It was the afternoon before the release of The Jungle Giants’ new record Quiet Ferocity, and frontman Sam Hales was sure he wouldn’t be sleeping that night.
After fumbling around with his hands free set (“It never really works that well and also you just look like a total douche”), he elaborated on his excitement, explaining that the band had been sitting on the record for months, and they were just so completely ready to finally get it out into the world.
“It’s just, we’re so excited and also tomorrow we’ve got a huge day, we’ve got like signings, we’re signing and stuff like that, and we’re still all like, super excited about this record – finally, finally going to be out. Yeah. It’s time to party.”
And they certainly have plenty of reasons to party. The 10 track album is the most fun of their full-length releases to date, and the world is bound to fall in love with it over the coming weeks and months, as they learn the beats and the lyrics in preparation for the live shows. It’s the kind of record that will liven up your work day, and have you dancing with your friends while you get ready to head out somewhere hip and cool.
And The Jungle Giants are cool. One thing you instantly notice about them upon scrolling through their Instagram is that they’re obsessed with denim, “it’s kind of like this long life joke that we have with the band, like usually whenever we do something, someone’s got double denim on.” In the “height of [their] denim thing”, the band were on tour with Two Door Cinema Club and The Vaccines, who hosted a fancy yacht party, with waiters handing out champagne (and probably those mini hot dogs too), and the whole denim joke suddenly went beyond just the four band members.
“I remember I wore, it was a really hot day and I stupidly wore like so much denim and I was sweating on this yacht, like I was having fun but I was so sweaty, and then I remember, one of the guys from The Vaccines was like, damn, you look like a denim vision. And for some, after that like now for a while everyone was calling me Denim Vision but yeah, so we do love our denim. There’s a history to it. “
The fact that a story can sit on the foundations of someone wearing just a little bit too much denim, is something that instantly makes this band loveable, even outside of their music – particularly considering the punchline had nothing to do with the two massive bands they were on tour with. It suggests an air of modesty, and indicates that what is important to them is having a good time and making friends along the way. The fact that for their last album release, for Speakerzoid in 2015, they spent the evening at their house playing make-shift laser tag shows how totally chill these guys are, even more so when it comes to light that, somehow, despite how freaking cool it sounded, Sam had completely forgotten about this event until prompted.
“Oh actually! You know what, we did do laser tag, it was at our house, ahh yeah, it was at our house, and we just bought like our own crappy laser-tag stuff and we put Limp Bizkit on the speakers really loud and just played laser tag with like 20 friends it was really good.”
This time around, however, the band kicked off release day with an afternoon of signings at Rocking Horse Records in their home city of Brisbane that took them into the evening, following which they had plans to perform a DJ set at The Foundry – a venue in Brisbane – and party way into the night before heading to Sydney and Melbourne to do more of the same in each respective city. The change in celebration comes with a change in the songwriting process, as Speakerzoid was written in an old Parisian apartment, whereas Quiet Ferocity was born in a studio in Australia, where Sam worked on it at a 9 to 5 pace, which, despite being a monotonous sounding environment, worked much better for him, made abundantly clear through each incredible track on the album.
“I went and got like a designated studio that was away from my house um that I could kind of just clock into every day, you know like start at 9, finish at 5 – like treat it like a job so I did that for this year and it was a completely different thing and it was something like I’ve always wanted to do and it seemed to make sense to me, treating it like a job because it made me completely change how I write so I kind of slowed down. I feel like I’ve explored more things um, yeah like for me it’s, I reckon I’m gonna be doing it like this for the rest of my life. I’ve tried a bunch of different things and doing it like a job is the best way.”
Prior to the album’s release, the band put out 2 tracks to give the fans a taste of what was to come, starting with Feel the Way I Do – a track that perfectly encompasses every element of music that you might come across while listening to the record in full, and what that explores a more dancey side of the band. While for The Jungle Giants, there is often a lot of to-ing and fro-ing when deciding on that first single, this one was a pretty unanimous decision for the entire band following an initial listening party (accompanied by beers, of course), during which Sam shared the first 10 songs he had written up until that point. As it was, Feel the Way I Do was so damn good, that it ended up setting the tone for the whole album.
“Everyone loved it so much that we played it again, I played it again, and they wanted to hear it again and again and that was like, a really awesome moment for me because I loved that song and uh, I was really, really anxious, I wanted the guys to love it too. Um and so, I guess for this record that was kind of like a, like a turning point where we were like ‘okay cool, we could make a record that sounds like this’, like we can work with this, you know what I mean?”
The track comes with what might be my favourite music video of 2017, and was influenced by a 3D animator that Sam has been following for quite some time. His name escapes Sam, but the 3D figures that he frequently animates have stuck with him enough for some of these concepts to make their way into the feel good video. Feel the Way I Do is one of those songs that you really can’t help but dance to, and the video reflects this in the cutest way possible with the use of a dancing spaceman, a dancing rug, and a dancing cardboard box robot.
“I was like okay, why don’t we just give this weird – we’ll make it like a dance orientated clip, uh but we just do these weird things around it that kind of give it this little narrative um, and so we kind of just built on that so we decided we’d have this dancing spaceman that’s like landed – crash landed on earth and, you know, the only thing he does is dance and he’s really lonely so he has this like, ability you know to turn these things into life so they can be his dance partners. Like it was like a really funny clip on a piece of paper but like, once we had actually put it together it clicked, yeah it seemed to click.”
In terms of lyrical themes, Sam explained that when writing songs, he exclusively writes the music first – even if that music is built on an initial thematic idea – and so for this record, he hasn’t thought too much about the lyrics just yet, though he acknowledged that he does always find meaning in the end. As we talked, he took some time to reflect, and as it turns out, the lyrics on the record seem to mostly be about coming to terms with being in love over the past couple of years.
“I’m obviously too young to be some kind of love guru, but at least my perspective is that uh, there’s a lot of different kind of levels of love and uh, I do truly think that if you get to know yourself and get comfortable with yourself, then you can really love someone? Um, so that is definitely a recurring theme in this record, it’s kind of like um, just finally being comfortable I guess. You know, in love and also personally.”
It might just be a coincidence, but I believe that this music-first way of writing is the reason that every track jumps out at you from the very first notes. While the lyrics – as mentioned – do tell a story and have meaning, should you strip the songs of the vocals, the tracks would still tell as much of a story, still incite as much emotion, and still have you falling in love with them just as strongly, as they do with the lyrics included.
It’s hard to pick a favourite track for this reason, because there’s simply so much depth to the songs, with each element provoking something inside you. Sam’s favourite changes all the time, but at the moment he’s lingering on Used to Be in Love, a track that very nearly didn’t even make it onto the record but that ended replacing another that they could just not perfect to the standard of the rest of the tracks. After spending 4 or 5 days re-working the kick drum sound, re-mixing, and re-recording the vocals in like, 10 different ways, they decided that maybe this mystery track simply did not fit on the album. They felt as though it was bringing down the rest of the great songs they’d finished and were happy with, and so they made the ruthless decision to cut the song from the album and regroup.
Generally, as Sam finishes with his writing, he shares the songs with the rest of the band and each band member ranks each one in terms of an A-list, a B-List (“like our songs that we think are really good but need a little work”), and a C-list (“songs that have potential but, need a lot of work”), to help decide which songs they should include on the album, and it was these lists that he went back to following the canning of the other track.
“I found that there was this one song that had like, it had been ticked off as an A for, like you know, 3 out of 4 of us in the band, but we had overlooked it. Like we kind of just chose and then we left it um, in the background. But once we canned this song, um and I went back to the studio and I just tried, I worked it a little bit and I was like, you know, this song will fit so well on the album. It’s a lot like, better than this last song, so we booked another day in the studio the next day and went in and we recorded it in like 6 hours, like it was so quick, and it just felt so good and it felt like really, like it was meant to be happening, like we’d almost screwed up by not recording it originally.”
And it’s true. This happy little accident fits so perfectly into the album that there’s not a single moment where you feel as though it nearly wasn’t included. While Quiet Ferocity has totally won me over with its sick bass line, I can definitely see why Used to Be in Love is Sam’s current fave (“it’s like got his like melancholy feel that I really like, you know, where it’s kind of like sad but it’s happy”). And now, knowing the stressful situation that preceded its inclusion, it’s easy to see that it would be hard not to love the track that completed an incredible album that they are surely very proud of.
While it’s a bummer The Jungle Giants have never made it over to New Zealand before (“We’re late to the party but we’re gonna bring the party”), this is definitely a good album for us to get to know them through. This tour is set to bring us “the danciest kind of production set up that we’ve ever really done”, and because Sam didn’t want to “faff around” with making this album multi-layered, and spent a lot of time culling things that he felt didn’t belong, they’ve found that there are enough instruments and enough members in the band to have everything being played live on stage, meaning that this minimal approach to writing has really helped with the live show.
“This album, like luckily has turned into a really easy transition to live, which is good for us um, so we’ve just been working on this and building this lighting show and so for us, like, it’s an amalgamation of everything we’ve done before but it’s all just turned up to 10 so I guess like people should definitely come expecting to dance a little bit and also like have their eyes dance a bit by the lights. So bring sunnies.”
You heard it here first, pals. Number 1 pro tip: Bring sunnies 😎
The Jungle Giants play REC in Auckland on September 15th
Tickets are available through Ticketmaster.