Music is so much more than an audio experience. Heard live, and it carries a different physical energy; played in the background of a significant event, and that song will hold those memories forever; and seen in film, and it takes on a completely new life.
This very ethos is where English electronic duo Jungle, founded by producers Josh Lloyd Watson and Tom McFarland (more commonly known as J and T), thrives and revolves in. Recently, bridging a two-year gap since their last well-received record, the two have just released a 13-track album, each with their own accompanying cinematic music video.
Called “Loving In Stereo”, this serves as the duo’s third studio album encapsulating impressively in aural form, the growth they’ve had since that first record harking all the way back in 2013. In our conversation, Watson, half of the British electronic music project-turned cult favorite, tells Rank Magazine how their latest opus is, in many ways, a re-realization.
“From the first album in 2014, we did that in a bedroom in my mum’s house. There was no expectation, no fans, just nothing. Just kind of messing around and having fun. The second record is kind of an in-between period. There was more pressure because you’re questioning what it is that made that work, so you kind of repeat it and try not to lose something. At the same time, you’re trying to take it forward,” he explained.
Photo credit: Anna Victor Best
The acclaimed producer furthered, “But for us, we got to this third record it’s kind of like a realization. There’s nothing holding us back anymore. The tempos, the confidence, and the directness of the sounds, they are a lot more precise.”
Watson also revealed that a lot of this album has already been finished prior to the unprecedented halt brought by the pandemic, although it still definitely impacted its creation. For one, it stopped them from releasing it earlier. “We knew it was meant to be played live and experienced with lots of people. But the pandemic slowed it down,” he opened up.
However, he also believes that this era-defining pause gave the record more depth and perspective, especially in a time when the world needed healing and recovery. In a way that it allowed them to sit with the original lineup of songs for a while, and let it mature through some time: “We had some time away from it, and came back to it towards the end of 2020. We basically changed a few tracks, added different songs, and what we wanted for it changed over that period.”
That short space away from the tracks ultimately gave the pair more room to wrap it all up, leading to the way it’s presented right now. As Watson put it, it offered them a different and fresher perspective on how it would fit in today’s current music scene, and how it would resonate with their audience more, in light of everything happening around the world.
Photo credit: Anna Victoria Best
In a separate interview, McFarland described the road leading to this release, “As artists, our music reflect our feelings at the time, our instincts. This record was born from a place of confidence and a desire to make a record that is energetic and uplifting because that was sort of what we are feeling in our lives at the moment.”
He continued, “This record I think is us finally going back to understanding that Jungle isn’t about Josh and Tom, Jungle is Jungle. We are just people steering the ship, we are not the ship itself. The ship is a much bigger beast than any one individual. And I think that sort of understanding that it doesn’t have to be our voice necessarily carrying the whole thing. For instance, there are a lot of other vocalists singing on it and performing the songs and it felt natural. It doesn’t have to be me or josh singing and telling our stories it’s about more than that. And I think this reflect the sense of scope that we are trying to reach now and I guess, ultimately this feels like the record that we wanted to make from day one.”
To accomplish this, inspiration was inevitably crucial. That, even if they were indoors majority of the time amidst wrapping things up in production, and perhaps exposed to limited sources of inspiration, they still managed to work like a well-oiled machine to put out the fan-awaited record. Watson recalled the “Sandbox Theory.”
“You have to create an environment where you’re playing, experimenting. It’s kind of like being a child. You have to create sounds and new sounds, it’s not really about the end product in the beginning. It shouldn’t be ‘okay we need to mass produce hits,’ because ultimately, those songs are never going to be good unless you’re inspired by it and it makes you feel something. So we have to basically find new sounds, play around with what you can do with different synths and guitar sounds. From there, it can inspire a chord progression that can inspire a song, or something like that,” he noted.
Photo credit: Filmawi
All of this eventually led to “Loving In Stereo”, the way we know it right now. And Watson emphasized that they truly wanted this record to be all about inspiration, hope, and working through the hardest times in your life. He shared that the collective has always tried to write music that was almost like their subconsciousness speaking to them, and motivating them to do big things. If anything, they hope listeners can also hear those messages through each song.
Diving into these tracks, Watson zoomed in on the opener for this album “Dry Your Tears”, a somewhat orchestra-like and heavy tune that’s quite unique to start an album with. It then crosses over to the first official single off the record, “Keep Moving”, which he describes as the most archetypal Jungle track you would expect from the release.
“I like that juxtaposition between taking them somewhere where they don’t know what’s going on or anticipating something, and then to deliver it something that really makes you feel good and it’s really uplifting. It’s tension and release, ultimately. And it’s probably the most recognizable jungle track in the record. It opens the doors and shows you the level of energy that the other tracks have, and I think that’s quite important to lead the audience to this new sound,” he explained.
The “Keep Moving” music video is also the first to be released for this project in March of this year, introducing a West Side Story-inspired visual narrative fueled by the track. In fact, each song in the album has its own corresponding visual narrative, tied together with the same characters that star across the whole music video series. Jungle, having directed these videos, put in the work to present it like an actual series, which they went away for and created in one week.
“We wanted to create a series of videos, that were some way like a Netflix series. Where you have these characters, amazing dancers, and you put them in different scenarios and express themselves through dance through the music. I think, in that way, the audience will have an emotional connection with the characters as the music goes on,” he shared.
“It’s kind of like a short film. It focuses on different people within that set of characters, but ‘Keep Moving‘ is kind of like the introduction to the whole cast.”
As of this writing, eight videos have already been released, representing 11 of the 14 tracks off the record—each one adding something new to Jungle’s very own music video cinematic universe.
Now that the album is already being consumed by many who have long been waiting for the follow-up to their last release some two years back, more music enriching the pair’s unparalleled musical library, is definitely in the horizon. That is, when the timing is right.
Photo credit: Anna Victoria Best
“Music, you can’t force it. You have to feel something with it, you have to have a reason to make an album,” he mused. With this passion, of course, and brought by the immense collaborative energies enjoyed with the making of “Loving In Stereo, working hand in hand with more artists are of course, a step into the right direction, with the likes of Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker, and producer Knxwledge. Watson furthered that he would have also wanted to collaborate with the late MF Doom.
As of this writing, Jungle started hitting the road to finally perform the “Loving In Stereo” record live on tour, coinciding with the release of the music videos that make up the whole record’s musical and visual experience. While we’re waiting for the next leg of their story, however, it’s nothing short of a blessing that we can already fully enjoy the tracks on the album whenever we want to, and watch those episodes back on repeat whenever we wish to escape.
Interview and additional text by Leo Balante
Photo credits: Anna Victoria Best and Filmawi
“Loving In Stereo”, Jungle’s third full album, is now out on all streaming platforms.