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Jungle Set For India Debut at SulaFest 2019

The U.K. soul band’s co-founder Tom McFarland on coming to India, their latest album ‘For Ever’ and his review of the year gone by

Anurag Tagat Jan 24, 2019

U.K. soul band Jungle will perform at SulaFest in Nashik in February. Photo: Charlie Di Placido

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Over the phone from London, Tom McFarland is excited about his neo-soul band Jungle’s India debut in February for more reasons than one. “So we’re actually going to be playing the festival on my 30th birthday, which is quite exciting as an occasion as well,” he says.

Jungle, who have seen a global meteoric rise in acclaim and popularity thanks to their slick soul, R&B and funk sound, will make their way down to Nashik to headline the 2019 edition of wine and music festival SulaFest. And the shows before that include Kiev, Moscow, St. Petersburg and Tokyo. McFarland is having a laugh just thinking about the way he’s counting down to his birthday on February 2nd. He says, “It’s going to be super cold in all of those places and we’re going to come to Mumbai and it’ll boiling.”

Soon after, from February to April, the seven-piece band ”“ also featuring co-founder Josh Lloyd-Watson ”“ tour through Europe, North America and Australia. It’s safe to say that everyone’s coming to India for the first time, though. “I think it’s quite an exciting experience when you’re all going to somewhere that’s new and so far away from what you know, culturally and in terms of that ”“ we’re really excited. I think people are maybe a bit nervous about what to expect but I’ve spoken to some friends who’ve been to India and played before and they say the crowds are really receptive to everything, so we’re excited too,” McFarland says.

The appearance comes on the back of their 2018 album For Ever, which released four years after the hugely successful self-titled debut. While Jungle catapulted the band into global stardom for millions-viewed videos such as “Busy Earnin’” and “Platoon,” it became clear that McFarland and Lloyd-Watson were all about projecting a specific visual identity and aesthetic. Even today, Jungle’s popularity rides on their energizing, feel-good choreography and sublime storytelling, all going over smooth, groovy funk, disco and soul vibes. McFarland says dance is a “very important aspect” of the group’s music. “I think we like to imagine people in the real world reacting in the same way to our music that you’d see in our videos. I think the two are very inter-linked but I don’t think they’re necessarily always symbiotic with each other,” he adds.

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Whether it’s playing to thousands at big-ticket festivals or selling out indoor venues, Jungle likes to “retain an intimacy” when it comes to performances. It’s one thing to have seven members to live up to the sound of Jungle songs like “House In L.A.,” “The Heat” and “Heavy, California,” but McFarland says it also helps each of them realize there’s other people to connect with on stage. He adds, “I think for us that’s the most exciting thing about playing live music, just being able to have a dialog with your audience whether it’s 600 people or 10,000 people. We always try and make sure we have as much energy as possible.”

It’s easier said than done when you’re on stage at a festival and the next act might be Eminem or The Rolling Stones, but McFarland says Jungle are doing all right. They take it as a worthy challenge to capture audiences’ imagination and get them involved, all the while finding their own zone. “As soon as the audience sees that you’re comfortable and having a good time, it makes it much easier for them to join in,” he says.

Jungle co-founder Tom McFarland’s Best of 2018

Favorite concert you attended in 2018?

We were really lucky to see Kendrick Lamar in Belgium. A lot of the times, when you go and see rappers and hip-hop artists, it’s a very different experience to what it is on record. I think it’s not always a better experience but I think with Kendrick, his technique and his voice is really suited to performing his music live. I think as a hip-hop artist it’s quite rare that you can achieve a quality of delivery in a live environment. You can hear every word and the live band, and that’s something that a lot of hip-hop artists probably need to take some notes about and do a little bit more. It really has much more impact that way. I’ve seen rappers like Vince Staples, who sort of just gets up there and shouts along to their own backing track and it doesn’t have the impact and poignancy. I think Kendrick’s poetry and hip-hop is much more artistic than a lot of his contemporaries.

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Favorite Jungle show in 2018?

We had an amazing festival in Portugal at the end of the summer, it was an amazing atmosphere. The stage was a natural amphitheater, so it looked like the crowd just disappeared into the night sky and that was a really beautiful moment for us.

Favorite song or album of 2018?

My favorite album is probably by a Californian singer called Kadhja Bonet ”“ she had an album called Childqueen and there’s a song on there called “Mother Maybe” which is just really beautiful. Her voice is stunning and her arrangements ”“ there’s a classically trained cello player as well ”“ there’s a lot of strings on there. It just felt like a really modern yet classic soul record and that’s something we needed.

Strangest place you heard a Jungle song playing?

I don’t know about me, but one of my brother’s colleagues was in Uzbekistan and he was in a hotel lobby and “Happy Man” came on and so he texted my brother and sent him a video. I’ve only heard it”¦ I hear Jungle a lot in shopping malls and all, but I think a hotel in Uzbekistan is probably the most far out place I’ve heard.

Jungle performs at SulaFest 2019 between February 2nd and 3rd at Sula Vineyards, Nashik. Event details here.

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