When modern soul collective Jungle quietly emerged in 2013, people didn’t know what to make of them. Led by two Brits who carried the anonymous monikers J and T, the group developed a mainstream following more for their quirky music videos, and less for their glossy spin on 1970’s funk. The band’s self-titled debut, while received warmly by critics, went relatively unnoticed at first in mainstream circles compared to their viral videos.
But as the fog surrounding childhood friends Josh Lloyd Watson (J) and Tom McFarland (T) began to dissipate, the duo and their seven-piece band developed a fierce reputation for their live performances. Sold out shows, a gold record, and a Mercury Prize nomination were all quick to follow. “We were shocked by the success of the record,” Watson tells Billboard. “We only really thought we would get to our local club, and that would have been enough for us, but it took us by storm.”
After a heavy amount of touring, the group went silent to plot their next move, and abruptly returned four years later in May 2018 with two new singles, “Happy Man” and “House In LA,” the latter of which was darker, and more cinematic than anything the duo had dreamt up before.
Now, they’re working on their next full-length album, which doesn’t have a release date or title yet. “There were periods where we felt a little bit trapped by the success of the first record,” Watson says. “There were a lot of aspects of the first record that was one term, which gave it a style, but with this record, we’ve branched out. I think we were quite keen to change a little bit, and show different sides to the band that we hadn’t done on the first album.” The track sports clamoring sirens, fluctuating wurrs of helicopter rotors and expansive strings, and was born out of heartbreak and grief, becoming an anthem for a band grappling with the newfound pressures of fame. “I feel alive in the sunlight, all of my fears are only real life,” the chorus goes. Watson says it was the hardest song he’s ever written.
“It’s definitely a healing process on this record,” Watson adds, explaining that a close friend passed away while the band was recording their sophomore project. “The album is more vast in terms of where it goes from song to song and emotion to emotion. The first record was very much conceptual in its emotion. It wasn’t necessarily based on real-world experiences.”
When asked about his experiences with love in the past four years, Watson pauses, choosing his words. “It’s an interesting concept of how falling in love and falling out of love can essentially be the same nervous feeling,” he says.
Jungle’s search for meaning is sprinkled throughout the new record, and Watson acknowledged that the recording process wasn’t easy. “You have to give something new as well as give it your personality that makes it inherently you,” he says, “So that’s kind of difficult because you have to question what you are and what it is you do.”
Details surrounding the new record remain sparse, and the question still remains of what Jungle really is. “I think some people will hear ‘House In LA’ and take that on one level of, ‘Oh, okay. An English band goes to LA.’ But I think with Jungle, there’s always that questioning and that paranoia that things aren’t exactly what they seem, and that’s part of our story.”
Jungle is set to perform a sold-out show at Brooklyn Steel on June 18.