TEN MINUTES WITH JUNGLE
It’s hard enough getting past second album syndrome, never mind that third album slump. But on Jungle’s newest record, Loving In Stereo, the band is at its most fully-fledged form. “I think this third one is a realisation,” says Josh Lloyd-Watson, who founded the outfit with lifelong pal Tom MacFarlan in 2013. “It’s this balance between energy and kind of swagger at the same time. There’s nothing on the record that ain’t cool in some way. Even like some of the cheesier songs are still kind of cool, and I’ve got a bit of a cheese factor.”
Known for their sublime blends of soul-infused funk, disco and pop, Jungle has garnered a loyal fanbase, with tracks “Casio” and “Busy Earnin'” currently standing at over 50 million streams on Spotify. An adjective that’s followed the band throughout their career is ‘Slick’, with Jungle’s live show proving a UK festival highlight. (Ask one of your mates if they’ve ever caught Jungle at a festival, they’ll likely come away saying it was the best set of the weekend.)
With Loving In Stereo virtually complete in 2019, Lloyd-Watson and MacFarlan spent lockdown refining the record’s sound, transforming tracks previously left on the cutting room floor into album standouts. “They’re tracks made out of love and just for the pure fun of it,” says Lloyd-Watson.
The pair will christen the album with a DJ set at Phoenix in London tonight, followed by three sold-out nights at the O2 Academy Brixton this December. Before all that, though, Lloyd-Watson talks us through the record.
Loving In Stereo was essentially finished in 2019, what have you guys been doing since?
“Yeah, we finished the record in 2019 – what we thought was finished. We wanted it to be finished and sometimes records have to grow that last bit on their own. So you know, we were very much like ‘We’ve got to put the record out quick!’, everyone thinks that Jungle releases [an album] every four years, you know we’ve got to smash that up. So we were trying to come back two years ago and obviously, Covid screwed that and made it three years [laughs]. It is annoying but it’s better than last time. But yeah, it just sort of slowed it down but in some ways it’s made it a lot better because of the perspective and the free time, you know. We made tracks that weren’t for the record that ended up being on the record and they’re tracks made out of love and just for the pure fun of it.”
During lockdown, did your opinions on the album change much?
“Yeah I think so. I think I learned quite a lot about just letting go and going with it and accepting the first things that came on to it. You know, creativity can be a real bitch sometimes. You’ve got to study creativity to study your process to work out what doesn’t work for you and what does work for you. It’s like doubt, it’s easy to come into the creative process and bring a load of doubt but it just doesn’t get you anywhere – it breaks the flow. It’s really important to let things out and you’ve got to be super positive about everything always to the last minute, and then leave the editor brain somewhere else.”
How do you think the Jungle sound has evolved with this album?
“I mean for me, it’s exactly how you want it to sound, every album, but you do your best at each point. It’s sort of at the pinnacle of what Jungle should have always sounded like. But it takes time, effort and ten thousand hours to kind of make it sound how you want it to sound like. To me, the first album sounds like demos in a weird way. The second album, it’s cool and there are some absolute bangers on there in terms of songs. Like “Casio” is my all-time favourite Jungle song. And I think this third one is a realisation of like sonic and intention.”
You’ve said Loving In Stereo is the album you’ve always wanted to make – how so?
“I think it’s just like a realisation of a sonic, you know? You have an idea of what you want it to be in your head and then actually executing it comes in the structures. It’s this balance between energy and kind of swagger at the same time. There’s nothing on the record that ain’t cool in some way. Even like some of the cheesier songs are still kind of cool, and I’ve got a bit of a cheese factor This album is trying to balance that thing of like, making it accessible enough that you don’t lose people, and ultimately, yourself.”
How has your dynamic as a duo evolved over the years?
“Jungle is just a name essentially, for what we do and whoever we do it with. Jungle is constantly changing so you have to adapt and grow, we can’t ever repeat the same process twice. Our relationship has changed over the years, for sure. It’s gotten better, it’s gotten worse, it’s gotten better. It’s like a brotherhood, you know? You’ve got that deep loyalty to somebody, but we don’t let it get in the way, we just kind of get on with the music and I think that’s what Jungle’s about. It’s not about egos, that’s why we’re not that visual in it. It’s like Gorillaz to me, or Daft Punk. I don’t want to be a part of the band in some way, I want to appreciate the band, I want to be the fan of the band at the same time. So when you make something and you place yourself so heavily in it, it destroys it for you because it becomes ego-based.”
With this album, you left XL and set up your own record label. How was the transition to doing things completly on your own terms?
“You don’t really need the labels. What do they actually do in the end of the day apart from, like, take your money? Obviously, I loved XL at the time but as you grow up, you’re like hang on a second, this business model ain’t in favour of the artist, it never has been. For some reason, because it’s showbiz, you sacrifice everything. You hear everyone from Chris Martin to Radiohead talking about trying to take money back out of the labels or Spotify and for us going independent is taking responsibility for our own creative output. It’s about trusting our instinct and this is the first record that hasn’t been A&R’d – for me, it’s the best. Happy days!”
Do you think, post-pandemic, more bands will follow suit and do things independently instead?
“It will probably come out after the fact that the internet has brought the product to the fans much quicker. There’s no need for that middle-man distribution really. You’ve got it with Spotify, if you’re in with Spotify or Apple, they’ll do the marketing for you and you see people chasing playlist ads and Spotify billboards, that’s more important, they’re the key holders. Now, you’ve got to try to get Spotify to give you your money back.”
Playing live is an instrumental part of Jungle. How do you plan to bring Loving In Stereo to the stage?
“I think for us, it’s always about energy and creating a fun show, it has to be fun for us to play and we’ve got great players and we’ve got some new people joining us. We put a lot into our show, it’s super slick and I like that. I like when shows immerse you in the experience, we ain’t a band that’s just gonna rock up with a couple of amps and just do it. There’s merit to that for sure, but Jungle’s never been that and I don’t think it ever will be. It is polished and it is slick and we work very hard to get it to that level. It’s a lot of rehearsal and it’s a lot of practice and a lot of thought that goes into those shows. We want it to be the best and the most engaging experience that it can be for the audience.
“Loving In Stereo came from the live experience. “We wanted songs that were upbeat and that were positive and full of energy – songs that people could move to, you know? That was always inherently Jungle anyway, so I think we just amplified that.”
Jungle’s ‘Loving In Stereo’ is available on all major platforms now.