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Jungle

Interview — Mohamed Sqalli
Illustration — Yesonme

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After one year of dropping radio hits on a regular basis, Jungle released yesterday one of the most anticipated albums of this year. Several weeks ago, we had the opportunity to ask them about the mystery they put in their project, their imagery and of course about monkeys riding motorcycles.

You announced the release of your debut album last week (finally released July 14). Congratulations, how do you feel about that?

Tom: Yeah, we’re really excited. I think it’s the right time to get it out. We have been working on it during a whole year. We had part time jobs until December, I was a barman and Josh was a pizza delivery boy. So we made it during evenings or weekends, when we were not seeing or families or girlfriends, it was not a constant process.

Can you tell me about the recording process of this album?  Who was in charge of what?

Josh: It was a very democratic process. We both worked on the beats on the computer, we both wrote melodies and lyrics.

Tom: Both set the piano, the organ.

Josh: We put a lot of organs and synths. We wanted something very much like J Dilla, but we really wanted to create our own samples. Instead of being like Kanye West and sampling already existing songs, we wanted to write our own melodies ourselves. It’s quite rewarding. When you use other people’s music, it doesn’t feel honest to us.

Sure, but it can also be a tribute to artists you admire. For example, many of Kanye West’s samples have known a second life after he used them.

Tom: Of course, but we were quite conscious that creating these ourselves would make us more comfortable.

Your 3 latest video clips have in common to show super skilled dancers performing. So, first question, why always dancers?

Josh: It’s the most basic form of expression, in terms of music. When you have music, visually it’s the next thing. It’s not original to do dance with music, you know. I think the original thing we did is to present it very simply in a culture and in a society where you have major labels who would be so scared to put just one girl on a video. They would want her to be on helicopters, with lights, and a lot of this shit to abuse you and make you think it’s really energetic, while her energy comes from her eyes and her motion. I think that’s the most important thing. 

And second question, are you great dancers too ? Because I don’t know if you are you conscious of it, but people will expect you to be super good dancers on stage after these videos?

Josh: Tom is good, I’m shit. (Laughing)

Tom: My mom was a dancer, so it’s in my blood a little bit. I’m a little bit too self-conscious to dance though. I think I could dance but we’ll see after a couple of shows.

Yeah, but you play synth on stage. You can’t move that much. Are you into Elton John-dancing?

Tom: Yeah, well we’ll see. The advantage we have is that we switch instruments while on stage.

 

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I feel that there is some kind of contradiction in the way you deal with the Internet…

Josh: Ooooohhhh…

Yeah, on the one hand, you say that the Internet is a danger for the way people interact (like you said in an interview to the Guardian) and on the other hand, it’s the main tool you use to develop your career by uploading viral videos, selling merchandising online, releasing tunes of Soundcloud and of course because you’re one of the most blog acclaimed band of the year. How do you feel about that?

Josh: It’s like the car, isn’t it? A hundred years ago, everyone was like “yeah, we’ve got this new thing. It’s a car. We’ve done it, it’s amazing!” And a hundred years laters, we’re going “oh shit! The car! It’s shit!” The car is good and bad. It’s great for me and you to go and pick up some shopping, and on the other hand, it’s killing the Earth. All things that are powerful have two sides. The Internet is great, but it’s also negative because while we connect with new people everyday thanks to it, we’re losing our human connection at the same time. We created a new kind of connection, which is a digital connection. The perfect example of that are emoticons. When you receive emoticons, it makes you feel something more than the text, because you see a face and an emotion. Yet, it’s not a real emotion. This contradiction is really interesting.

Tom: We understand the importance of it: sending information, sending ideas, but there are some aspects in the way the Internet is used that we’re not so keen on. Like on Facebook, everyone is able to edit their lives and show them as if they were super great.

So what’s your trick to create a real relationship with your audience?

Josh: Dancing. (Laughing)

Tom: It’s just about using your eyes and lifting you head up. A lot of electronic artists are so concerned by recreating a perfect sound from their record on live by having to press too many buttons from their laptops.  We try to create a very energetic experience, making it about the power of a group, everybody making eye contact with the audience, everybody singing from their soul. And hopefully that translates to the audience. 

Do you have any reference for your live shows?

Tom: Arcade Fire are incredible. Earth, Wind & Fire as well. Kindness also was a blast live. I think that it’s really important that people have more than one voice to digest, it’s a much more democratic process on stage. 

I assume that this is a rather common question for you, but why did you decide not to reveal your identities for this musical project? 

Tom: It’s a way to keep our creative process pure and honest, and not allowing our egos to dictate it. It’s very much more about our relationship, and how we work like a symbiotic organism. Moreover, David Bowie’s not called David Bowie and Bob Dylan’s not called Bob Dylan.

Josh: What happened is very interesting, we go back to the Internet: we put the videos out; we put so much into these videos for Platoon and for The Heat. We spent all our money personally and all our creativity, it’s not to put our face on a wall. This is our art. Imagine Monet making an amazing painting and being told “well, We don’t fucking want that one. We want one with your face.” It doesn’t make much sense. We wanted to give people the art rather than us.

Tom:  It’s like if at the end of the E.T’s credits, you had Steven Spielberg telling “hey guys, I’m Steven Spielberg, hope you enjoyed the show.”

Josh: A lot of journalists kind of go like “So, what’s all the mystery about?” It’s interesting how massive this mystery thing has gone, and how much people have written about it while we just wanted to focus on our art in the first place.

It’s a very British thing to do, isn’t it ? I’m referring to bands like SBTRKT or Wu Lyf for example who hid their faces too.

Josh: Yeah, but the first to have done it are French: it’s Daft Punk, so it’s a French thing.

Ok, well done. I will write in the interview “they compare themselves to Daft Punk”.

Josh: In fact, we ARE Daft Punk. No, really, we don’t really care about what people write. We don’t read that, because it’s all happening between Tom and I. When you remove Josh and Tom from the equation, we become the audience as well, and that’s where it becomes interesting for us. I always wanted to be part of something where I could be the creator and the observer at the same time. And that links to the music because people ask “why do you sing two voices, one high one low, why is that?” and it’s the same sort of thing: we sing together because we’re friends and because it gives us perspective, I can look and hear him as he can look and hear me. We are the audience and the artists at the same time.

Yeah, it's a very common frustration for artists not to be able to see themselves live.

Josh: I think it’s out of curiousness. I think I want to see how good I am or how good I think I am. (silence) Look, I don’t care about a fucking interview; I just want to enjoy every conversation. So, does the “mysterious thing” seem to you like a strategy? 

Well, in the beginning, I thought that you were another band that was hiding its identity and had a very organized plan to slowly reveal it, like Wu Lyf at the time for example. You released a new single every 3 months, and then you signed to XL Recordings, before announcing the release of your album. To me, it was something that was rather planned, with your album ready for release.

Tom: (Laughing) In fact, the album wasn’t ready until the very end. The label told us “if you want this album to be released this summer, we have to send it to the factory, guys” and we were like “fuck, we got to finish this album for tomorrow”. It was in March 2014. 

(Tom shows signs of exhaustion) Well, you look tired, Tom? Is everything ok?

 Tom: Yeah, I’m in that status between sleep and consciousness. We’ve done 45 interviews in the last 4 days.

Josh: And they say we’re mysterious, come on! (laughing)

 

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In a previous interview, you said that Jungle was « all about the music ». But in your project, like in most musical projects nowadays, image has become nearly as important as the music. Do you agree with this assumption and how do you feel about it ? 

Josh: Yeah, image is where we start our music from. When we write our music, we almost place ourselves in these places. We think about the heat, the beach, waves rolling in, monkeys on motorcycles and the police going mad.

Tom: If you gave Romain Gavras 2 million pounds and a thousand people and say “fill that beach and make it look really cool”. This is how we see our music, a cinematic melting pot of just shit happening everywhere in a tropical environment.

Josh: Yeah, sometimes we even think some of our songs like a comedy sketch, where the instruments represent characters. I often do that when I write: I imagine a little movie in my head. For example, there is another song, which never made the record in which I was imagining monkeys leaving school on their bikes, like in The Simpsons opening credits and speaking like the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. This visualization thing happens to me even when I listen to other people's music.

Your latest single’s called « Busy Earning ». What’s your relationship to money ?

Tom: Our relationship is that we don’t have any! (laughing)

Josh: In Busy Earning, we’re trying to say that a lot of young people are obsessed by their career, by this pressure that everybody between the age of 18 to 30 has, to prove himself he's the most successful person ever.  Because of this materialism, you forget the good times, laughing, and life basically.

Ok, so Jungle is a socialist band.

Josh: (Laughing) We don’t think about politics, we think about fun.

You often say that fun is the fuel of the Jungle project. What are the tricks you use to keep the fun in?

Tom: Not taking everything too seriously. Making sure that we’re exciting ourselves with a new sound, a new opportunity or a new way of playing something live. You have to keep things changing a little bit.

It’s like in a couple…

Tom: (Laughing) Yeah, like that.

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