Few bands are able to make just about anyone get off their seat and dance as quick as Jungle. The English modern soul musical collective, based in London, are guaranteed party favourites and make us feel a bit groovier, no matter where we are listening to them. This ability to turn a long bus ride into a dance party in your head is unique, and we spoke with Jungle’s Tom McFarland to find out how they became so iconic.
BYO: So let’s talk about why we’re here: Bad Friday 2019. Are you excited to play?
Tom: Yeah definitely! We’ve played a festival in Sydney before; the energy is really great. Obviously being outdoors in Australia at any time of year is great; hopefully we’ll be blessed with some pretty good sunshine. The Australian fans really get what we do and really have a passion for the music we create. There is a history for it in the country with bands like the BeeGees and stuff like that, so it’s nice to be a part of that culture.
BYO: How do you plan for a set; what gets a song across the line and onto the list?
Tom: I think they have to be upbeat while giving fans what they want. You want to try and please them and also switch them into a different mode – it also depends whether you’re playing in the day or the night. When you’re playing at night, you try to make it a bit deeper and darker and you keep it more upbeat on a sunny day. It depends, we usually just see what happens when we get there. We’re pretty confident in the tracks that we have and we know the tracks that will get people moving.
BYO: What are your pre-show rituals? Anything you do to bring luck or prepare for the energy you’re going to bring to the stage?
Tom: Yeah well it’s a good when you’re going on stage as a group, as a team, so you try and focus your energy around the people around you, who you’re about to step on stage with. We’re usually hanging out, relaxing, trying not to take everything too seriously. Usually do a vocal warm up about half an hour before the show and then just listen to some good music. We have a little playlist, some hip hop, just stuff to get us loose and get the blood pumping a little bit.
BYO: You guys are used to touring all over the world; where is your favourite country or venue that you always look forward to playing?
Tom: I think whenever we go to Latin America it’s always a pretty wild ride. Music is such a massive part of South American culture, so you know whenever we go to Mexico or Argentina or Chile — we’re actually heading to South American after Australia — they’re always pretty wild.
BYO: Tell us the Jungle formation story; how did you get to be where you are today?
Tom: Well a lot of hard work, whatever it takes. But no, me and Josh have known each other since we were 10 years old. I was just in various bands, then I went off to university and studied, and came back from that and got into a band with a couple of other friends, which didn’t quite work out actually. And then one day, Josh and I decided to get back into the studio together and start making some music, and that’s how Jungle started. About six months after that we put the first album out and started playing shows, and then it all snowballed pretty quickly after that.
BYO: Who would you name as your main musical influences? Both personally and for Jungle?
Tom: It’s really hard to pinpoint it; we’re fans of all different types of music really. I grew up listening to Pearl Jam and Pink Floyd, and Led Zeppelin and The Who, and then I kind of got hooked on Marvin Gaye and the Beach Boys and then the Beatles. Hip-hop has always had a massive role in Jungle’s development. They’ve all played a massive part in how we produce and develop our music.
BYO: What is something that you’ve got on repeat right now that you’re super into?
Tom: At the moment there is this really great American singer called Kadhja Bonet, she’s got an album out called Childqueen, which is really great. There’s a track on that called Mother Maybe that I’ve had on repeat.
BYO: What’s one of the most memorable live music experiences you’ve had, either playing or watching from the crowd?
Tom: Well we’ve just played a show down at Alexandra Palace to about 10,000 people. That will definitely be one to remember; I had never expected my career to be able to give me opportunities like that; to play to that many people in our hometown. That was pretty special. I don’t think I’ll forget that one.
BYO: What was your first paid gig as a professional musician and what did you spend your first paid gig pay check on?
Tom: I probably first got paid to play covers with one of the teachers of my school who had a jazz band. So I played some covers with them and got maybe £200, and I most definitely spent it on beer, cigarettes, and potentially sandwiches at school.
BYO: What is a major goal that Jungle wants to achieve by the end of 2019?
Tom: By the end of 2019, hmm. We’ll be finished touring by then. Hopefully we’ll have some new music recorded! We’re in a bit of a break right now from making new music, so hopefully if everything goes to plan there should be some new music coming soon.