Jungle: Jungle is a place where we escape our egos

Since they began releasing music, Jungle have preferred to remain somewhat steeped in mystery. Initially counting themselves as a duo going only by their first initials -- J and T -- they recently revealed that the group is actually comprised of seven members, and they aren't the people you've seen in their music videos. Their instantly classic blend of pop and disco sounds are unavoidably catchy, and the mysterious aura surrounding them has done nothing to detract from the quality of their music.

On the heels of their viral internet success, Jungle will release their debut self-titled album this July on XL Recordings. Gimme Noise had the chance to spend some time on Skype with J as the band prepares for their first American tour, making a stop this Friday in Minneapolis at the Fine Line. J was eager to tell us about his efforts to leave the ego behind and utilize Jungle as a place to experience true freedom.

Gimme Noise: So you are one of the founding members of Jungle.

You make it sound like some cult.

Is it a cult?

I wish.

If you were a cult, what would your mission statement be?

To have fun and enjoy life. Just to be normal and not be taken too seriously.

So it's you -- J, and T is the other original member.

Well, I'm Josh, and Tom is T. It's funny, you know, it's really weird speaking to people around the world when they come back to you and go, "Oh my god, you're so mysterious; I can't find anything about you; I'm panicking a little bit; I don't know what to do." That kind of surprises us in a way because we haven't had much control over what was written about us and what people say or publish. That's not what we do. We're just producers who make music, and we make videos, and we play music live.

I think it started out with us putting those videos out last year. As most producers do, we're not in our own videos, 'cause that's lame -- it's just not about that, it's too much like taking selfies. Why would you take a selfie? It just feels weird. When other people take photos of us, like kids, that's fine -- that's other people's thing. But I think we always had a big issue with self-publicizing, and trying to take credit for so much.

We're not really seeking fame; we're not really seeking attention in that way. We get great satisfaction out of the fact that people like the music and enjoy watching it live. If we wanted it to be all about us, we would have been models. It's about the music, ultimately. A lot of artists and musicians say that and it is quite a cliché thing to say in music these days, especially with the internet, but it kind of is, and you've just got to believe in that. Jungle is a place where we escape our own egos. It's a place where we can be free from that sort of desperation to be liked, or desperation to be someone that somebody else loves. We already have that within our own group of people. We already have that within me and T, for example. That's where we start; that's why the music happened -- because there is no ego, and that's why it feels so liberating. It's an experience for us as well as everybody else. I suppose that's where we escape to.

That's who we are in the real world -- where your bills are, where your fucking taxes are. I suppose we want to leave that behind when we enter. Leaving that person behind helps you create something that isn't driven by your ego, it's just driven by your creativity and your emotion. That only comes from playing music for ten or 15 years, the kind of music that never felt right, and now we finally dropped the ego a little bit and are crafting music that feels honest and truthful to true expression.

School tends to make you into something that you're not -- it tends to pressure you into being a person that you think you should be. You watch the television, you go on the internet and you see all these images of somebody else. I spent my whole life so far trying to pretend to be someone I'm not. I think everyone does. There's a magazine: why aren't I as hot as them? Why can't I be as cool as that person? Then you come to a place where you can actually sit back and say, 'Well, I am what I am," and that's where you can start to understand life and who you are. I think that's where we're at, really. That's the whole fucking story.

You said that you've come to find who you really are. Who is that?

That's just a process. We're all the same, you know. It's just a process of being happy from within and not actually seeking anything from other people. In relation to music or art, having to seek other people's appraisals to kind of get adrenaline, or to kind of get some sort of dopamine rush. It's not about that, it's about having that there already, because if you're constantly seeking it from elsewhere, it's going to run out.

You play a song to your girlfriend and she says, "Yeah, it's all right, I really like it." You go, "Yeah, okay, cool, I feel great." Ten minutes later, that's gone. It's like a drug. If you've already got the drug and you're already happy with yourself and happy with it, then you're never going to run out of it. I know that sounds kind of crazy.

I'm not saying that we're operating in that way the whole time. It's a constant learning process. I actually quite like where we are now and what's happened to us and that the press and the media have also been a massive part of that. If it all ends tomorrow, we'll look at it and go, "That was fun." It's not a big deal, and I actually kind of love the way that people make it a big deal. It's fun.

How is the idea of the anti-ego translated into your music?

For example: you're sitting there writing music, or trying to paint a picture. Your brain is always split into two halves. You've got your conscious and your subconscious. I used to think that your subconscious is where all your creativity comes from. That's actually wrong. Your subconscious is like a darker side of you; it's like your doubt. Your conscious is where being in the moment and creating something happens. The reason that people jump out of planes is because in that moment you're truly conscious. You're not thinking about it. You're not trying to second guess anything.

When you relate that back to creativity or writing music or doing anything in that sort of vein, you have a subconscious which kind of like your ego is that scared part of you that says, "You can't do that." Imagine yourself in a bar and there's this hot guy or this hot girl, and you want to chat with them. Of course you can chat with them! Your conscious mind is already over there chatting with them. Your subconscious mind is the one going, "What if he doesn't like me," or, "What if he says no?" Who gives a shit about that? That is part of the creative process as well. I have sat there for days going, "It shouldn't be done like this," or, "I need to do it this way."

All the songs on the album have had the moment where we didn't think about it -- it just happened. That's pure consciousness. It's the act of doing rather than thinking.

How do you react when people try to liken new music to genres or things that already exist?

That's only insecurity though, isn't it? It's not knowing what something is and having to pigeonhole it into something that's classifiable. When people ask what music I like, I just say, music. I like music that's good. That's the only music that resonates with me. I think we could both sit down at a record player and I could put on a great reggae record, for example, and we'd probably both say, regardless of if we liked reggae, "That's a good record; that sounds great." If I put a shit reggae record on we'd probably both go, "Yeah, that's shit." The reason it would be shit is probably because it lacks in something quite basic, which would be melody, rhythm and emotion. Those are the three kind of things that really make music great.

I always talk about Julian Casablancas, because there is a song off that third Strokes album called "You Only Live Once," but there's also a demo of that song called "I'll Try Anything Once." It's like, the worst recording in the world. It's like, just him sitting down with a Wurlitzer and singing it into an i-Phone mic. It's the same song. It's almost better than the fucking fully recorded version of that song, because it's got this raw emotion to it. He means it. I think that's almost the most important thing in music, whether it's instrumental or whatever. If you can capture emotion or capture feeling, then that's what will translate and connect with other people.

How would you describe your own sound? How would you like to be represented?

I don't really know. I don't think I can say that. It's not my call. That's for everybody else to decide. While they're doing that, we'll carry on to write and create more music. If I was to sit here and tell you what I thought it was, that would only be my opinion. I think it's a bit of everything. I think it's just music, and I think it's music that we make. It's more of a mash of loads of things that we grew up subconsciously taking in. It's really difficult to say and I almost wouldn't want to say what I thought it was because that would be quite egotistical.

So you're open to interpretation.

If we get misrepresented, I'm not going to cut in, because that would be my ego getting involved and trying to defend something that I don't need to defend, because I know what we are and I know what it is. Other people might not have a clue what it is and might just hear one track, and that's for them to go, "Yeah, I love this track." Or you might get a journalist who completely hates this, hates the mystery and hates what we're doing. That's for them to write about. I don't care. What's the point of me getting worried or upset? There is no ego so there's nothing for anybody to hurt. I suppose in a way you could say that is a method to avoid getting hurt by the music industry, or getting hurt by the world, but it makes us happy and that's where we live and that's where we have fun. There's seven of us on the road. We just came back from Paris. We're having the best time ever, and that's the most important thing.

What are you working on right now?

We play live a lot. We're getting ready to come out to America. We've got loads of sold-out shows in America, so we're looking forward to playing properly and meeting people out there. I think we're also kind of working on our second record and just slowly digesting this one. This one is coming out in July.

We've always got ideas. They're never set to one specific thing -- it's just what feels right or what happens naturally. You can't pre-prescribe what sort of output you're going to create; you've just got to let it happen naturally. We're talking about the second record before the first one is even out.

What about this American tour are you looking forward to most?

The audience is as much a part of what we do as we are. It's a very fun experience live. We're glad that we can go on the road and meet people and talk to people.

What can we expect from your show?

It's very energetic. We work very hard on transferring the kind of sound back from a very electronic sample to a live feel. It's very developed live and it's quite improvised. It's fun! It's a good time. People will dance and have fun.

Jungle performs this Friday, June 13 at the Fine Line with Beaty Heart. $15 general admission, $25 reserved seating. 7:30 doors, 18+

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