As concepts go, the stark, minimalist "Platoon" video uploaded to YouTube and Vimeo in June 2013 was ludicrously simple: A six-year-old girl named Terra, clad in a purple tracksuit on a gray, featureless soundstage, breakdances to peppy funk-pop. The tiny dancer starts off tapping her foot and ends performing a dizzying amount of headspins. It looks as much like a viral promo for Britain's Got Talent as it does a music video.
The clip began to spread last September, eventually racking up nearly 5 million views. But as the clicks began to increase and the media took notice, the creators behind the music — U.K. funk collective Jungle — were hardly basking in the glory. At the time, the group's ringleaders were known only as "J" and "T," preferring to let the music and the dancer take the spotlight. Other, equally simple videos from the collective — which ranges from 7 to 30 members depending on the gig — would follow, all featuring breakdancing with only minimal mentions of the group who made the music.
"It's all about getting rid of the ego, and Jungle, for us, was that place," "J," a.k.a. 24-year-old Jungle co-founder Josh Lloyd-Watson, tells Rolling Stone from his London apartment. "We're in an age where people are so, 'It's all about this lead singer,' and there aren't many groups around that are just about a collective sort of spirit. The press tends to focus it on one or two people because they're seeking that sort of leadership, and for us, none of us really want to stand up and be the leader. We quite like the name leading it."
Since the release of "Platoon," the (mostly British) media attention has focused as much on unearthing "J" and "T" as the music itself. On the flipside, Lloyd-Watson and "T," a.k.a. co-founder Tom McFarland, wouldn't be worth discovering if their recently released eponymous debut album weren't so good. The duo employ supra-Pharrell falsettos over bouncy bass lines and light, airy funk-pop for an innocuous, yet compelling, album you can imagine playing in the background of barbecues and pool parties. Still, even as the group's music was getting more attention, Jungle remained reluctant to divulge their identities.
"If you go to a gallery, you don't see a picture and then a portrait of the guy who painted it next to the picture," says Lloyd-Watson. "Martin Scorsese doesn't come on after the credits of one of his films. You don't want to take the lead role because you don't want to have to deal with that sort of expectation and responsibility of doing it because that then goes to your head and how can we then create music if it's all about who we are, what we look like, blah blah blah blah blah."
As is often the case, the reality is more prosaic than the mystery. Lloyd-Watson and McFarland met at the age of 10 in Shepherd's Bush, a multicultural part of west London where Polish, West Indian, Lebanese, Somali and Irish communities all commingled. The duo grew up down the road from Town House Post Production studios, the famed studio known as the rehearsal space for the Who and recording home for Blur's The Great Escape, Coldplay's X & Y and Pulp's This Is Hardcore, among countless others.
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