Following the success of their 2013 full-length debut, Learn To Exist, The Jungle Giants frontman Sam Hales says he was anxious to, “shake up” the band’s sound.  And so after getting back into the studio to begin writing what would become the group’s second record, Speakerzoid, the songwriter quickly recognized that a new environment would be an essential step towards making a completely different album than their last.  Sitting down with Pancakes and Whiskey in late September, he spoke about how a desire to branch out and uncover a different dynamic would eventually lead him to travel over 10,000 miles away from his home in Brisbane, Australia.  Arriving in France with the hopes of clearing his head and finding their latest album, he explained that, “I went to Paris for one reason and it was just to write music and to be alone for a while, and so I guess that really kicked things into gear.  Then when I came back home, I was in that mind frame for like the rest of the year, and I had something to go off.  I wanted to get away, where I could just go, ‘What’s my idea for this record and how do I go about getting it?’

Soon after settling into an apartment, Hales spent his time writing, “twelve hours a day, every day.”  Within just fourteen days, he had written thirty new songs.  Helping him to “get rid of every distraction in my life,” his trip would not only be the start of a new direction, but it would be just one of the crucial ingredients responsible for the band’s vaulting artistic development.  And while he and his bandmates, lead guitarist Cesira Aitken, bassist Andrew Dooris and drummer Keelan Bijker, love to play live, Hales talked about how the touring mindset is not typically conducive to the atmosphere necessary for songwriting.  Describing how taking a writing trip like the one to Paris had given him the opportunity to, “disappear for a while,” he said, “I like that.  You don’t forget ideas, you just find more time to focus on the one thing instead of just focusing on a bunch of different little things at the same time.”

“When I’m on tour, I don’t really write that much because I think it’s a different frame of mind.  You kick into touring brain.  You know, it’s a whole different set of priorities.  You want to be healthy, you want the shows to be good, you’re partying, you’re hanging out with friends.  It’s this whole different thing then when you’re in writing mode.”

Released in the States this upcoming October 2nd, Speakerzoid has already drawn critical acclaim and a warm reception in regions where the record has already been released, including the band’s native Australia.  A bold departure from their earlier work, their newest record captures the Jungle Giants rapidly expanding their horizons without dulling the spark that originally won over fans.  Although when discussing the album’s critical success and the importance of creative growth, Hales also spoke about the expectations of a sophomore record in general, and how he can ultimately understand why listeners can be slow to embrace change from the groups they feel most attached to.  When asked if he thinks a fear of divisive fan reaction has come to discourage artists from trying something different, Hales said, “I totally think it does,” before suggesting that an initial resistance from fans makes sense if you consider that it could simply reflect the listener’s fondness for another piece of time.

“I get it because if you hear an album and you play the shit out of it and you listen to it all the time, it becomes this nostalgic thing.  I think it’s the nostalgia factor that kind of makes people scared of change from a band that they love.  So if they love this album, then they put out another album equally as creative or anything like that, they might go, ‘Oh man, I just loved that last record so much.’  And so it kind of taints their view.  For me, I think that there’s going to be people that didn’t really like our first one and then they’re going to hear our second one and they’re going to like it, do you know what I mean?  And just like it from that.  So I guess it’s not succumbing to the fear of like, ‘Oh, what if people don’t like this?’  It’s kind of at least acknowledging what you understand people like about you, and you have to know that and you have to appreciate that.”

In addition to their records, the band has forged a strong connection to their audience through their energetic live shows.  Currently on tour and scheduled to appear in New York for the city’s thirty-fifth annual CMJ Music Marathon, Hales talked about his favorite songs to play live and how when it comes to performing, the group is, “pretty hard on ourselves, so we rehearse the shit out of everything” before adding that, “we make sure we’re tight to the point that we can loosen up and just have a crazy show.”

“On the last record, my favorite song was our closing song, it was called ‘Home.’  It was a really synth-y song.  It was just kind of like this whirring synth and a attached drum kit.  When we played it live, we did it completely different.  We just did it with Cesira playing these really jazzy chords, and a nice little hip-hop beat in the background.  And even though that was completely different from the record, it still stayed one of my favorite ones to do live, which was really cool.  Then with this record, my favorite song on the record is, “Every Kind of Way.”  We’re doing that live now, and by far like one of my favorite songs to play live.  It starts somewhere, and it just starts grooving in a nice subtle way, and then it ends in like a massive, pounding jam.  So what we do is we twist and turn every song from the record to live, just to notch it up a little, in any way that we think it could be better.  So every song gets a new breath of life when it goes to the live set.”

Discussing the importance of bringing the vital energy of their stage show into the studio with them, Hales credited the band’s longtime producer, Magoo, for shaping the group’s approach to recording.  Describing how they’ve managed to maintain such a raw sound, Hales spoke about how the band is committed to avoiding a slick, manufactured feel, explaining that, “I guess for some bands it does work, but personally, I think it removes the element of realness, do you know what I mean?  It doesn’t really feel like a band playing anymore.”

“Any little imperfection or any little thing that happens, like a guitar twang that’s a bit out of tune or something, those little things, those little random events make the song.  If you hear a song fifteen times, there’s a lot of those little different things- you hear a different one every time.  So we really like that and we definitely learned to love that idea from our producer, Magoo, who lives in Brisbane.”  Treasuring the moments when the unexpected happens, the musician said that with every song, “We just want to do a different thing and let that mistake stay because they make it special.”

“When we first did our first EP with him, I guess we went in and I was really a perfectionist.  And we just had a chat and he was like, ‘You know you don’t have to be so solid on everything.  If there’s a little vocal line where you go a bit out of tune or your voice does a wavery thing,’  he’s like, ‘those things are kind of special because if it’s perfect, there’s nothing really standing out, it’s just kind of a note being sung.’  But yeah, he taught us that.  And I guess now when we go in to do a record, we have a clearer idea of what we want.  We know that we don’t have to really, really slick it up, and that opens up different doors for different drum sounds and different things you want to try, instead of just going, ‘Yeah it all has to sound perfect and I don’t want to mess around with it too much,’ and ‘Ok, this songs like this, this songs like this, this drum lines like this.’

And while there are still a few days to go before their newest record is available everywhere, Hales and his bandmates are already looking towards the future.

“What I’ve been doing at the moment, is listening to a lot of music and I’ve got all these songs that I want for the next record.  So yeah, I’ve started writing, but what I really want to do is do another writing trip.  I want to go away first before I come back home to do the writing. I think I’m going to go to Cuba for a little while, at the start of next year.  I’ve already put together an idea for the next record, which was really good, it kind of came really quick and I think it helps.  You know, this will be our third record and a lot of those little fears and expectations, you can kind of put a lid on those, and understand and know them.  So with our first record, we didn’t know what the fuck we were doing, with our second record we had all these ideas of what we wanted to do, and now with the third record, I just feel like I’m kind of a lot more relaxed with it.”

Expressing a desire to release material “even sooner then this two and a half year thing that we’ve been doing,” he spoke about how the making of the record has continued to be a rewarding and inspiring time for the group, leaving him more excited than ever to go away and “make a fucking awesome record” all over again.

Speakerzoid is available everywhere on October 2nd


Don’t Miss The Jungle Giants on tour:
10/13/15-10/17/15 New York, NY @ CMJ 2015 – additional
showcases TBA

10/14/15 New York, NY @ Berlin – Holy Underground CMJ

10/15/15 New York, NY @ Mercury Lounge – High Road
Touring CMJ Party *SOLD OUT*

10/17/15 New York, NY @ The Delancey – Aussie BBQ

10/19/15 Chicago, IL @ The Empty Bottle

10/20/15 Toronto, ON @ Horseshoe Tavern

10/22/15 Los Angeles, CA @ Bootleg Bar

10/23/15 San Francisco, CA @ Rickshaw Stop


Article: Caitlin Phillips


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