lucky I Got What I Want, there’s the sound of the fire in the background. I think bringing that natural energy back into the track, you capture something special.
Josh: It’s like Harry Potter, you capture the soul into a glass and then release it back onto something.
As this interview’s for NOTHING BUT HOPE AND PASSION, what do hope and passion mean to you?
Josh: Cool name.
Tom: I guess hope and passion are pretty much everything in life, right? People live to dream- and obviously hope is a massive part of your dreams and aspirations. You’ve obviously got to live that with passion otherwise there’s no point in doing it. So I guess, for us, that’s life – that’s life in a nutshell.
Josh: (singing) ‘That’s life…’