Feel The Way They Do: Talking changes in sound and dance music with The Jungle Giants’ Sam Hales
From the early days of their quintessential indie-pop sounds, to their outrageous and experimental sophomore release, THE JUNGLE GIANTS have remained consistent in their approach to taking creative risks, and having fun while doing it. Not afraid to put themselves out there, the Brisbane four-piece unleashed a brand new sound again this year, this time taking on a much more dance-focussed approach.
From the high-pitched, punchy synths of lead single, ‘Feel The Way I Do’ to the euphoric ‘On Your Way Down,’ The Jungle Giants shed their indie-pop skin once and for all this year, and instead offered up an album that sits comfortably in the same realm as Todd Terje, LCD Soundsystem or Total Giovanni. A serious contender for Album Of The Year, Quiet Ferocity is exactly that – an expertly crafted record that’s widely regarded as a career high for the group.
Out today, we chatted to lead singer, front man, guitar player, and now producer Sam Hales to get to know a bit more about the change in sound, what influences him, and where to from here.
Speakerzoid was your first taste of production, almost like the bridge between the start and here. I really love kind of watching bands grow up, and the changes that happen. How does it feel to kind of have this timeline out there now from your debut to now, and listening back to your older stuff?
It’s kind of been a natural progression. A big hand in where we are now is the self-production. For me, that was always one thing I wanted to do. At the start, you don’t even realise, like you write your songs and you just assume they’re going to sound good. You give them to a producer and a lot of the time, the song just completely takes a new shape once you let someone roll with the sounds. For me, over the course of these last albums, it’s like with any job really – you realise the in’s and out’s and your surroundings of what you do. With the production on this record, and Speakerzoid, it’s kind of been just learning to use production as a tool, and then in turn it’s made everything make more sense. It’s easier now to get your point across, for me. I can write a song now and use the production, and that’s something I’ve always wanted to do but only over the last few years have I figured it out.
It’s a big change from your debut to now, but it sounds really organic and natural. It doesn’t feel forced. Did it feel that way for you making these songs, or did you make a decision to go down this dance-y route?
Writing this album was the most fun I’ve ever had writing an album, and I don’t really know why, but I do think it was because I was treating it as a job and doing that 9-5 thing. I kind of got into this zen state of going to work, having this day of writing and then the alarm would go off and I’d go home. That kind of let everything slow down, and let me think about a song less in an urgent way and more letting it have the time it needs. If you’re not feeling it, you just save and quit and start something else.
With this record, I definitely did want to have a bigger hand in the end point of the record, and I knew that would have to be shaping the production and having an idea. It wasn’t until later that we kind of talked about me producing it. At first, I was like, “Oh shit, do I even know how to do that?” But in the end, it worked out that I would be the producer and our friend would engineer [Konstantin Kerstig], and we figured out that’s what I needed. I needed someone to press the button while I was in the room. I like that role of being able to say, “Okay this is exactly how it’s supposed to sound, now help me make it sound like this.”
When these songs came together, it was just kind of going that way. I was spending more time on the production at the time of writing the songs, so the songs were properly realised as they were being made. I guess with the dance-y sound, it’s what I’m super into at the moment. I’m really into disco drum sounds. For me, that’s just how drums should sound at the moment – I love that sound! I just started looking at things differently, like, “I’m just going to start a song now, and I’m going to get that sound.” The approach kind of changed, instead of being like, “I’ve got a bassline,” it was, “Hey! I’ve got this fucking awesome sound, I’m going to make the sound and play with it and have fun.”
I can definitely hear a lot of influences like Todd Terje and house music, even a bit of LCD Soundsystem, especially in your vocal delivery. What about this drew you in? You’re a drummer before you’re a guitarist, right?
Oh man, I love Tood Terje. I’m into a lot of that Northern European house, they use those kind of sounds. Really tight songs with bass and guitars or even atmospheric stuff. For me, it’s really clever. I’ve been listening to a lot of instrumental music. I love percussive music, and I love dance music. All those influences really come from a percussive place. I love a good melody, but it always needs to have a good percussive element to it. With vocals and melody, they always come after I’ve got the percussion down, so I just sing on top.
Since Learn To Exist, something you’ve seemed to do along the way is practically refuse to be pigeon-holed. Why is it so important to you to be fluid in your output?
It just feels normal to do that. I just don’t want to not be doing what I want to do. I try to open up gateways so that I can always be doing things like that. Speakerzoid was a huge change when we put it out, but I feel like it led us here. We couldn’t be doing Quiet Ferocity if Speakerzoid didn’t happen, because that it up, for our fans but also for us. It was another way of looking at what sounds we could be making or ways we could play, or what production we could be putting out there. It’s not a conscious thing, it’s more like, “Okay we’re here to have fun and do whatever feels right.” We shouldn’t put up boundaries and walls and be like, “No, that’s not us!” But, we’re not going to do like ballet music or something. We still have an idea of what we are, we just want to have fun and we’re just trying to figure out how to connect the dots. We’re not too scared to try new things.
Listening to this record, it’s kind of like you’ve brought your fans along with you to here, like, “This is what we’re doing now.”
That’s it! Speakerzoid was a huge experiment for us, and I think that record wasn’t written with the live aspect in mind. We were more like, “Actually let’s not think about that.” It was a challenge when we went to do it live, but it was still a good learning curve. We put ourselves in that place, and we learned as we went, and now it’s a nice balance there of production and live. Translating this record to live has been nowhere near as hard as the other two records.
I’m interested to see how this new record will fit into your setlist with your older material on this upcoming tour. Can we expect to hear remixed versions of the older songs, or will they always have a special place in your heart?
Well ever since the start, people have always commented that we’re way more hard-hitting than they thought. We always beef everything up anyway for live, so with these songs, there’s still a fluidity. Obviously we have to have an ebb and flow to the set, like we can’t put ‘She’s A Riot’ next to ‘Feel The Way I Do’, but it’s working really well. We can find this really nice ebb and flow and put songs here or there, and it’s all fitting in really nicely. The record has this kind of minimalist approach, and there’s never too many things going on at once, so live it can just be slotted in easily. Actually, I say that now but you never know, I could jinx it!
Maybe you could put those two songs together!
Speaking of that song, I’m obsessed with ‘Feel The Way I Do’. I can’t get enough of those synths! Can you tell me a bit about that track? It was such a statement to come out with that song after two years.
That song was one of the first songs I showed the band at the listening parties. We do this every year where I’ll just go in the bunker for a while, and then we’ll do a listening party and we’ll have beers and a disco ball will be up and I’ll just play ten songs in the studio to everyone. ‘Feel The Way I Do’ was in the first batch, and I remember writing that track. It was just fucking awesome. I was like, “What the hell?!” Something cracked and I was super into it. I remember I wrote the track in 45 minutes, and it was done! But I got this weird paranoia that I was going to lose it, that’s never happened before but I kept thinking it. I guess it was like when you have a baby and you’re scared you’re gonna drop it. I got my phone out and played it through the speakers and recorded it on my voice memo, then I saved it to every USB I could find, and I saved it on the computer 19 times and emailed it to myself. There was no way I was losing it! That was how it felt!
I feel like everyone also felt it too, they all said like, “We could make a record that sounds like this!” It just made sense that we did it first, because it represents all the sounds on the record and the energy, and it seemed like a track that should go first. We didn’t even argue about it which never happens, we all just agreed it should go first.
That’s great! You know you’re onto something good when you’ve got everyone on your side. Looking forward now, what else can we expect from you guys? You’ve got the tour, festivals, the album dropping tomorrow. Is a heavy metal album on the way?
[Laughs] Well actually, we are planning on going back to that studio that we recorded Quiet Ferocity in. We were onto a really good thing, and it felt sad when we finished. We had to wrap it up and get it onto the next thing, but we had such a burn going that we didn’t really want to stop. There’s a bunch of other tracks lying and waiting, so we’re going to go back and start working on some more stuff. We’re also touring next year going overseas for a little bit and just have some fun!
Quiet Ferocity is out now (buy here). Catch The Jungle Giants at the following dates:
THE JUNGLE GIANTS ALBUM SIGNINGS + RELEASE PARTIES
BRISBANE, FRIDAY 7TH JULY
CD + Vinyl Signing 5:00pm | Rocking Horse Records, Brisbane
Release Party – Doors 11:30pm | The Foundry, Brisbane
SYDNEY, SATURDAY 8TH JULY
CD + Vinyl Signing 4:00pm | Hum Records, Newtown
Release Party – Doors 9:00pm | Yours @ Beach Rd Hotel, Bondi
MELBOURNE, SUNDAY 9TH JULY
CD + Vinyl Signing 3:00pm | Polyester Records, Fitzroy
Release Party – Doors 7:00pm | Yah Yah’s, Fitzroy
QUIET FEROCITY ALBUM TOUR DATES:
Supported by triple j and presented by Select Music & Amplifire Music
Special Guests: LASTLINGS + HEAPS GOOD FRIENDS
TICKETS ON-SALE NOW
Friday, 18th Aug | The Triffid, Brisbane** – SOLD OUT
Sat, 19th Aug | Great Northern Hotel, Byron Bay*
Sunday, 20th Aug | The Triffid, Brisbane** – 2ND AND FINAL SHOW
Fri, 25th Aug | Enmore Theatre, Sydney** SELLING FAST
Sat, 26th Aug | Croxton Hotel, Melbourne** 1:00pm Doors (Under 18’s Only)
Sat, 26th Aug | Croxton Hotel, Melbourne* 8:00pm Doors SELLING FAST
Sun, 27th Aug | Croxton Hotel, Melbourne* 8:00pm Doors – 2ND AND FINAL SHOW
Fri, 1st Sept | The Gov, Adelaide** SELLING FAST
Sat, 2nd Sept | The Capitol, Perth*
Fri, 8 Sept | Republic Bar, Hobart*
Sat, 9 Sept | The Beery, Central Coast*
Fri, 15 Sep | Rec, Auckland*^^
*Over 18’s **All Ages
Words by Emma Jones