Mysterious British Duo Jungle Finally Steps Into the Light With Debut Album: 'It's About Being Free'

It may be the age of TMI, but British duo Jungle is more into mystery.

"We're using Jungle as a place to escape our own egos - a place to be creatively pure," says Josh Lloyd-Watson. "But for other people, it feels like you're withholding."

Even while selling out shows and watching their hip-shaking alt-funk pick up radio play during the past few months, Lloyd-Watson and his bandmate, Tom McFarland, initially clung to anonymity, often using only their first initials in public and releasing surrealist photos and videos that feature other people. The 20-somethings (they declined to give their exact ages), who grew up together in London and cite faceless acts Gorillaz and Basement Jaxx as inspiration, insist it's about letting the music speak for itself rather than building mystique. Lately though, the cloak-and-dagger routine also has proved to be amusing. In between bites of pizza before a sellout at Los Angeles' El Rey Theatre in June, Lloyd-Watson recalls when he decided to chat with a scalper outside a gig in New York.

"I asked him, 'What is Jungle?' " he says, laughing. " 'What do they sound like?' Finally after several minutes of questions, he asked, 'Well, do you want the tickets?' I had to say, 'Oh, I'm already on the list, man.' "

Jungle's self-titled debut, due July 15 on XL, has a similar playful spirit. Check out the video for "Platoon," which stars 7-year-old breakdancer Bgirl Terra doing head spins. Or the band's lively performance of "Busy Earnin' " - which has picked up traction on tastemaker stations including KCRW Los Angeles - during its U.S. TV debut, on Jimmy Kimmel Live! on June 16. Throughout the album, the pair (who sing, produce and play all the instruments on the record) deftly blends spacy disco and soul falsettos. When laptop tricks or traditional instruments didn't deliver the desired sounds, they resorted to alternative means - including a crushed Coke can and handfuls of change tossed onto the floor. The resulting aesthetic suggests a Motown record left in the sun, or the Bee Gees as modern-day hipsters. But the duo denies that its music is an attempt at genre revivalism.

"It's not about us trying to hearken back to a certain era of music - it's about being free," says Lloyd-Watson. "The nostalgia in our sound comes from us looking back at our childhood and going back to that time we were really free of cynicism and negative energy. When you were 10, you'd get into a cardboard box and it would take you to the moon. Now you get into a cardboard box and it's like, 'What the f--- am I doing in a cardboard box? I must look like an absolute idiot.' "

-Laura Studarus


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