On the Beach with Jungle
We met up with Josh Lloyd-Watson and Tom McFarland, of the weed-loving funk duo, before they head out on their world tour in 2019.
This article originally appeared on Noisey Denmark
Usually, when a band says, “we’re going to play a new song for you now” mid-show, it’s cause for concern. At this point, the average gig-goer is a pampered customer expecting nothing but non-stop entertainment, which is almost impossible to deliver as a performer if you decide to play new material: people aren’t familiar with the words or the melody, and you run the risk of losing your audience’s attention. They might start firing up Instagram, head to the bar for a drink or chat about their boring jobs.
But even in a world where “PLAY SOMETHING WE KNOW” has become a life philosophy, there are still bands who hold the attention of the crowd anyway. And Jungle is one of those bands. The London-group is centered around childhood friends Josh Lloyd-Watson and Tom McFarland. In 2014, they issued their self-titled debut album, making tons of people lose their collective minds over Jungle’s brand of effortless neo-soul. To create a proper live show to match that energy, they formed a band of five friends. You may well know them for their videos, though. They’ve earned a reputation for producing extremely dope music videos—and famously had massive single "Busy Earnin'" included on the FIFA 15 soundtrack. In other words, calls home to their families have probably run along the lines of “yes, it’s going pretty well and that.”
Over the summer, we watched them play a set in Denmark, at festival Musik i Lejet. Flanked by two backing vocalists, a percussionist, a drummer and a bassist, Josh and Tom played, sang in falsetto and danced around on stage. And as for a “we’re going to play a new one” moment? Well, they played old songs, they played one of the new singles off September’s For Ever (sadly, they omitted “House in LA”), and also barreled through a load of material from that second album, which fans wouldn’t have heard yet. They pulled it off losing their addictive edge. From where we were standing, no one disappeared into their own universe of conversations and social media feeds. People were dancing with their hands in the air, and the party extended all the way to the edge of the field. People smoked, drank, kissed, and canoodled while the sun set over the ocean in the background.
We chatted to them on the beach for a bit, before their set, to hear about their new music, beautiful Danish people and winning over the badass crowd with FIFA.
Noisey: Hi guys, how long have you been on the road now?
Josh Lloyd-Watson: Five years [laughs].
Tom McFarland: It’s never ending, really. You always want to play gigs, so whenever something comes in you say yes. Because that’s what you do and that’s what your passion is in.
Josh: This weekend is going to be pretty tough because our schedule is so tight. I’m waiting for it to get glamorous.
Tom: We’re staying in a youth hostel where you have to put your own sheets on the bed. So we come off stage at like 11PM and then we have to be up at 4.30AM or 5AM tomorrow. Basically, my whole blood is just coffee right now.
So when do you think that it gets glamorous?
Josh: When you’re a solo artist and have sold millions of records. Like Drake who’s got kids all over the planet who worship your music … But it’s real fun. It’s like a family with us and that’s how we like it.
Tom: When we were kids, celebrity wasn’t a thing. We grew up looking at guys in bands going like, “fuck, that’s what we want to do. We want to be on a tour bus going through America, doing it a proper way.” You know what I mean? Now the culture of celebrity means that people just want to be fucking rich or just have a Lamborghini or just go to this club in this city and be seen on Instagram. And that’s nothing to aspire to, because what are you actually achieving? Fuck all.
How do you keep from going mad on the road?
Tom: I don’t think we’ve achieved it. Look, like we said it’s our family.
Tom: Yeah, marijuana helps.
What’s the first thing that pops into your mind when you think of Denmark?
Tom: Well, we always have a great time when we play here. But what we don’t understand as fellow northern Europeans is how do you get tanned so much quicker than us? Because our weather patterns are the same, your winters are probably even shitter than ours, so how…
Josh: I think because it gets so cold, everyone goes out as soon as there’s sun.
The thing is, when it goes past 20 degrees, it’s basically a holiday here. Everyone just runs outside.
Josh: I just thought you said, “when a girl passes 20 degrees hot.” That’s how you should measure it.
Tom: I saw a guy that was at least 50 degrees earlier.
Josh: But no, everyone is so beautiful. That goes for all of Scandinavia, really.
What about back in the UK?
Josh: We’re fucking ugly, aren’t we? Ignorant, ugly, sarcastic.
Well, damn. Your live shows are very dynamic. How do you keep them feeling fresh when you tour so much?
Josh: Because everybody plays differently. Depending on your adrenaline, I might rush a song, or if I had a joint that day or everybody smokes it gets more… It all depends on people’s moods and their attitudes.
Tom: The only constant is change.
Josh: It’s a great place to learn to let go of control. When we started we felt like it had to be exactly like the record and sometimes you box it back in rather than going, “what could it be like?” It’s going to be interesting this time around because now we are playing a record that hasn’t come out live. So people have heard live versions of stuff that doesn’t sound like that because it’s a lot more electronic on the record.
So what’s different with the new songs? “House in LA” especially seemed like a new direction for you.
Josh: Where the first record was us in our bedroom playing GTA and sort of imagining these places, this time we are lucky enough to go around the world, fall in love, and have the freedom to go and meet people. We’ve had the experiences that helped shape the dynamic of this record. And as a result, this record is much more autobiographical. This record is like, “you’re never gonna change me, I was already changing.” And I think more people will relate to it because of that, it’s a little bit more immediate in it’s lyrics. Every song on this record is about a fucking emotion.
A lot of people that I have talked to about you have said, “oh, it’s the FIFA song” about “Busy Earnin’”. Do get that a lot?
Tom: Oh yeah, and we love that shit because we play FIFA all the time. It’s kinda fucking great isn’t it?
Josh: What’s amazing about that is, I noticed at the front of the show in New York there were five huge South American guys gangster looking guys, and every one of them looked like they were having the time of their life.
Tom: So I went out to have a cigarette after the show and they were all there and they were like: “Yeah man, we heard your song through FIFA and now we love all of it. We listen to the album all the time.” And that’s amazing for our music to be able to transcend cultures, age groups, societal situations.
Alright, I’ve just got a couple of last quick questions. If you had to play at an apocalyptic event, kind of like the band on the Titanic, what would the event be?
Tom: I would like to be playing a gig on the meteor that hits earth.
Josh: Alright, let me see…
Tom: Don’t go too dark, man.
Josh: Some of them are dark in my head. Some of them are so dark. What was that massive volcano that went off in the Roman times? Vesuvius? Just being showered in lava and then running off with my bass on my back.
Good answers. Last one: If your music was a drug, what would it be?
Tom: It’s got to be marijuana.
Josh: It might be a little more mushroomy and LSD, this next record.
Josh: So just laced marijuana. Sprayed skunk.
Josh: Cool, do you want to buy some?
This article originally appeared on Noisey UK.