The loos at XL Records in west London are a thing of wonder. Over Louis Vuitton-patterned wallpaper hang wall-to-wall gold and platinum discs by the likes of MIA, The Prodigy and Dizzee Rascal. More important though is XL’s basement studio, where Jungle (two old friends who go by the letters J and T) record and are now hanging out.
This time last year, Jungle were – depending on your point of view – either tantalisingly anonymous or a convoluted hipster joke. Their press shots were super-styled, obscure and of other people. They had an embroidered brand logo, yet a name that flew in the face of googlability. Thankfully, their self-titled debut LP – an insanely catchy 12-song ride through slick studio funk and tropical washes of colour – made up for all this clunky hype and brought them in from the cold. But the question remains: who exactly are Jungle?
First things first – you’re from Shepherd’s Bush, is that right?
T: ‘Yeah, I moved a few doors down from him when my parents split up. I could jump into my neighbour’s garden, over a wall and into his garden.’
J: ‘It was like “West Side Story” but in Shepherd’s Bush. Kind of territorial. We had a fight within the first couple of days of meeting. It was a good time. The internet was just coming in, I remember we had dial-up around 1998. Mum and Dad would get pissed off if you were on the internet and they were trying to make a phonecall.’
Ah, so you’ve used the internet then. Because ‘Jungle’ is a rather vague search term…
T: ‘We really didn’t think about it to start with, which is bloody mental if you’re trying to make it as a band. We’d come out of various bands where we’d focused desperately on trying to make it. We’d seen how it affects good friends. So with this, we were like: let’s not try so hard this time.’
So why the anonymity?
J: ‘Honestly, it was because we didn’t think we were capable of it! Everyone automatically assumes that you’re an exhibitionist if you’re a musician. We didn’t want people to think: Why are they showing off? It was weird, but we didn’t really feel comfortable with it all for a long time.’
How did you come to record in this basement?
T: ‘We got interest from XL after “The Heat”, and we needed to get out of the bedroom, so everything else was recorded here. “The Heat”, “Platoon” to “Busy Earning”, were all written chronologically. We kept trying to write better songs than the last.’
J: ‘Plus, we learned how to sing in tune.’
For a studio project, it works really well live too.
J: ‘Yeah, it would be much easier to go up there and just press play. A lot of people do. We’d probably take home five times as much money, too, but we wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the brilliant people who play with us.’
Who does the right kind of live show?
T: ‘Bruno Mars. It’s cringe saying it. “Uptown Funk” is definitely a guilty pleasure, but I fucking love Bruno Mars! He’s got some beautiful songs.’
He plays the drums on ‘Uptown Funk’ too.
T: ‘Oh shit, and he dances as well! It makes me feel so lame.’
J: ‘I can’t even do five press-ups.’