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The Jungle Giants On New Album ‘Love Signs’: ‘We’ve Levelled Up’

The Jungle Giants released their fourth studio album, Love Signs, today. The record is home to a
number of popular singles released by the Brisbane band, including ‘Sending Me Ur Loving’ and ‘Heavy Hearted’, the latter of which won both Song of the Year and Pop Song of the Year at the Queensland Music Awards in 2020, while ‘Sending Me Ur Loving’ placed 8th in the triple j’s Hottest 100 of 2020.

The band’s debut album Learn to Exist peaked at number 12 on the ARIA Charts, and included singles ‘A Pair of Lovers’ and ‘I Am What You Want Me to Be’. The 4-piece followed this success with records Speakerzoid (released in 2015), and 2017’s Quiet Ferocity. Quite the output for an Independent band.

We caught up with frontman Sam Hales to chat about how the new record came together, the instrument they had specially built for key single ‘Heavy Hearted’, and just how Jungle Giants have upped their game.

Music Feeds: I read that your upcoming album Love Signs is the first Jungle Giants record that you’ve written, recorded, performed and produced alone. What influenced that decision?

Sam Hales: Well, I mean, I’ve been writing everything since the start but I’ve been really wanting to get my hands on the production more and more and more as the years have been going. I think it’s just been the more that I’ve been… when I demo a track I work in Logic and I’ve been building up these songs and I’ve become more and more attached to my demos ‘cause I think they’re getting closer to the final product. I remember when we did Speakerzoid, we were working with a producer named Magoo and I made his life like, a living hell during that recording. Like, I was stopping him on everything, I was switching out snare drums every five seconds. He kind of turned to me at one point and was like man, you’ve paid me to produce, let me produce, and I was like, oh, okay, I’m sorry! So then after that, I decided with Quiet Ferocity I wanted to produce more and so I co-produced with my friend Konstantin [Kersting], and that felt way better. And so, just over the years, the closer and closer I get to producing, it’s just been feeling better and I think the music has been sounding better.

So, this time I was like… I just took the dive and I was like guys, I’m gonna do this, you know, and we’ll put out one track and if it sucks then we know [laughs]. But I felt good about it, so that was Heavy Hearted – that was the first one I did, and I feel like we just kind of, started running, and I think people were responding really well to my production and I felt like I was writing better because I could control more elements in the session. Things were just a bit more concise and I was building up a bit more momentum as well, I feel like I didn’t have to just move from my studio to another studio, I could just stay in the one place. Yeah, it was feeling a lot better, so that process just… I streamlined it and I think it sounds better for that.

MF: Which tracks came together the easiest on Love Signs, and were any of them a little trickier to pull together?

SH: Different songs had different, kind of, degrees of speed. ‘Heavy Hearted’ was one of the easiest. That one just happened, like, in an afternoon. I remember taking the track back… I used to have this thing where I didn’t like showing people demos, and my girlfriend, she was like, just chipping away at me for years trying to be like, just show me your demo, it’s fine, I won’t like tell or show anyone. And then I remember, her and I, we have these nights called Grace and Sam nights where we just get like, real drunk at home and play boardgames or like, listen to music and write songs. And just one night I was like, I’ll show you a demo, I’m drunk, I don’t care, and it was ‘Heavy Hearted’ and she was just like Sam, that’s like, just a banger, now you’ve got one in the vault. And I was like yeah! That was like, the same day that I’d done it.

And so, when I think about the rest of the record… once I had the kind of, bulk of the record, or at least a couple of key songs, it was a bit easier to know what was fitting and what wasn’t fitting. So, I think like, everything started just kind of falling into place and I kind of stopped thinking about it as a day-by-day thing. It was kind of just like, oh, this week I got a bigger chunk of the record done, you know what I mean? I feel like it’s like one of the first times where I was looking at it as an overarching record, and there were some key songs that were going to be singles and then there were just other ones that were like, imperative, they had to be on the record. Yeah, so I feel like… there was varying degrees of speed, but all in all, I think the record itself was probably one of the fastest I’ve put one together.

MF: So, I was gonna ask if you were sort of sending pieces of songs to your bandmates as they were being written or if you waited, but it sounds like you’re sort of someone who waits ‘til the end to show things a bit more. Is that the case?

SH: Yeah, so, we do a thing called a listening party, and they’re so fun, oh my god, I love them! They’re like nervous days for me but they happen every couple of years. And so, I did two listening parties for this record and I showed the guys ‘Sending Me Ur Loving’, ‘Heavy Hearted’, and a track called ‘Heartless’ which is on the record. I showed them those three in the first listening party. I invited them down to Melbourne, everyone sat on the couch at the studio. I went and I bought really nice tequila, made like, real good margaritas and just kind of showed them the tracks and that was how they heard them. And like, everyone has different reactions. Like, Andrew is very mindful so he doesn’t like to tell you what he thinks at first, which I always get like, pissed off about that, I’m like tell me more, tell me what you think! I started realising I stare at peoples’ faces when I show them the tracks for the first time.

So, following that listening party, I did a couple of where I just sent them a track, just on email, and it was always on a Friday night. I’d be like hey, here’s a track. I kind of just showed the guys the record that way. The guys would either like, love it or not say anything, but I think like, in my head, when I’m proud of something and feel good about it, I have to know when to let go of it, kind of. So, that was a good exercise to almost ready myself for getting the album done, do you know what I mean? ‘Cause sometimes I hold things too close to my heart.

This album has been full of a lot of learning processes and also like, it’s kind of taught me a lot about loving myself and being able to share things with people and not be scared of the reaction. If I really love it, then that’s good enough for me.

MF: That’s lovely! Tell me more about the tubulum instrument you built out of pipes and flip-flops. What songs does it feature on?

SH: That was on ‘Heavy Hearted’. Well, I didn’t actually build it. I was looking at a video one time… I don’t know how I got onto it, but it was of a street busker and he was playing a bunch of pipes with thongs and it sounded so good! I thought it was like a really short, attack-y bass and I’d been looking for a sound just like that, so when I saw the video, I was like, I need one of these! And then I called my manager and I was like what do you do when you want this? How do you get this? And he helped me look into it and we figured out it’s called a tubulum, they’re not like, real marketed instruments at all, but people make them out of PVC piping. And so, Stu, my manager just kind of, hit up a guy that he used to know from his Sony days and this guy’s just kind of like a jack of all trades, can build stuff, and he built us one and shipped it to Melbourne. It fit the dimensions of my door so I could get it in my studio and everything! It was custom-built and then yeah, it was the exact sound that I was looking for so kind of built the track around that and the rest is history.

It’s a really fun thing to also write basslines on ‘cause you get to use your hands like a drum and I’ve been a drummer my whole life so that’s a really good way for me to feel the bassline out, you know? Just kind of, play it with my hands. So yeah, it’s a cool thing. I mean, I don’t use it as much anymore because I think it featured so heavily on ‘Heavy Hearted’ that I felt like, the more I put it on other songs, they just sounded exactly like that. But now I use it more like a tool for making basslines.

MF: That’s fun – a bit different. So, other than working on the new record, how did you keep yourself entertained during this past crazy year?

SH: Well, I mean, I’ve been making a lot of music outside of this record as well. I’ve been making like a… maybe it’s the next record, I don’t really know, but I kind of didn’t really stop writing after Love Signs. So, I’ve kind of just been making a lot of music. As soon as Melbourne’s lockdown stopped, I’ve done a lot more domestic travelling than I have in the past. Every now and again we’ll have like a show and I’m going there a couple of days earlier and I’ve been just exploring.

So, just the other day we were in Darwin and I got there a couple of days early and a friend of mine wanted to do a little adventure as well up there, and he took me helicopter barramundi fishing. You can do like anything in the Northern Territory! And we spent this day on a helicopter with no doors, and you fly around the outback and then all the way to the ocean. It’s really crazy seeing like, desert meeting ocean and bush meeting ocean. The helicopter pilot would be like, oh, looks like there’s barramundi biting down there, and then we’d kind of fly down, and then just unhook while the
spinners are still going, and then grab a beer, grab a rod and just fish! It was like, the best day ever!

Oh, and by the way, also, then he took us to a pub that you could fly the helicopter directly to, and it’s just… I just saw another part of Australia that I hadn’t. So, I’ve been doing a little more of that. I’ve kind of been adventuring a little more.

MF: Yeah, sounds like it! Gosh, that’s so different!

SH: Yeah [laughs]! I didn’t catch anything! Well, I kind of did but the pilot helped me so I felt like I cheated. He like, helped me cast and then he gave me the rod and then as soon as he gave it to me, it caught something, and I was like, no, this is cheating!

MF: What an experience though, that’s so cool!

SH: Yeah, it was a great experience. I’d recommend it to anyone – go helicopter barramundi fishing in the top end.

MF: I’ve started doing this thing with quick-fire questions if you’re interested?

SH: Yeah, let’s do it!

MF: Pineapple on pizza, yes, or no?

SH: Yes, I like that… with ham.

MF: Would you rather live in a high-rise in the city or a cabin in the woods?

SH: Cabin in the woods, for sure.

MF: Would you rather be able to speak with animals or speak all human languages?

SH: Oh, I’d love to speak all human languages. That would be really cool, and I reckon movies would probably be easier without subtitles. I could watch anything!

MF: That’s very true! Last question, you’re heading out on a national tour later this year. What can fans expect from your set?

SH: Well, this album is really translating well live. One thing I really love is that… I tried not to focus on every song being a banger, I just tried to focus on all the songs connecting, and as I’m finding, this is just gonna be a real deep, dancey set. It’s gonna be more dancey than it’s ever been before but it’s really translating really well, I find.

We’ve gone extra hard on the production. I think we’ve spent more money on this tour than we ever have before [laughs]. But I think it’s like, this is us kind of going up a level, so I think fans can expect seeing levelled up Jungle Giants.

‘Love Signs’ is out today. The band are scheduled to head out on an Australian tour in September, with support from Bag Raiders in DJ set mode. Check out those dates here.

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