Jungle: Tom McFarland and Josh Lloyd-Watson on 'For Ever', capturing the imagination of their audience
Jungle, best known for their sublime mix of soul, funk, dance and pop that’s half-nostalgic but also refreshing, are in India on the back of releasing their second album For Ever.
On their way to India, London-based soul/funk band Jungle are coming in via shows in Russia, Ukraine and Japan. Co-founder and songwriter Tom McFarland admits the four shows before their India debut at SulaFest 2019 in Nashik "are kind of crazy". He says with a laugh, “There’s Kiev, Moscow, St Petersburg, and Tokyo, I don’t quite know how to pack my suitcase for that one.”
Jungle, best known for their sublime mix of soul, funk, dance and pop that’s half-nostalgic but also refreshing, are in India on the back of releasing their second album For Ever. Songs like 'Heavy, California' and 'House in LA' were among the lead singles to mark Jungle’s first new material since their breakout 2014 debut self-titled album.
What it continued, of course, was Jungle’s ability to feed their hooks through stories of living one’s best life. On a lot of For Ever, McFarland and co-founder Josh Lloyd-Watson crafted lyrics on relationships and lovers. In a sense, For Ever could be a breakup album – at least that’s what most critics even lauded it for – but McFarland says he wasn’t too concerned about clichés around the themes. “I think we just wrote an album that was relevant to us at that point of time. We had both been through breakups around the time of making the record and so, it just made sense and seemed relevant to write an album that was kind of focused around the emotions that we had.”
More than just pleading hope and asking lovers to stay, McFarland points out that the album also deals with other emotions, including hope. “That’s a massive part of love and the cycle of love, that kind of new beginning and soon as something negative happens, there’s going to be something positive that balances that out in the world. That’s something we were really keen to explore as well,” he says.
Both Jungle and For Ever received widespread acclaim, the hype putting them in a top league of must-see acts. Where one publication would ask if they were “one of the most exciting bands in the world,” McFarland says he was aware of the praise but also never lets public perception interfere with their creative processes. “I think we are conscious of [the fact that] the public and the press can build you up and put you down as well, so it’s important… to stay on your focus and your path and not listen too much to what everybody else is saying about you,” he says.
The band makes it all work within their existing well-crafted universe, which they have said takes influence from the way animated band Gorillaz created and carried forth a strong aesthetic. Both McFarland and Lloyd-Watson usually find a way to look slightly anonymous in band photos – considering the lineup extends up to eight people on stage – which helps them keep their appearances in their millions-watched music videos to cameo-level. Where Gorillaz have collaborators and animated characters with a story, Jungle is all about breathtaking, smooth choreography and slick cinematography, best seen on tracks like 'Happy Man', 'Julia', 'Busy Earnin’' and more. McFarland says a lot of their songs come from “very visual places,” but others just start out with the sound more than the look. “I think for us it’s special when we are making the music videos, obviously dancing is a very important aspect of what we do and how we envisage our songs or translating it into the real world,” he adds.
As far as translations go, they have made millions around the globe bust a move to their music, performing at clubs and festivals all over, including Lollapalooza, Glastonbury, Roskilde, Reeperbahn, Pukkelpop, Longitude and many more. Even at SulaFest, a sea of people is likely to greet them, but McFarland says the band likes the challenges of both, a club setting as well as festivals. “At festivals, sometimes you are playing on the same bill as huge artists like Eminem and the Rolling Stones and a lot of the time, half of the audience is there waiting for them. It’s really up to you to capture their imagination and get them involved with what you are doing on stage," he says.
In the process of “losing our virginity” in terms of an India debut, McFarland is keen to go beyond his knowledge of just Pandit Ravi Shankar records. He adds, “Sadly it’s in the middle of a very busy couple of weeks for us. I think we are landing a day before we play the festival and flying out the day afterward. Hopefully, that little bit of time we have in Mumbai will give us a sense of the country.”
Jungle performs on February 2nd at Sula Vineyards, Nashik. More details here.
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