Looking suave and slicker than ever, Josh Lloyd-Watson and Tom MacFarlan sit across from me in a hotel bar. Giving answers as off-the-cuff as their music, childhood friends and founders of musical collective Jungle have just dropped today their long-awaited second album, For Ever, after slowly teasing us with four very Jungle-esque singles; Happy Man, House in LA, Heavy California and Cherry. In their own words, it’s a “post-apocalyptic radio station playing break up songs”. 
This (currently) seven-piece collective has returned from their stint in the states with another genre-blending album, both like and completely unlike their previous. Expect some real curveballs, as this spontaneous septet proves that they’ve got a hell of a lot more to say.
I’m a pretty big – huge – fan and saw you back in 2015 at Rock Werchter (Belgium). Although it was a bit of a fluke, I’d heard of you before but didn’t quite know what I was getting in to.
Josh: Probably thought what the fuck is this shit (laughs).
No, it was sick! I remember thinking how amazing it was. I mean, the drummer had a whole set of glass coke bottles he was dingling along.
Tom: The drummer hated them.
Josh: Yeah, they made a weird sound and just rattled constantly – and there’s enough stuff going on already.
My very thorough and professional journalistic research started off on Wikipedia, which says you’re a “modern soul music collective”. Do you stick by that?
Josh: Well, I wrote that… so yeah (laughs).
Tom: (Laughs) It’s just ultimate narcissism writing your own Wikipedia page in the third person, isn’t it?
Josh: We’re not going to get this interview done, are we?
(Laughs) Let’s go back to this collective idea, which you’ve said before was influenced by Gorillaz. You said that Damon Albarn sits behind the screen whilst Jamie Hewlett’s animated band takes the stage, and I guess you’ve done something similar in your previous music videos – let other people dance, roller skate, sing. This added to the all-round mystery of Jungle; you’re ‘behind the curtain’. But in the videos for new tracks House in LA and Happy Man, you’ve switched it up: it’s you, you’re on the screen.
Josh: They’re kind of prequels to the content that’s about to come. We’re exploring the idea of people watching stuff and experiencing reality through screens. Like in the director’s cut of Happy Man, which was released after. In the first video, you see us watching that second video through a screen. It’s a kind of comment on how we all perceive reality through media and screens.
Tom: What are you actually watching, what’s actually happening.
Josh: Especially, as we live in a world now where it’s not really about the videos; it’s about watching people’s lives and experiences. I think we set a false precedent of what we need to be and achieve based on what we are sold or what is presented to us. The funny thing is we’re all doing it to each other.
Tom: Even amongst your friends, people having a great time, posting pictures of themselves on holiday, etc. and I’m just like, I know you were on that holiday four years ago.
(Laughs) Yeah, I mean, music videos are less popular now than what I remembered them to be. I used to sit in front of MTV on a Saturday morning and watch music video after music video. I can still remember so many of them now, not sure why I was doing that and wasn’t outside, but…
Tom: Yeah, we grew up watching them too. MTV Rocks, Zane Lowe’s Gonzo Show, Kerrang... Music videos were really cool for us because that was an immediate way to see what your rivals looked like, how they were, what they were wearing, etc.
Josh: There was definitely a much smaller access point I guess for bands and artists. You know, there’s one press photo, you have to queue to see them. But now it’s like you can stream their entire lives.
On the topic, what are your favourite music videos?
Josh: Has to be one of the Strokes. There are a lot of great videos out there, but I guess for us thinking back to when we were younger…
Tom: Or Radiohead’s No Surprises, the one where Thom Yorke is drowning himself.
Josh: Yeah, it was very simple, that music video. He’s just wearing a helmet and it gradually fills up so you get these two feelings: connection with the artist but also this sense of impending tension.
Yeah! And your previous videos are fairly simple too in that sense – simply using the power of dance.
Tom: For us, when it comes to making videos, why wouldn’t we use dance? Dancing is the easiest way for humans to respond to music.
“People want to listen to music and feel the pain. You need pain to make good art.” Josh Lloyd-Watson
And, well, you both roller-skated before, too. So was that why the roller-skating was used in The Heat?
Josh: Yes, the first videos have a lot of references to how we grew up, what we did, etc. There are little bits of fun trivia in there.
Let’s talk about the music. I’m a huge fan of the new album – and I can definitely tell you’re trying to show a new side to Jungle, but still keep some very Jungl-y bits. And I’m incredibly excited to see how you perform these live. I mean, for Beat 54, are you going to get an entire string quartet on stage?
Tom: Depends how much cash we’ve got.
Josh: Yes, it’s expensive. There are obviously quite a few people in the band. But for big occasions, like Glastonbury and Ally Pally (Alexandra Palace, London) next year…
Oh! So Glastonbury is on the cards?
Josh: I think it’s on the cards. I mean, they haven’t said anything, but I’d be pissed off if they didn’t (laughs).
Tom: (Laughs) Yeah, fuck you Michael Eavis. No, I mean, you can’t have any expectations and I think that’s the most important thing. We’re aware of the scope that this record is going to give us in terms of what we can achieve.
You’ve mentioned that your first album was conceptual: being about the places you’d never been to and how America was idolised by you both. I know that since then you’ve actually lived in Los Angeles – and a lot of the new album focuses on the reality of its hollowness or materialism. Is the California dream not what it cracked up to be?
Josh: Heavy, California is the biggest pop song on the record. That one was actually written very early – it was probably the first melody that was written for the album. It was written in the back of the tour bus when we were in Arizona on our way to California. From there, it was then the last track to get finished. It was the first little inkling of an idea, and we left it, and hated it. Then, right at the last minute, it got finished and it had a completely different meaning. We met people there in different capacities. Fell in love, fell out of love.
The lyrics say ‘buy yourself a dream, how’s it looking?’
Josh: It’s lookin’ alright. (Laughs) That’s a little bit of sarcasm from us.
Tom: Classic British sarcasm.
(Laughs) Over to the making of the music. You produce your songs by ‘collecting’ sounds, samples and field recordings. Back when you were recording the first album in your bedroom, you have packets of crisps crunching, jingling car keys, and even Tom slapping himself in the face. What’s the weirdest sound recorded for this album, if you can pinpoint one?
Tom: I guess the most innovative – or biggest change – was putting strings on it. I know it’s not weird or funny, but whenever you put strings on something, it becomes very over-dramatic.
Josh: It turns a bit Radio 2. (Laughs) A little bit Katie Melua.
Tom: But actually, the whole experience was new – it was the first time we got other musicians to play on our record. Obviously, we recorded and wrote the whole first album ourselves sitting in our bedroom. So, to actually get into a proper big studio in London, having a string arranger help us…
Josh: We worked with a friend of ours called InFlo, who helped produce the back end of the record. It was great because we had about three hundred ideas and we were just sitting there like, “Oh, but I like all of them! Can we not put them all out?” We finished ten, which then turned into thirteen, and InFlo said, “You should put strings on it, we need that thing to tie it all in.” So we got Rosie Denvers and Wired Strings, who played on the Michael Kiwanuka record, and they were really great. Most strings players need to have sheet music, it’s very formal, but we don’t work like that. It has to be off-the-cuff.
Tom: Classical musicians find it very incredibly difficult to improvise.
Josh: But with Wired Strings, you can just hum something and they’ll go, “Perfect” and play it. They just smash it straight away.
By the way, who’s the singer in Casio? She sounds a little like Kali Uchis?
Josh: It’s a girl called Melissa Young; she’s a friend of InFlo’s. We were in Los Angeles and called her late at night and she came down.
Tom: But Kali Uchis is a great idea too, she’s cool.
For Cosurmyne, I can really see some old school hip-hop influences. I think it actually might be my favourite song on the album. It’s quite melancholic. The album seems to have this sort of journey – it starts off very happy and upbeat and goes through different emotions. I think it’s the last four songs that seem more emotional. Was this a natural development, did you want the album to do this?
Tom: For us, the first side of the record is the event. It’s things that have happened to us. Then, potentially, the second side is a reflection of what that is.
Josh: It’s like a cycle of love; we both fell in love and fell out of love. And this might be the reason why the record took so long; we needed to have that experience. Trying to write a record when you’ve fallen in love is like, “Nice, oh cool, I don’t really care”. But people want to listen to music and feel the pain. You need pain to make good art. The time spent was actually waiting for the emotional experience. I split up with my long-term girlfriend, and then Tom split up with his. It’s sad for me to say this, but I was quite happy that he did split up with her because I knew, at that moment, that he would be able to join me in that connection that would then finish the record.
Tom: (Laughs) Join you in your misery.
Josh: It’s a cycle of love. If you listen to Smile and then go all the way through to Pray, you can restart the thing again. You never really know if you’re falling in love or out of it, there’s always this sort of Jungle paranoia throughout it.
“We kind of work solitarily and then bring it all together at a later stage. Those bits of pure creativity have to happen when nobody is watching. It’s really important because that’s when you feel like you can express yourself and be free.” Josh Lloyd-Watson
You’ve also mentioned that some of the artist influences on the album were J Dilla and also Kanye West’s Touch the Sky. What was it that drew you to them?
Tom: Dilla’s amazing.
Josh: We’ve always loved the way hip-hop works, it’s so simple. Gorillaz do the same thing. Here’s a big hook, here’s a simple beat. It gets people going because it’s easy to understand. But we were inspired by a lot of things, from the Rolling Stones to the Beach Boys, to ‘70s psychedelia, all the way through to modern stuff like James Blake. I suppose the Kanye thing is just that he’s always trying to push it, trying to make you listen to silence, weird sounds, and is flipping it up every five minutes.
You often talk about collaboration – and as you’re a collective, you’re always working with more and more people. Do you think this way is better, or do ‘too many cooks spoil the broth’?
Tom: It depends on what that collaboration entails. Working with other people is how you learn the most about your own creativity. You’re constantly sharing ideas with people that are your contemporaries, so naturally, you pick things up. We were really lucky to sit down and have a chat with some producers in Los Angeles that we really admire, like Rick Rubin; he gave us some of the best advice we’ve ever been given.
Josh: We didn’t really listen to it (laughs).
Tom: He said most bands on their second record think that, because it’s their second, they have to put twice as much on it. But actually, you have to take twice as much away from it. You can see this on songs like Cherry and Home, which are very sparse. That for us was quite daunting, I think. I kind of want to do an album with just two instruments next, just because it’s a challenge.
You want to keep changing it to keep yourselves excited by it. You don’t want to just make it a continuation of the first album.
Tom: Definitely.
Both of you didn’t study music (as with most of the best musicians), and you’re also incredibly experimental. When you’re mixing in the studio, do you find that people are watching you and thinking, “What are they doing?”
Josh: No one’s usually there at that time. We kind of work solitarily and then bring it all together at a later stage. Those bits of pure creativity have to happen when nobody is watching. It’s really important because that’s when you feel like you can express yourself and be free. If there’s any feeling of self-consciousness, it leads to you not being as honest as you should be.
Tom: I also think that doing things the wrong way is probably the best way to do them. If we knew what we were doing too much, it would probably sound very formulaic.
Josh: If you follow the ‘proper’ way of recording something, or the ‘proper’ way of arranging a song, it would just end up sounding like something that someone else has made.
Exactly. You also have a lot of band members – and sorry if this is a stupid question – but how come they don’t travel with you for all of the interviews?
Tom: (Laughs) Do you really want to interview seven people?
Josh: It’s hard enough to get a word in with two of us (laughs).
Yeah, you’re right. And in most of your interviews you’re only given one microphone.
Josh: Yeah, we’re usually just taking the piss in them.
Tom: It’s horrible having to talk about what you do. How we feel about the world is in our music.
Josh: You want to learn about other people, I suppose. But when the spotlight’s on you all the time, it’s a bit like, give it a break.
Totally. After playing all around the world, where have you found the craziest dancers, the people that properly go for it?
Josh: Mexico.
Tom: Definitely Mexico – and parts of America. The great thing about Americans (also their down-side) is that they don’t really have a filter. They don’t give a shit about what people think about them, they’re just doing their own thing. Their number one mantra is: you do you. That’s the whole vision of their country – to have no limitations. When they get down, they really get down. They literally dance like no one’s watching.
What was your most ‘pinch yourself’ moment?
Tom: I think it was the first time we played Glastonbury. We were still so young and naïve and didn’t know what the hell we were getting ourselves in for. I remember when we were setting up all our gear and there was only about a hundred people in the tent – probably just my mum and a load of old school friends.
Josh: Another one was when Happy Man was on the football. (Laughs) It was on the first world cup game, just on the highlight’s halfway through. That was a nice moment.
Now I’ve got some weird questions for you. If you were on death row, what would your last meal be?
Josh: Sushi.
Tom: Mussels.
(Laughs) Good choices. What would be your big invention idea?
Josh: A plastic water bottle that is properly biodegradable and cheap to manufacture. Replacing water bottles and finding a way to distribute water in a cheap and eco-friendly way.
Admirable. Well, my idea seems trashy compared to yours (laughs). Mine is a glue stick that’s square so that you can get the corners of the page.
Josh: (Claps).
Tom: I tell you right now, I’d fucking buy a glue stick with corners.
“Doing things the wrong way is probably the best way to do them. If we knew what we were doing too much, it would probably sound very formulaic.” Tom MacFarland
So you’ve both known each other since you were super young, what did you want to be when you ‘grew up’?
Tom: According to my mum, it used to change on a daily basis. I’d run downstairs and say, “I want to be a fireman”. At one point, I even wanted to be a vet for some bizarre reason.
Josh: I wanted to own a hotel and live at the very top of it.
Tom: (Laughs) Of course you did. I can see that. But music has always played such an important part in our lives. Even just for helping you get over things. Being a teenager is incredibly shit, but having music there for you gives you hope. If you had a bad day at school, you could always go home and listen to music, listen to stories, listen to people telling you that it’s going to be all right. You grow up with those artists and you make really strong connections with them. The great thing is that they live with you forever; hopefully, I’m going to play them to my kids if I have them.
If you could choose a song that you wish that you’d made, what would it be?
Josh: Jai Paul’s Jasmine. Have you heard it? 
I haven’t, but I’ll definitely give it a listen later.
Tom: If you’ve never heard that song, I envy you.
Josh: Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s Multi-Love; the Beach Boys’ Wouldn’t It Be Nice and God Only Knows.
Tom: Good Vibrations… the list is endless. Oh! And Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going on.
Amazing. One last thing, before you go on stage, if you’re nervous, what are your pre-gig rituals?
Josh: Lemon and ginger tea, a ‘jazz cigarette’ (laughs), breathing exercises, etc.
Tom: Just bringing everyone in the band together and relaxing. It’s really important to go on stage without any expectations of what the audience will be like.
Josh: Just have fun. We always tell everyone to play for each other rather than just for yourself. You have to listen to everybody else, and if you do that, then you have a much better show, rather than, “Ah! I’ve fucked up”.
Tom: It’s a team game. You’ve got to be in tune with each other.
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