Jungle throw away the cloak
“It’s a bit like the car. 100 years ago everybody was going, ‘Oh my god! Look at this thing! We can get around’ then 100 years later we’re all going, ‘Oh my god. Shit. We’ve fucked the world up’. That kind of acceleration is terrifying.”
This is Josh, one component of the many who make up Jungle. He and his childhood best friend ‘T’ are at the helm of one of the most talked about blog-babies of our time. Their first offering The Heat has been smouldering laptop speakers since 2012 and now the unquantifiable collective are about to release a full LP and play some of the biggest shows in the history of bands who have only released three singles.
The only peep of the full-length at the time of writing has been a 44-second trailer, where their gold plated logo bookends slow-motion clips of their celebrated music videos against a dusty spaghetti western whistle. It’s a brief recap of a whirlwind two years, where Jungle’s honeyed string of ear worm tunes and accompanying videos caused them to become a bit of an unintentional enigma. Who were these incognito overlords of millennial disco fever? How many of them are there? Who are the shellsuit clad men in the press shots?
It was these web-friendly micro-puzzles alongside a succession of irresistible singles like Platoon and The Heat that set the blogosphere ablaze, and that element of anonymity was petrol for the cyber-ascent. It’s an anonymity that, Josh says, happened almost totally by accident. “The press and the internet wrote that story. I quite like that. The audience and the creators make their own story, together. We can make the music, but I think there’s more important things to look at than just who we are and what our faces are. Also, we are just quite shy people.” This inhibited and faceless approach from Jungle’s founding fathers only enhances the sheen of the finished product: the songs, the seven-strong live shows which have finally seeped across the country and earned rapturous reviews and soon, the album.
While dodging the limelight, they also try and isolate themselves from other music to create a sound that owes no debts. “When we record we tend to not listen to other people’s music because we’d end up copying or mimicking. When you’re growing up at school you’re always trying to be something that someone else already is. Like … like when Kings of Leon first came around. Trust me, when Kings of Leon first came around, they were fucking cool. We wanted to be in that band back in 2003, I’m not sure about now.”
The cinematic visuals that have tantalised fans since day one are paramount to Jungle’s manifesto. Whether it’s the silky rollerblading of The Heat or the long-shot grandeur that brings Busy Earnin’ to life, these widescreen actualisations are the crux of the band’s multi-faceted masterplan. “We’re not the first people to put dancers in a music video, not by any stretch of the imagination, but what we did do was present them simply and honestly.” For an outfit lauded for hiding away, Josh is surprisingly impassioned about the power of human interdependence. “If it wasn’t going to be us at the front, we had to keep that human connection. Major labels are just absolutely terrified of losing an audience or losing a click or losing a view and everything has to be super saturated and super high speed. It doesn’t really mean anything.”
Josh repeatedly reiterates the fact that Jungle is as much a visual project as it is musical. The process that built their upcoming eponymous debut LP was one of snapshots and freeze-frames. “We picture these places when we’re recording. Like with The Heat, that’s all about the beach, and we see that. Crazy scenes; loads of people on the beach as waves are rolling in, there’s a band playing, there’s monkeys on motorcycles. For us, every track on the record is like a film. They’ve all got a visual landscape. It comes through every song, and the lyrics then form the script. They are the backbone of the whole thing.”
What started out as the cross-media brainchild of two childhood best friends is now the centrepiece of XL Recordings’ heavyweight roster. Sharing shelf space with the likes of Adele, Vampire Weekend and The Horrors might appear to be a shortcut to credible broadsheet superstardom but for Josh, a brand of nameless merrymaking is still of the upmost importance. “Jungle is just a group of people, a group of friends, and we’ve all been friends from the start. Me and T are like brothers and everything is always funny. If it’s not funny, it’s not good. Everything about it has been carefree and you have to be like that or you’ll get precious about it.”
It seems on the surface like an unworkable agenda; juggling a boyish desire to stay happy and free under the watchful eyes of the country’s largest independent record label. “We just did a cover for Clash which, for us, was quite a weird thing because that’s almost playing the label game. You have to tend to the needs of that, people want to put us on the covers but we’re producers, and ultimately we’ve been dragged to the front of it. We are always going to be drifting around and it’s always going to evolve into new and special things, but we have to be ready for that and not try to preempt it. It’s Jungle. Jungle is bigger than me. The day I get all egotistical about it or T gets egotistical about it it’s like, what’s the point? That’s what we’ve left behind. Josh should be left at the door. He shouldn’t be allowed in to do his hair in the mirror.”
As our conversation continues and Josh talks at length about the complications of life as a 21st century jive talker, his car analogy starts to make a bit more sense. He constantly returns to this idea about an acceleration, an ecstasy, a “moment”. “That feeling … that euphoric rush, for us every track on the album has that. Whether it’s the guitars on Platoon… on Busy Earnin’ when the trumpets and the chords come in it’s like, ‘yeah, this is it. This feels good.’ You’ve got to trust that feeling, and I think every track in one way or another has that. There were tracks that didn’t have it and they’re not on the record. I don’t think we’d put something out that didn’t feel right.”
At the very moment mentioned in the video for Busy Earnin’, all that can be seen moving is a ventilator whirring in the window of the cavernous gymnasium before the troupe of dancers erupt into the turbo-polished choreography of Kendra Horsburgh. The whole song is jam- packed with re-ups. The engine stalls and the ignition is flicked again. It’s Jungle’s blueprint; double octave vocal mixing that sounds like Detroit Motown with a facelift; arpeggio-laden synth motifs that trickle across the painless melodies. Gears flick, and the Cortina parks as quickly as it bombed past the chequered flag.