Perhaps inspired by the Britpop bands that worked down the road, the pair formed the psych-pop group Born Blonde, who released one album in 2012 before splitting up. "We were in a band for the wrong reasons," McFarlane admits, "and not being comfortable with ourselves. [Born Blonde] was based around the search for success and recognition and fame and seeking that 'Like' on Facebook. We found ourselves texting people we haven't spoken to in a year and saying, 'Oh yeah, I've got a gig tonight' and they just text you back, 'Why is this the first time you've spoken to me in a year?'"
Forgetting your past is at odds with a particular strain of British music journalism that looks to reveal every detail of a musician's life. "I challenge you to just put 'J and T'," Lloyd-Watson says during our interview. "I honestly challenge you to because everybody else..." The thought trails off, and while his tone remains amicable, the pair seem acutely affected by their past musical experience. It's why, when the duo began recording their debut album as Jungle in their home studio in January 2013, they told no one about it, focusing more on organic word of mouth than, as the band puts it, the "desperation to succeed" that marked past musical endeavors.
Diverse as Shepherd's Bush may be, the group relied more on their imagination than actual experience. "We were inspired by a lot by places we haven't been, so the album feels a little askew," says Lloyd-Watson. "It's not like we went to Africa and listened to people playing the drums. It's more like you close your eyes and imagine African rhythms or Rio de Janeiro or Miami and something goes wrong in the translation. We're writing the music to soundtrack these places without actually being there and the music is what you imagine the sound to be."
The pair started with "thousands of meaningless sketches" before coalescing their best drum beats and sounds for the tracks' rough drafts. Like a live version of the Avalanches' intricate copy-and-paste sampling pastiche, Jungle's album draws inspiration from a variety of unlikely sources. "Drops" features the sound of Lloyd-Watson's bedroom door creaking open and shut. Ostensible drums are created out of a set of car keys, a Coke can pull-tab, a crunch of Pringles potato chips or a pack of cigarettes hitting the table. The group even resorted to physical self-harm. "I slap myself in the face a couple of times on 'Son of a Gun' because it sounds like a snare and that's hilarious," McFarlane says as the two begin to crack up.
The duo have only recently been able to quit their day jobs — McFarland as a bartender at a tequila bar and Lloyd-Watson as a pizza delivery guy/gardener/utility man — and earn a living through music. Making this transition, they're still figuring out their place in the musical cosmos. "It's weird because you can play to 10,000 people at Glastonbury and then go to Luxembourg and play to 50 people," says Lloyd-Watson. "And then you go, 'Where are we in between this?'"
There's a simplicity to the melodies in Jungle's music: an unbridled, almost childlike, enthusiasm that can rightly be called "pop," though in a fractured, yet still danceable, form. As the group gets more known, you wonder if this simplicity will go away, lost as they approach greater success. "I hope it's going to be easy to maintain because I think, fundamentally, that idea comes from our relationship with each other and how we base our friendship on being honest and not trying to overcomplicate anything in life," says McFarland. "Because once you do that and start letting your thoughts control your process, it begins to get a bit messed up. The control that we have is overall ours, so if we can keep ours as simple as possible, we'll be in a really good place in the future."
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