Jungle: ‘Our new album is a real escape for us – and it can be the same for everyone else’

With their brand-new fourth studio album, Volcano, out now, we speak to London duo Jungle about the creation of their latest record, collaborating with the likes of Roots Manuva and plans to celebrate a decade since the release of their huge Mercury Prize-shortlisted debut.

Interview

Jungle’s new album comes with an immersive, full-length visual accompaniment. Known for their beautifully choreographed music videos, for the London duo’s fourth record Volcano they’ve scaled it up a notch, creating a video for each of the 14 tracks, all connected by one interweaving story.

It’s meta stuff. Following the cast and crew of a mysterious television studio where Jungle music videos get made, it examines the intertwining lives of those involved in the production both on-and-off- air. “We see it like Netflix episodes in some way,” one-half of the London duo, Josh Lloyd-Watson, aka J Lloyd, tells whynow over video call from Mexico, where Jungle have just played a show. Sat outside in the sunshine, and talking through the conceptual project, he muses: “We explore the idea of what the dancers go through, on and off camera.”

Name-checking several recent Jungle videos, he explains: “So ‘Candle Flame’ is on air, and then ‘Dominoes’ is off air; and you see in a Birdman-inspired fashion what it’s like to have this continuity; they cut, and then they break, and [the dancers] have different relationships off-stage.”

Jungle

Photo: Arthur Williams

“That’s all interpreted through dance, which sounds very fancy,” he grins, before finishing with a laugh, pausing for dramatic effect between words: “My life… interpreted through dance!”

While the high-concept videos are no doubt impressive, it’s their musical accompaniment that really shines. ‘Volcano’ is joyful and high-energy, Jungle’s signature slinky sound imbued with heavier sonics, and bolstered by stellar collaborators. Ready-made for sun-drenched festival sets, it’s an album that sees the outfit at their most cohesive, confident and carefree.

J Lloyd and his musical collaborator Tom McFarland first met as childhood friends living near each other in Shepherd’s Bush, West London, and started putting out music under the Jungle moniker in 2013. Initially shrouded in mystery (at first, they went only by their initials J and T), their self-titled debut album arrived the following year and was a runaway smash, shortlisted for the 2014 Mercury Prize and certifying Gold in the UK.

In the years that have followed the early mystique has been washed away, as Jungle’s magnetic blend of funk, disco, soul and beyond has propelled them forward. As J Lloyd and Tom have taken steps out of the shadows, further albums have followed: 2018’s For Ever, and 2021’s Loving in Stereo). Winning over fans with their earworm tunes, they’ve become favourites on the festival circuit, as well as selling-out shows at massive venues like London’s Alexandra Palace.

Their latest record Volcano arrives a decade into their Jungle career, and sees the duo at their most confident. “There’s a certain freeness that comes with what we’re doing now and how we do it,” Tom reflects, on how their creative process has developed over the course of the past ten years. “We’re enjoying it more, not taking it or ourselves too seriously… if we were still worrying about what other people thought about us, I think you’re playing a losing game there slightly.”

Volcano was a project that came together relatively swiftly, with the intent to craft it “like how they make records in the old days”. “We’re always trying to make records a bit quicker,” asserts J Lloyd. “Probably from our second record, which took quite a long time; we spent four years trying to make the second record, so we’re never going to spend that long on it again because it becomes quite tiresome after a while.”

Obsessed with going into distinct studios that aren’t readily used, for Volcano the duo decamped to Valentine Recording Studios in L.A., an historic recording space that’d previously hosted the likes of The Beach Boys. After closing in 1979, Valentine was re-opened in 2015, with the equipment largely in the same condition it’d been left in. Setting deadlines to ensure everything remained concise and cohesive, they then headed to Metropolis Studios in West London to finish the record. The combination of the two allowed them to have both a space to be inspired (in Valentine, a place that “feels like you’re not in the real world”), and somewhere to be productive and, ultimately, get the job done.

Cohesive and with a sense of urgency, sonically the project both builds on its predecessors and pushes Jungle into new musical territories. “You’re weirdly making movements based on what you’re last judged on, or how you think that last record was,” weighs J Lloyd. After spending four years creating their second record For Ever, its successor Loving in Stereo was its “antithesis” and, in turn, Loving in Stereo informed the creation of Volcano.

Jungle interview

“With the energy, I liked stuff in tracks like [Loving In Stereo song] ‘Fire’, which is a little bit more sporadic, going in different places and being a little bit breaky,” says J Lloyd, adding gamely: “In my head I want to be The Prodigy. I’m slowly trying to take it there without losing everybody on the way. When you’re transitioning into a different sort of realm, you’ve got to do it really slowly over about four or five albums, and then you get there and everybody goes: ‘ugh, we preferred the debut!’”

This upbeat energy threads its way through the entirety of Volcano, from the fizzing, future festival anthem ‘Us Against The World’, to euphoric ‘90s house sizzler ‘Candle Flame’ and nu-disco belter ‘Don’t Play’. Tom explains this new spark could have come from increased Jungle DJ shows.

“We’ve been DJing quite a lot in-between live tours and recording periods and I think our re-exposure to club culture has certainly been more significant,” he reflects. “We’re just at a place now where we want the record to sound really energetic, to carry a lot of presence. It’s good because you finally get to a stage where you’re as good as what you think you are in your head technically, so you can really realise the ideas you have in your head to their full potential on a record.”

Another change came in the form of extra guest appearances. “More collaborations was something we wanted from an early stage, and we’ve always wanted in our careers really, but just getting the confidence to approach people and try and work with people that are inspirations to you [took time]”, says Tom. Having dipped their toe in the collaborative pool on Loving In Stereo, working with Priya Ragu and Bas, for ‘Volcano’ they tried to “get in the room with as many people as possible because you never know what’s gonna happen.”

One such collaborator was legendary British rapper and producer Roots Manuva, a bucket list team-up for the duo. “He came to this studio hut that I built in my mum’s garden, and turned up with an umbrella and a bike pump…,” J Lloyd reminisces. “He’s got such an incredible tone and presence that make everything he says sounds legit.”

“It was a real privilege,” adds Tom. “Artists like that have a real aura about them, and so it was difficult to shake that [idea that] you’re in the presence of someone who’s a massive inspiration to you.”

With the album out now, Jungle are gearing up for the next stage of the summer, including a colossal hometown show headlining London’s All Points East festival at the end of August, followed by dates across Europe and the US that take them to the end of the year. They’re “working hard to realise another crazy Jungle live show vision,” with Tom revealing they’ve been “going back through the videos of old stuff”, revisiting performances by electronic titans like Daft Punk and Justice for inspiration. “Whether we’re playing to 30,000 people in London or 2.000 people in Nîmes in France, those shows have to have the same care and love and attention,” Tom says.

Beyond these shows, 2024 will mark ten years of Jungle’s self-titled debut record. Any plans to celebrate? “I hope so. Maybe just pop open a bottle of champagne and have a drink. Potentially something more significant,” Tom says, keeping things vague for now. “It’d be nice to recognise the support that our fans have given us because ultimately, if they hadn’t got on board with that first record all those years ago, we probably wouldn’t be in the situation we are now.”

George Day

Photo: George Day

For now, though, it’s time to focus on the release of Volcano, a record Tom explains he wants to be able to “transport [listeners] away from whatever’s going on in their life at the moment, whether that’s good or bad; just take them away, mentally, spiritually, to somewhere which feels a little bit more free.”

“That’s how we feel when we’re making it, and that’s how we feel we’re playing it live. It’s a real escape for us and it can be the same for everyone else.”


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