Founded by childhood friends Tom McFarland and Josh Lloyd-Watson in 2013, Jungle has grown into a internationally lauded sensation. Charting in double digits around the world and hitting number 7 in their native UK, their self titled debut album was received with critical acclaim. McFarland says the massive success was all but anticipated, and it has kept them plenty busy as they’ve toured the world playing sold out shows and spots at major festivals including Bonnaroo, Glastonbury, and Splendour in the Grass.
Considering this enthusiastic reception, it’s clear as to why Jungle took over four years to drop an LP to follow their first, and the wait is well worth the reward; listening to Jungle’s newest release, one would expect an equal if not more fervent global reaction. However, McFarland holds no such standards. “From our perspective this album has so much importance to us as people. That’s our job done in a way,” he says. “We don’t expect it to be successful. I think Having expectations is dangerous in anything that you do. We’re just so happy that we’ve made a record that has helped us through some pretty tough times in our lives.”
With plenty of time to brew, the new album, ‘For Ever’, manifests personal growth begotten by travelling and the tolls paid along the way. “[Josh and I] both lost girlfriends while making this album. Being able to live our lives a little bit and really use the opportunity that was given to us by the success of the first album to explore the world and to explore our emotions and feelings and explore our love lives… that’s been so important to us. Emotionally we’ve both grown up so much over the last couple of years, over the course of making this record especially. We’ve learned a lot about ourselves and who we are and our place in the world.”
This emotional evolution is paralleled by the stylistic diversity of the album. While keeping consistent with their soul trademark, Jungle covers expansive territory in thirteen tracks. A disco groove propels ‘Beat 54 (All Good Now)’ just as Bee Gees would have it, and on ‘Cherry’, McFarland and Lloyd-Watson marry the sensuous intonations of Rhye and James Blake in familiar falsettos, amounting to a somber, downtempo ballad. Succeeding ‘Happy Man’, a satirical ode to the American dream, picks up speed in reflection of 2014’s ‘Time’, while the essence of J Dilla can be heard in ‘Cosurmyne’.
Still, no amount of comparison fully resolves the impetus behind ‘For Ever’. “The majority of the influence on this record is actually experiential and based on stuff thats happened to us over the last couple of years,” McFarland explains. “Obviously were very engaged in other people’s music.” He cites his record collection: “I’ve got Kamasi Washington, Paul Simon, Radiohead, Curtis Mayfield, Sun Ra, Jon Jopkins, Chemical Brothers…” but the fact remains that ‘For Ever’ is grounded in a myriad of memories, especially those of California.
“California has always held a romantic place in our imagination. As a British musician it’s kind of like the pinnacle. Being able to go to LA and play music and see all the palm trees and go to Venice beach…” McFarland muses. ‘Heavy, California’ is an impeccable sonic emulation of this vision, imparting the vibe of a drive down Sunset Boulevard. Similarly, the wide open soundscape of ‘House in LA’ will have you immersed in the Hollywood Hills. Listen closely for the sound of helicopters; “this chopper was just hanging overhead of this house, and you want to capture those feelings in those cinematic spaces in the music that you make. There were a lot of moments like that,” says McFarland in regards to the happy accidents occurring throughout the album. “The drums at the beginning of ‘Smile’, that’s actually an iPhone recording. Josh was drumming in the studio before we had a chance to mic the kit up and just started playing this thing. We just recorded the floor tom and the high hat using an iPhone.”
McFarland explains that for Jungle, ingenuity reaches beyond the music. “Jungle is quite a simple concept. If you have an honest emotion or if you have a great talent, then showcase that. If you want to get something done, do it yourself. Our creativity isn’t limited to the music that we make or just being on stage. It comes down to the choreography, the dancing, the video: the whole package. Jungle isn’t just what [Josh and I] create.” Incorporated as of 2016, JFC Worldwide Limited produces the music videos and handles branding for Jungle. “Our friend Joe who helps us design all of the artwork or our friend Ollie who is an amazing photographer… they all just have such strong visions themselves. Charlie, the guy who’s one of the main creative directors at JFC worldwide, helps us produce all our videos. He used to be a regular a pub that we worked at, and then we started a football club. JFC was originally Jungle Football Club.”
“We’re all striving to achieve the same thing which is a really beautiful place to be at with your mates. It’s great to see all of our friends having a great time making their own art as well as helping us making ours.”
Fresh music fully realized by stellar cinematography and emotive choreography with sound execution on all fronts mark ‘For Ever’ as a paradigm of creative collaboration and a victory for all involved, fans included; Jungle is taking off on an international headline tour in the wake of their album release, and McFarland says that a visit down under is in the works. “There’s definitely plans to come out in 2019, we just haven’t heard anything from Splendour. If they want to have us back, we’d love to go. It’s such an amazing festival.”
Buy/Stream: XL Recordings