The world according to Jungle: It's the music that makes you happy

Article published on Oct. 1, 2015
Article published on Oct. 1, 2015

At France's "La Route du Rock" festival, cafébabel crossed paths with Jungle, the groovy headline act for it's 25th edition. At the heart of this charismatic collective are two Londoners who for a long time preferred to remain anonymous. Here, cafébabel attempts to unveil them.

One of the first things you learn when meeting Josh Lloyd-Watson and Tom McFarland, the brains behind the soul collective Jungle, is that they are football fans. This fact goes someway to explaining their impatience to finish our interview, on this sunny afternoon at France's "La Route du Rock". Tom’s beloved Chelsea are losing 3-0 to Manchester City, and they are eager to get back to the game.  

Despite their restlessness the pair make you feel completely at ease, chatting away with the two pretty young journalists sat beside me, who they invite out for a drink later. They become increasingly sentimental when they mention their “family” (Jungle), whose surprising mix of electro, soul and funk is set to end the festival in style. Constantly cutting across each other, they are keen to remind us that music should first and foremost be about pleasure, and not become too much of a business. From their outset Jungle tried to surround itself with an aura of mystery, like Gorillaz before them, in order to keep on making music “that sounds good,” as well as for the sake of their ten-year long partnership. There is cause for concern: long friendships don't always survive musical success, as The Libertines found out.      

cafébabel: First things first, can you tell us how you got started in music?

Josh: I guess it’s something that's always been part of my life. I’ve never gone long without listening to music... without getting passionate about an album or a song. I think it’s important. Some people have that relationship with football, or dance, or cinema… it's their passion. It’s the same for me with music.

Tom: How did I get started in music…?

Josh: I forced you.

Tom: I don’t know, it’s something you do growing up, right? It’s something… that connects you with other people in the same situation. It becomes a way to hang out with your friends. For us, it’s an excuse to have a hobby, one that’s creative and productive. Rather than sitting around doing nothing, we get together and write stuff. It's a marvellous feeling for two reasons...

Josh: We get the chance to do what we want…

Tom: Yeah, and it’s also a kind of release. You know, when you write music you escape to a cooler world that doesn’t really exist. It’s a good reason to keep going.

Jungle - "Busy Earnin'"

cafébabel: Okay, but if you had to name the artists that really made you want to make music?

Tom: Puddle of Mudd! (laughs) You know them? We listened to lots of nu metal for a while… I like thinking that people are searching the web to find out our influences, and all they find is nu metal, like “How could they come up with this music by listening to that?” (laughs)

Josh: And System of a Down! Fuck, I love System of a Down!

(Tom starts singing the words to “Chop Suey”)

Josh: That song is crazy… But I don’t know, really. I like a little bit of everything. It’s a shitty answer, but it’s true. I like everything, and nothing in particular. It can be anything: jazz, nu metal…

cafébabel: What makes a good song then, in your opinion?

Tom: The combination of rhythm and melody. Of course that’s just our take on it, but we compose stuff that, to us, sounds good. In the end, it’s just a question of what works for your ear. When you produce stuff in the studio, there are lots of things that you can overanalyze, and loads of different techniques to try out. But at the end of the day, the verdict will always be the same: “Trust your ears.” You can do weird stuff, but it has to sound good, that’s all that matters!

cafébabel: The friendship that’s connected you since childhood is also an essential part of Jungle’s success…

Tom: Honestly, I don’t think it would work without that, you know. We have a special relationship. We’re constantly editing each other’s compositions... and we’re comfortable with that, so much so that when one of us finishes something we can just look to the other and ask if it’s any good. If he says yes, we know that we both think it’s got potential. If he says no, you know it’s shit. If you’re alone, there’s no one to tell you that. So our friendship gives us a little perspective, a little mutual inspiration. There’s also a bit of competition between us…

Josh: But it’s never personal when one of us gives a critique. That’s really important. When he tells me a melody isn’t good, he’s not trying to offend me.

Tom: Do you think we’ve gotten to the point where we’re completely immune to being frustrated by it?

Josh: No, not yet.

Tom: Do you think we still have something like, 20% frustration?

Josh: Yeah.

Tom: Because I think if we were completely detached from criticism, we’d lack that energy or tension. You need tension to create.

cafébabel: And your friendship hasn’t been affected by the pressure of success?

Josh: There are ups and downs.

Tom: Our friendship is really intense. But we have to remind each other constantly that we’re friends first, colleagues after. Because music at the start is about friendship, then suddenly it becomes a job. And when you get to be famous it becomes a business. Money comes into play... and I can tell you now, people act differently when money's involved. It’s a fact of life, and a part of the society we live in. We can’t change that. So I guess it does affect our relationship a little.

Josh: Yeah, because now the two of us are running a business. It’s pretty difficult. We can’t just get together and play music anymore. It’s more than that. But our friendship is very strong, strong enough to handle it. It’s a little like marriage, you always have to work on it, otherwise it falls apart. (laughs)

cafébabel: How do you manage it, then?

Tom: We try not to get obsessed with success, which can disappear at any moment. We recently built a studio in our garden, and it's really fun just being in the same room and jamming together... and if we’re not on tour, even with families, every Thursday we can still get together and play synth. I think if you hang onto that simplicity in your friendship, you aren’t affected by… you know, some artists up and move to Hollywood after their first album…

Josh: And spend all their money...

Tom: Because their musical goals have been replaced by a particular idea of success. It’s not just living in Hollywood and having a supermodel girlfriend that makes you successful. I’m starting to talk like Liam Gallagher. (laughs)

Jungle - "Time"

cafébabel: To finish up, tell me about London…

Josh: London is incredible. I think it’s the city that’s the most tolerant of other cultures, ethnicities and religions. It’s really noisy. The people…

Tom: We grew up in London, and from the start that made us luckier than lots of other people on the planet. It’s why we were lucky enough to be able to make music. Because you know, we could just sit in a corner and say to each other: “We’re in London, now what?” But when you give it a little perspective…

Josh: It’s good to go home after a tour; you appreciate it more when you’ve been away a long time… and to be honest, we’re impatient to start working on the next album.

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Listen : Jungle - 'Jungle' (2014/XL Recordings)