You like R&B? You like electro, soul, and/or funk? Then you'll find Jungle's amalgam rousing. What began in 2013 as the London-based duo of Josh Lloyd-Watson and Tom McFarland has sprouted to a seven-piece band that lays down well-trimmed mid-tempo grooves. Much dance and sweat begets the bodies of a room when they play. It's Marvin Gaye spliced into the Toro y Moi/tropicality sector, then routed with horns through an oxygen-rich Leslie cabinet and a wah-wah pedal. Their electronic beats and acoustic drums are a well-mixed, well-meshed technoid blend. "Platoon" rides anesthetized on tamped 16th-note beams. In the video, a 6-year-old b-girl named Terra absolutely feels it in a lilac sweatsuit. (Note her head spins; she's boss.) Jungle's self-titled 12-song debut came out this past July on XL Recordings and was shortlisted for the 2014 Mercury Prize. Tom McFarland spoke from New Orleans. I imagined him in a lilac sweatsuit.
What's happening in New Orleans for Jungle? Quality time is happening. We're trying to have a Louisiana experience. I had shrimp and grits for breakfast.
Do they have grits in London? Give me the Jungle review of grits. No. Grits are a rare thing. Grits are strange, but worth it [laughs]. I like grits. I can see why there's a love/hate thing about them. Gems in life are often love/hate items. Sometimes to know the truth, you have to be willing to not only live on the edge, but dive into the mystery of what lies on the other side. And grits are on the other side. I'd liken grits to porridge. Although we're used to having sweet porridge, so for it to be salty and have cheese was a different angle.
Is Jungle looking to find some voodoo? I'm gonna get some gumbo. And get my soul exercised. I'd like to see what the witch doctor says about me.
Don't confuse Louisiana voodoo with Haitian vodou or Southern hoodoo. Look for the snake deity, Li Grand Zombi. Shit's for real. Making a note of that right now. We only want to make peace with deities.
If the witch doctor looked inside of you, what would they say? They'd say, "He's easygoing. But occasionally lazy." [Laughs]
If you read your own future, how would it read? It would read, "As much music as possible." Whether that's with Jungle or another project, or working as a producer with other artists, or writing—that's it for me and J [Josh Lloyd-Watson]. Music is our lives. It brings people together in the best way possible. Much more music in the future.
What artists have you learned the most from? Air and Moby. With the way they blend electronic music with emotions and human sounds. Or the French electro scene, that totally inspired us. The music Justice makes is powerful, and something we connected with. Then classic records—like Marvin Gaye's What's Going On and Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys—that are melodically and harmonically in another world, and super inspiring. Where they take traditional concepts of vocal harmony is incredible. At the moment, we're listening to lots of J Dilla. The way he cuts samples up is so unique. I'm listening and studying the production techniques he pioneered.
You're playing "Crumbler" on this tour. You didn't play that when you were in Seattle before. Tell me about recording that one. We really wanted to collaborate with someone on that one. We were looking for a rapper to work with, because we fucking love hiphop. I think a lot of our rhythm and a lot of our groove is hiphop-based. For whatever reason, a collaboration didn't work out. We were in the mixing session like, "Shit, what are we going to do?" So we backed it out, recorded some more, and made it sound cool. It was a bit thrown together at the end, but a lot of times when you don't think about things too much, and your backs are up against a wall, that's when you're at your creative peak.
Do you ever get bored playing a song over and over on tour? Is it hard for Jungle to stay stimulated on a song night after night? I don't think it is, no. Not now. The audiences we're experiencing are giving us good reactions, and that makes it stimulating. And that's exciting and unpredictable every show. That's the nature of being in a live band. That's why we did it this way. I think we could have done it with two laptops like Disclosure, but that would have been a pretty mundane way of doing it. We wanted to challenge ourselves to do something new and different, and that's the beautiful thing about it—every show is that this way, they can be different.
I heard you all stopped a fight in the crowd a few nights ago. Yes. At Solana Beach. It was our first crowd fight ever, I think. It was weird because we were playing "Drops," which is, like, a love song [laughs]. We started the song, then our guitarist turned around and said, "We have to stop this, there's a fucking fight." So we stopped. That's the first time we've ever stopped mid-song. The fighters were escorted out, and we carried on.
If you fight at a Jungle show, Jungle will stop your fight. Or referee your fight. Yeah. No fighting. I don't think I would be a good fight judge. We will allow pillow fights. If you want to bring your pillows and have pillow fights, that's okay. Is it legal for people to bring pillows to the club?
I bring pillows to concerts all the time. If we were in London, where would you take me? Take me on a Jungle tour. The neighborhood I'm from, Shepherds Bush, has a big market. We'd hit that. There's a store there that sells bootleg reggae records. Then we'd go eat falafel there in the market—that's right next to the rehearsal studio. Then we'd go to the Defector's Weld for a few pints of beer. It's right next to a big venue, so you get a lot of artists and musicians. They probably wouldn't mind if you brought your pillow [laughs].
What rappers would you like to work with? Snoop Dogg. He's king. I love what Chance the Rapper is doing. I think this new creed of American rapper is a little more honest and a little more lyrical. It goes back to the old-school. I love Earl Sweatshirt. We got to meet him a couple times over the summer and hang out. We smoked some weed and had a good time. It's weird to watch hiphop live. A lot of times, it's just a rapper and a DJ with a laptop. It's impressive when it's minimal like that. It highlights their skill.
What are your observations of the US so far? What are your favorite places? We like Austin. We'd been there before, and this year at South by Southwest, we felt like we were able to really connect with the people there. We also very much like Seattle. We had a great show there at Neumos with Beat Connection. I love that venue. It feels English in Seattle [laughs]. With green trees and the cool climate. We're excited to get back out there again. The people there are so great, and we hope to see our mates from Beat Connection again. New York is a matrix; LA is sunburned and nice—it's exactly how you'd imagine it, but it's too big.