It’s not all about rave – even if the whole world wanna talk you into it. In the case of Australian psychedelic pop newcomers JAGWAR MA this seems to be an important topic. Ever since their first tunes found their way into the world wide web these guys are branded with the return of the legendary ‘baggy’ sound of bands like HAPPY MONDAYS. But if you listen to their interesting debut album Howlin you quite quickly sense that these guys are far more than the second coming of rave culture.
During their recent stay in Berlin NOTHING BUT HOPE AND PASSION had the chance to talk with Gabriel and Jono about their musical origins, recording their album on a farm and why you can’t beat the sound of an analogue synthesizer.
Okay, let’s start with the obvious subject. Are you tired yet of the whole “Madchester-Rave” comparisons yet?
Jono: Not exactly tired but it feels a bit limited. ‘Cause we are more than just this Manchester thing. When we first recorded the album we weren’t really conscious about the whole rave comparison. There’s a lot of other influences which tend to get overlooked.
I still think the whole ‘Madchester’ thing is like a forgotten era of British music. What fascinates you about this combination of rock and electronic.
Jono: It’s exactly that combination. Bands making dance music. And that’s also were we came from. We came from original and ‘real’ bands – post-punk, shoegaze, indie and all that stuff. But now we’re making dance music.
Gabriel: I think, generally, on a philosophical level, people are more excited about revisiting the past than the promise of the new. If I was a magician and I could present an ultimatum to the world. And I would say: “Alright, I got two options. I could either bring back THE BEATLES and its 1965 and they’ll be incredible and exactly how you remember them.” Or in this other option I’ve got that’s better than the BEATLES. You just have to take my word for it. What do you think the people would vote for?
Jono: I would chose the BEATLES as well. (laughs)
Gabriel: And it’s the same with all this Manchester comparisons. And another aspect is… people have this little pigeon hole where they wanna stick us into but we might surprise them with our next record.
Jono: As long as the comparisons are positive it’s a good thing.
How did you guys originally meet?
Gabriel: We’re all from Sydney in Australia. We all played in respective bands back there.
So, it was a ‘scene’ thing?
Gabriel: Yes, but we actually became aware of that in the aftermath since we never felt that what happened in Sydney was particularly special.
How is the scene in Sydney?
Gabriel: Well, I don’t know it now. But it was different when I met the other two four or five years ago. I never saw it as a scene, I always thought it was normal that bands hang out with each other and support each other.
Jono: I worked in a studio at that time and I’ve recorded everyone’s band back at the time. It’s also were I learned all the producing.
Gabriel: And I brought in demos Jack and I recorded and Jono helped us producing them.
Your debut “Howlin” is quite a diversified longplayer. There are slices of this Manchester baggy thing, house music but also 60s moments and psychedelic sounds. Weren’t you a bit afraid of losing the cohesion on the record?
Jono: We weren’t thinking that much about it when we made the record. We were really just making music. The aspect of cohesion really came into play after we made the album. We had a body of work to select from. There are songs we wrote and recorded which didn’t really make it onto the record. But when it came to sequencing the record we really liked the fact that it was diverse.
JAGWAR MA: “Most songs simply start with a beat”
Where there certain sounds and bands that inspired the album?
Gabriel: Well, if you give us a month time to answer that. (laughs)
Jono: We always answer this one different in every interview.
What I really find interesting is the fact that you recorded the album on an old farm in France. How did you end up there?
Jono: It was just an opportunity that opened to us. A friend of mine had that farm and he also had this dream to set up a studio. And I’ve been there helping him set up the studio like a year before we formed JAGWAR MA. So, when it came to record the album we thought it would be nice to get away and record the album somewhere we could only focus on the music.
But you didn’t have to do farm work there?
Jono: Not really. (laughs)
Gabriel: But remember, we were ripping off carpets.
Jono: Oh yes.
Gabriel: There as one room in the farm which got a flea infestation. And Jono’s friend really wanted to rip off the carpet in the room. And we all helped. And while doing it I remember looking to Jono and thinking: “What the fuck are we doing here? We are supposed to make a record.” (laughs)
How does the songwriting process between you guys work?
Gabriel: Well, there are definitely roles.
Jono: Most songs simply start with a beat and the rest evolves around that. I think we follow the way a lot of modern music is made these days.
Gabriel: Usually Jono makes a lot of beats and sometimes we just skip through his ideas via iTunes and saying “Oh, that’s nice” and “Nah, that’s not good.” (laughs)
Jono: We just listen through loops and find things we like.
I know you like old analog machines like the 808 but you’re also using a Laptop on stage. What’s better – analog or digital?
Jono: Most of the record was done with a guitar, an 808 drum computer and a Yamaha synth. It’s just that we couldn’t afford a tape machine so we chose the laptop. The digital world offers all this amazing editing and production techniques. There’s no way you could do certain things in the analog world. But in terms of sound analog always wins.
Final question is about hope and passion. What do these elements mean to you?
Gabriel: In terms of hope – and I don’t really wanna bring too much politics in this – I think Obama definitely owned that word in his campaign back in 2008.
Jono: Obama and Morgan Freeman. (laughs)
Gabriel: And passion makes me think of some excentric Spanish artist like Picasso. These are the stereotypes that came to my head.