Keep Moving: Jungle Interviewed

Keep Moving: Jungle Interviewed

“This new album is heralded in a transition of change where anything felt possible...”

From their anonymous beginnings to larger-than-life performances, Jungle have had people hooked in fascination ever since their debut single, ‘Platoon’, arrived in 2013.

Eight years later, the duo has marked a new chapter with their third album ‘Loving In Stereo’; released last week to a deserved level of praise for leaning into their hip-hop tendencies alongside their usual offerings of infatuating grooves. Currently, J and T, or Josh and Tom as we now know them, are due to embark on a four-night residency at the legendary Brixton Academy.

Hannah Browne met with Josh Lloyd-Watson to discuss the road to ‘Loving In Stereo’, the collaborative spirit of Jungle, and how they musically embody the likes of Damien Hirst.

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How’s the last week been for you since the release of ‘Loving In Stereo’?

It’s been alright! I mean, when you drop albums it’s always a bit anticlimactic – it’s like Christmas where the anticipation is almost better than the present. It’s been a great response though and sometimes I think that albums grow. I’ve always found that, with our records, they have a long lifespan and people kind of get into them over a long period of time.

How did the album come into being as we hear it today? What has fed into the writing process within the three years between ‘For Ever’ and now?

Generally, it’s a bunch of different things. We’re always writing music and always make different things, and that’s something that we do for ourselves, but Jungle seems to be the path that we release it under. But every time we try to make music ‘for Jungle’ per se, or we focus too much on a project in the real world, it seems to go off path. So, we’ve just been working on stuff for a long time. We did a load of different things, and we were working all over the place picking up ideas, and then at some point you kind of go ‘but this is what we’re going to do: we’re going to make a record and we’ve got to finish it.’

I think that process is the hardest thing with records these days. I did something last year with a mixtape called ‘Kosmos’, which was more obvious that it wasn’t supposed to be a record for Jungle. It was more like ‘can I make a record where it doesn’t matter who it’s for, in a very specific amount of time?’. I think Jungle has always tended to be a lot more open than that – we’ll make stuff for however long and see what comes out. By the time we've got 10 or 15 songs that are good enough for us, we draw a line in the sand and finish.

I read that the beginnings of the album preceded the pandemic, but with that in mind, how has this time been for you? Was it a good time for reflection and to make the album the best it could be rather than acting off impulse?

Weirdly, the pandemic did sort of stop us. We were full steam ahead in response to the fact that there were four years between the first and second albums, and to us, it basically felt like two years because we were on the road for two years, and we thought ‘we don’t take that long, we’re going to fight that’. So, we were ready to move fast in March 2020, which would’ve been six months after we came off tour, then the pandemic hit.

We stopped making music and took a break right at the end of trying to mix what we thought was the first draft, and it got a bit tricky. We were almost rushing the ending because we wanted to do it so quickly, so it gave us some breathing space and we came back to it at the end of 2020 and smashed it off.

I feel like this album contains one of the most noticeable evolutions in your music to date, would you agree?

I think there are things that move forward, and I also think there are bits that stay grounded in what they were originally trying to be. You don’t want to go too far. With the music videos, for example, they have changed in some way – the styling has got better, the swagger of it is more present – but the concepts feel the same. It’s the same with the record covers, we didn’t want to change it too much and I think there’s something quite heart-warming about that. It’s almost like Damien Hirst where you make three or four of the same thing and it begins to make those other pieces feel relevant.

It’s not a departure then, but a natural evolution…

Yeah, for me, it’s just more confident and accomplished. The thing I love about this record the most is the fact that it almost has the feeling and naivety of a first record. Songs like ‘Truth’ are quite throwaway and youthful, and where some bands get a bit serious and safe with their third record, I feel like this is the opposite.

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‘Loving In Stereo’ is also the first album to incorporate featured artists. What was the collaborative process like with Bas and Priya Ragu?

I didn’t really know both of those artists until we started working with them, which, for us, is what it’s all about. We never get someone in because they’re going to boost your levels of success, it’s just about working with great people. We did a lot of collaboration on this album, a lot didn’t quite get there but we were working on a whole hip-hop mixtape which I was obsessed with, but we’re just doing stuff for us rather than anyone else. The whole record was going to be like the Bas track, which would’ve been a big departure and I think it would’ve been wicked, but at the same time, it’s about finding a balance.

We met Bas in Coney Island in New York when he came into our dressing room then we ended up meeting with him again in London by chance, which felt really serendipitous. The same with Priya – she’s managed by our manager, Sam, who asked if we wanted to do a session together, which wasn’t for Jungle as such. Before I went in there, I said we’re going to do two songs in a day but come the end of the day we rushed a song in the last hour and that’s how ‘Goodbye My Love’ came about. It’s that level of letting go that opens the door for the tracks on this record, a lot of them didn’t take ages to make.

It’s been difficult with previous records, like second records are notoriously difficult to make because you’ve got the success of the first hanging over you when your mind is thinking “what did we accidentally do in some bedroom that made that happen” you know? Then you analyse it rather than feel it. I think this album is a return to feeling, emotion and letting go – being the music, rather than thinking the music.

And I guess that mindset feeds not only into collaborating, but the writing as production too, which is equally as big of a process?

Sure, and Jungle is ultimately a production project – it rides on production more than it does a lead vocalist like Bruno Mars. It’s more Daft Punk or Justice, or in my head anyway, I wish it was, but it’s always been about finding areas and sonics for the tracks to take them to a certain place. With collaborating heralding the new phase of a transitory period for Jungle, weirdly, it’s kind of becoming everything that it was originally set up to be. As a collective, it’s always been all these amazing people doing really amazing shit, but maybe in the beginning it wasn’t that, even though that’s how I saw it. In reality, it might have just been me and Tom in the bedroom just making stuff.

After releasing 'Jungle' and 'For Ever' on XL Recordings, you’ve now set up your label, Caiola Records. How has it been moving from XL to your own independent label?

It’s freeing you know; you only have to answer to yourself and I’m the one who can say whether the records are ready. As much as we couldn’t have done it without them at that time, it takes a couple of albums to realise that what you were a product, no matter how much you think you’re not, and with that, they have to make sure the product is right. It comes with pressure and a lot of questions which can make an artist question the true nature of what they do.

This album has been a focal point of a larger, immersive, and interactive experience for fans, with everything from sustainable NFTs to pop-up dance performances at Boxpark, how has this further narrative been constructed?

If I’m honest, I feel like we live in a day and age where you can’t really just release an album anymore. There are so many hoops to jump through and boxes to tick to supply stuff to people and have them accept it. There’s a lot of cool stuff going on but at the end of the day it’s about the music and that’s what it all leads back to.

You have a tour coming up which includes a four-night run at O2 Academy Brixton starting next week, how much have you missed playing live?

That’s the real thing and those events are amazing. Brixton is an incredible venue and to do it four times in a row means the show will be able to develop and get better every time. We’re so excited. We played Pryzm in Kingston and it was almost like we hadn’t been away – there was a real rush to it. That combined energy and feeling is so precious, even for the band being together and celebrating something in a connection that isn’t through a screen or our phones. It’s so important for us on an energy level as humans.

This album wouldn’t be what it is without the live element. In the live environment, I can see what people move to and also see what bombs. For Jungle, the upbeat experience has always worked. I feel like shows that are a little bit more low-key are suited to venues like the Royal Albert Hall where you can sit down and soak it in, but Jungle is much more to the uplifting, party experience.

Lastly, what does the future hold for Jungle?

I think this new album is heralded in a transition of change where anything felt possible. It’s just about the music, and if the music is good, then it can be anything you know? It will be a transitional period of potentially more collaboration which possibly goes into a different space. We’ve done three albums now and I think the fourth is where you get a bit like “we’re going to do this weird concept album” or something like that, then we’ll come back to that stuff at another point.

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'Loving In Stereo' is out now.

Words: Hannah Browne

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