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How Jungle’s Tom McFarland Deals With Heavy Times (Like We All Do)

It should come as no surprise that British modern soul groovers Jungle are psyched to be on their way back down under. As the only international act on the incredible Bad Friday lineup, the Londoners are the only group coming straight out of winter and ready to soak up the Marrickville rays.

“It’s a pretty decent thing for an Englishman to come over there and just have like pretty much nonstop sunshine,” says co-founder Tom McFarland, in Philadelphia as we speak on the phone. “We always have such a great connection with the audience there and any chance we get to come back and play a few more shows is one we take.”

There’s few festivals that fit Jungle as well as Bad Friday — with its chill public holiday vibes and outdoor setting, it’s the perfect place to be throwing down dance moves to their signature funk. The annual street party is celebrating its ten year anniversary, and now feels like a defiant reply to the gradual shuttering of Sydney’s music venues.

Bringing up the lockout laws tends to get musicians down, but McFarland is remarkably pragmatic about the culture shift. “We gotta start spreading our wings a little bit,” he says. “We’re seeing the same thing happening in London with club culture, you know — it’s just being pushed further and further into the fringes because the property that all these clubs are operating out of is worth so much to developers and the landlords, they’ve just kicked them all out. If you want subculture to remain subculture, you’ve got to find underground and weird places to do it, you know, and we love playing outdoors, it’s a really fucking great vibe when we’re outside, I think.”

“We’re a band that really enjoys being like in the air, especially in the dark under the stars, you get a really great vibe going between the audience and yourselves. Sydney is a great city for that, it’s really picturesque and beautiful.”

He’s reminded of the venue “literally in the fucking street, surrounded by warehouses” they played in for St Jerome’s Laneway Festival in 2015. “That’s a creepy old building as well, used to be some sort of mental asylum/school thing. I like those places, you know, you’re just like a little bit on edge.”

McFarland is buoyed not just by the ingenuity of venue providers, but the musical dexterity of his London peers. “There’s a lot of great vocalists and performers coming out of London; there’s a great jazz scene at the moment,” he says. “Kamaal Williams, they’re doing some fucking great new sorta like fusion modern jazz stuff, really urban.”

Of course, there has to be a couple of Aussie influences on Jungle’s beats as well, and McFarland is quick to point out a band he’ll be sharing a stage with on the day.

“The Avalanches definitely stick out,” he beams. ” That first record just really bowled me over. And probably played quite a large role in our development as producers, you know.”

Light Through The Trees

While their new music remains as fresh and infectious as the tracks on their debut album, there’s an unmissable feeling of growth and even a tinge of sadness. Both McFarland and his co-conspirator, Josh Lloyd Watson, went through painful breakups between albums, and the experiences have inevitably been imprinted in the vinyl. But again, McFarland takes a realist’s stance to the shit behind him.

“You’ve just gotta stay present. You know, euphoria can be negative — really any type of mania can be detrimental. You’ve gotta make sure your highs don’t go too high and your lows don’t go too low, because life does throw things at you that can change your perception on what’s going on around you,” he says, admitting that his 15-strong touring ‘family’ helps to keep him stable. “It’s great we’re on tour together and having known each other for so long we can keep each other grounded through every type of moment. That’s a pretty special thing to have on the road.”

Perspective comes from more than just a breakup, though. There’s been plenty of positive moments in McFarland’s recent experience that have him riding into Bad Friday on a high.

“I just became an uncle a few weeks and that was quite a defining moment in my life, because suddenly, you know, the world doesn’t revolve around you,” he says. “I’m no longer like the youngest member of my family so I can no longer play that card. So I’ve gotta definitely grow up a little bit.

“It’s nice to feel just unconditional love for a child, it’s pretty special.”

Jungle are the lone international act on the sensational Bad Friday lineup alongside The Avalanches, The Jezabels, Tropical Fuck Storm, DMA’s and DZ Deathrays. The party goes down at Fraser Park, Marrickville on Friday 19 April. [Tickets available at www.badfriday.com.au]

Or you can catch Jungle flying solo on their national tour in support of the new record, For Ever:

Fremantle — Metropolis (18+), Sunday 21 April
Sydney — Enmore Theatre (All Ages), Wednesday 24 April.
Brisbane — The Tivoli (18+), Friday 26 April.

Melbourne — The Espy (18+), Saturday 27 April AND Forum (18+), Sunday 28 April.

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