Meet (one half of) the faces of JUNGLE, the enigmatic band behind 2023's hottest hits.
If you've been even slightly active on social media over the last five months, you've definitely come across videos of JUNGLE's hit Back on 74 more times than you can count. And then, perhaps, you found yourself diving deeper into their world, getting hooked on their mesmerizing choreographed one-shot music videos.
You're likely familiar with the faces of some of JUNGLE's go-to dancers, like Will West and Mete Linturi, who have become the visual symbols of this viral sensation. Meanwhile, the creators of these catchy rhythms, Josh Lloyd-Watson and Tom McFarland, have remained more enigmatic, orchestrating the beats from behind the scenes. Until now.
As JUNGLE is preparing for their upcoming Dubai show at 'Break the Block,' Savoir Flair had the opportunity to sit down with McFarland and explore the questions on everyone's minds, delving into the narratives and inspirations behind the tracks that have dominated our social media feeds since the release of their latest album, Volcano.
The art that we make visually with these amazing dancers is there to be watched, and we want to promote that talent way more than we promote ourselves.
The Volcano music videos have taken the world by storm since their release, undoubtedly achieving 'internet-breaking' status. How did you manage to pull off shooting all of them in just five days?
It was quite a challenge. For the first time, we were able to realize a career-long ambition: making a full film with a narrative structure from start to finish for the album. A major challenge was financial; producing this amazing art costs a lot. Fortunately, our partnership with WeTransfer helped us secure the necessary funding.
Also, working on our own label meant we had no one to say no. We didn’t have to answer to anyone, allowing us to make all our decisions, which was a game-changer. It might have been a crazy idea, but we value ambition. The people we work with, whether dancers, choreographers, or cinematographers, are all incredible. Their talent and dedication help us realize our vision.
This vision stems from artistic discussions, creative meetings, and extensive research into things we love and how we want them portrayed on screen. It’s about delivering the music to these amazing talents and seeing how they interpret those feelings through dance.
Speaking of the dancers, the virality of your music videos has arguably shifted JUNGLE’s association more towards the dancers featured in them, rather than the two of you. As a result, while JUNGLE's music is widely recognized, the faces behind it remain largely unknown to most. How do you feel about this? Was this partial anonymity or discretion an intentional choice?
I mean, essentially, we've always just wanted our art to speak for itself. And for us, the nature of being a "celebrity" or "famous" is not part of our personalities. It doesn't appeal to us. We're creative people. We want to make music; we want to direct films; we want to create soundtracks; we want to design posters and logos. Our role feels much more directorial, and the music we put out is there to be listened to. The art that we make visually with these amazing dancers is there to be watched, and we want to promote that talent much more than we promote ourselves.
Choreographed one-shot music videos have essentially become synonymous with your name at this point. How did this style come to define your signature? Was there a conscious decision to stick to this style, or did it develop organically?
Well, all of this really stems from the first video we ever made, which was 'Platoon.' A girl named Terra, a breakdancer who was six years old at the time—she's about 18 now, which is just crazy to think about—came and danced in an adidas tracksuit. We tried to shoot it in one take. Then, when we went on to make other videos, we thought, 'Well, we've done that, so why not create rules and structures and a cohesive narrative for the visuals, right?' Now, ten years into this, the concept remains the same. I think when we look back at the end of our careers, we'll be really proud that we followed that through from start to finish.
You frequently collaborate with the same dancers, choreographers, and cinematographers for your videos. Can you describe how this came to life? How did you find each other, how has the relationship evolved since, and what is the impact they have on the final product?
Some of the dancers have been with us since our second album, including Will West, Mete, Miranda – almost half the cast. We met our choreographer, Shay, while making the videos for 'Good Times / Problemz' back in 2022 and immediately formed an amazing connection with him. He leads a fantastic crew in Amsterdam known as Ghetto Funk, and they brought an incredible energy we'd never seen before. When it came time to choose a choreographer for the 'Volcano' film, Shay was the obvious choice. Our relationship with him is extraordinary, and we consider him the best choreographer in the world at the moment. His investment in the project, as part of our extended family, is incredibly important to us. We believe in surrounding ourselves with and promoting talented individuals. It's this incredible circle of friends, collaborators, and creatives that elevate our work to heights we couldn't achieve alone.
Your music beautifully blends elements of soul, funk, disco, and electronic music. How do these genres inspire your sound, and what artists have influenced you the most?
I think, in terms of producers, you have legends like Quincy Jones, who was behind all of the Jacksons' work. J Dilla is a massive influence on us; we regularly listen to his hip-hop tracks. Madvillain too has been a significant inspiration for us. Of course, you can also list all the classics: Marvin Gaye, The Beach Boys — there are countless seminal records. But, really, JUNGLE is an amalgamation of everything we've ever listened to, encompassing jazz, hip-hop, soul, funk, classical music, and more. We absorb all these influences and release our inspirations in a manner that's very personal and subconscious to us.
What are you most looking forward to at Break the Block, and will the dancers be accompanying you to the event? (Please say yes!)
I can, unfortunately, confirm that we can't bring the dancers with us. There's definitely an ambition to include live choreography in future shows, but at the moment, it's just too costly. However, we're incredibly excited about our first visit to Dubai. Its visual landscape appears magical in films, TV, and media. We're eagerly anticipating the experience of exploring the desert and witnessing the amazing futuristic mega city that lies in the middle of it.