Brad Meltzer is known for his political thrillers, but he also writes kids books about real-life people like Rosa Parks and Amelia Earhart.
McFarland on the aesthetics of their music videos
“I think once we set kind of the tone with the first video, we kind of felt that we should continue that. It made us feel good and it worked visually for us. I think its about simplicity in those videos and the connection between the audience and the performers. It’s about that eye contact. You see a lot music videos these days which are so over-cut and so over-lit. And it’s just, like, almost scared that we’re gonna lose the attention of the audience if its not going a million miles an hour. I think we just wanted to pare it back and present the simplest idea and see if that caught.”
McFarland on incorporating nontraditional instruments into their sound
“We were working in the studio and I went out to make a coffee. The studio, by the way, is just J’s bedroom. It’s nothing particularly glamorous. I just walked out of the door and the door creaked while J was working on the bass line. And he was like, ‘Stop, stop, stop!’ and I was like, ‘I’m not making you another coffee, dude.’ And he was like, ‘No, no, no. That door sounded incredible.’ And I walked back in the room and he’d already got a mic next to the door. So, I just stood there for 10 minutes opening and closing this really creaky door as we recorded it over the track.”
McFarland on their recent success
“You never expect to be in a position where you can do this. A year ago we were sitting in J’s bedroom making beats and now we’re in a studio in Boston. It will always surprise us. I think that’s the beauty of it. As soon as it stops surprising us and stops becoming something that’s enjoyable and new, I think that’s when you need to move on and try something else.”
All songs by Jungle
JEREMY HOBSON, HOST:
It's HERE AND NOW. And we want to introduce you now to the British music collective known as a Jungle.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE HEAT")
JUNGLE: (Singing) Doing all I can for you. To be a one minded man. So I can treat you better. Don't give up. I can feel the heat. Don't let it catch you. I care for you.
HOBSON: That's the song "The Heat." Jungle came to our attention during a HERE AND NOW DJ session. And since then, they have been featured on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" and at South by SouthWest. They are now on tour with their first album, which comes out next month.
The group's founders Josh Lloyd-Watson and Tom McFarland call themselves J and T. They're with us now. Guys, welcome. I've been using the term collective to describe you instead of band. That's what you call yourselves. And there are what, more than a dozen people in the collective?
JOSH LLOYD-WATSON: It depends on what day it is or what country we're in I think.
TOM MCFARLAND: What the project really is, you know, is some of the music videos there's 12 and then there's, you know, seven live or five live. You know, it changes depending on what the brief is.
HOBSON: And is there something for everyone to do?
LLOYD-WATSON: Oh, of course, yeah, always.
MCFARLAND: There's too much for us to do sometimes.
HOBSON: I well I want to play another song that people may have heard. This is called "Platoon."
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PLATOON")
JUNGLE: (Singing) I'll knock you down. I see the stage down by my feet.
HOBSON: Now, this video for this has gotten millions of views online. There's a little girl dancing around. She's 6 years old?
MCFARLAND: Indeed. She's probably 7 now?
LLOYD-WATSON: Probably 7 now, yeah.
HOBSON: And she's a pretty good dancer, I mean, amazing dancer.
LLOYD-WATSON: Yeah she's great. Quite a talent. We had such a fun time on the shoot working with her. And we let her just go out there and express herself. You know, I think we all had in our heads when we were shooting the video, we have, like, shot lists and ideas for what you wanted to do.
MCFARLAND: She was only there for high-fives.
LLOYD-WATSON: Exactly. When you meet a 6-year-old, you can't, like, explain those sort of things to her.
HOBSON: Well, where did that idea come from?
MCFARLAND: I think it started with - there was another track on the record that which we had this idea to kind of have, like, a body-popping kind of kid. And, you know, by kind of coincidence and chance I had a friend of mine who was, like, oh, OK, you want to do that? Like, I've got this amazing girl who's a friend of mine's daughter who break dances.
You know, the whole family break dances. They're amazing. The dad's amazing as well. And we basically sent them the track and she sent us back a video of her doing a head-spinning in her living room. And when I saw that I was just like...
HOBSON: You're hired.
LLOYD-WATSON: Well, yeah. It just takes your breath away. Someone so young like pop a head spin.
HOBSON: But when you look at the video for "The Heat." It's actually a very similar kind of thing. But it's an adult dancing.
MCFARLAND: Yeah I think, you know, once we kind of set the tone with the first video we kind of felt that we should continue that. And it made us feel good and it worked visually for us so I think it's about simplicity in those videos and the connection between the audience and the performers about that eye contact. You see a lot of music videos these days which are so over cut so over licked and it's just like, you know, we're almost scared that we're going to lose the attention of the audience if it's not, you know, going a million miles an hour. And I think we wanted to kind of pair it back and just present the simplest idea and see if that caught.
HOBSON: Well, let's listen to some more of your music - this is "Julia."
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "JULIA")
JUNGLE: (Singing) Julia, I don't know a thing about you. Soon enough you'll be all I ever need. Too easy, all I ever need. Too old, you're all I ever need. All I ever need. Can't you see? To me you're just the girl. Tell me all I ever need. All I ever need. Julia
HOBSON: Now unlike some music when people hear this is, it's not exactly clear what instruments are being played and what's happening. So can you tell us was going on there?
LLOYD-WATSON: I don't think we quite know either. I think we just aim for something that sounds good. And that's the motif in the studio. It doesn't matter how you make it, whether you're doing something with your mouth or whether you're doing something with your hands. It's all about how it sounds.
HOBSON: So, like, give me an example - what would you have done?
MCFARLAND: There's a track on the record called "Drops." And we were working in the studio and I went out to make a coffee, the studio, by the way, is just his bedroom. So there's nothing particularly glamorous. Smaller than this room. And I just walked out the door and it door creaked as J was, like, working on the baseline. And he was, like, stop, stop, stop. And I was like, I'm not making you another coffee dude. And he was like, no, no, no, no, no - that door sounded incredible. And I walked back into the room and he was holding a mic next to the door and I just stood there for like 10 minutes opening and closing this really creaky door as he recorded it over the track.
LLOYD-WATSON: Take a solo.
MCFARLAND: Yeah. Take a door solo.
LLOYD-WATSON: We didn't bring the door on tour.
HOBSON: Let's take a listen to "Drops."
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DROPS")
JUNGLE: (Singing) I've been loving you too long. I've been loving all too long. So I come down from the clouds, come down now.
HOBSON: I don't know where the door part is.
LLOYD-WATSON: It's coming up.
HOBSON: Oh, good we'll keep listening.
MCFARLAND: Here we go.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DROPS")
JUNGLE: (Singing) And you're so high, you.
HOBSON: Oh, wow, there it is.
HOBSON: That's your door opening?
LLOYD-WATSON: You are a bit out of tune, I must say.
MCFARLAND: Yeah, sorry.
HOBSON: Now you do have an all instrumental song called "Smoking Pixels." Let's listen to some of that.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SMOKING PIXELS")
HOBSON: I should say while we're listening to these songs, by the way, that you're both turning the headphones all the way up here in the studio so that you can hear them. You're still very into it. Why do an all instrumental song?
LLOYD-WATSON: I don't know. I think it kind of split the album up. It was very early we wrote it, I think my window was getting fixed at the time. We smashed a window by accident and it was getting fixed. So we weren't actually in the studio we were just downstairs so that's where the kind of whistling kind of motif came from. It was almost sort of waiting to feel.
And then, you know, we never got around to writing a song over and it kind of divided the album quite beautifully for us. So we kind of kept it in there. You know, we didn't want to force it. And go, oh this needs to have lyrics and a massive chorus, you know, it wasn't about that with that song.
HOBSON: So here you are touring around, going on Jimmy Kimmel Live. What is that like for you right now?
MCFARLAND: It's crazy. You never expect to be in a position where you can do this. You know, I think we were a year ago we were sitting in J's bedroom making beats. And now we're in a studio in Boston, you know? I think, yeah, it's still - it will always surprise us. And I think that's the beauty of it. And as soon as it stops surprising us and stops becoming something that's enjoyable and new - I think that's when you got to move on and try something else.
HOBSON: But for now you're making enough money to pay all the members of the collective?
LLOYD-WATSON: (Laughing) Just about. It doesn't include us though.
MCFARLAND: It's not about that, you know. It just about having a good time and, you know, seeing the world and playing to people who enjoy it.
HOBSON: Josh Lloyd-Watson and Tom McFarland of the collective Jungle. Thanks so much for speaking with us.
MCFARLAND: Thank you.
LLOYD-WATSON: Nice to meet you.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "JULIA")
HOBSON: As we listen here to more of Jungle, Sasha we've got the video of "Platoon" with this little girl dancing at our website hereandnow.org. It is great. You got to check it out. Here and now is a production of NPR and WBUR Boston in association with the BBC World Service. I'm Jerry Hobson.
SASHA PFEIFFER, HOST:
And I'm Sasha Pfeiffer. This is HERE AND NOW. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.
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