The creators of the British electro-soul collective Jungle may have many self-taught skills, but dancing on roller skates is not one of them. When the duo released their celebrated EP “The Heat” last fall in their native Britain, they took an enigmatic route, keeping their faces and names under wraps. The video for the title track featured a pair of synchronized skaters in tracksuits. Confusion ensued.
“People jumped to the conclusion that we were the roller-skaters, which was fine,” said one of the group’s founders, Josh Lloyd-Watson. “Not revealing ourselves was an attempt to remove ego from the process. I think people put so much work into their music, and in the media it becomes all about the person, not what they created.”
Lloyd-Watson and Jungle’s other founder, Tom McFarland, childhood friends from West London, have since revealed their identities after much hounding. They share singing, instrumental and production duties for Jungle, an idealistic open-ended cadre of musicians and artists. (It currently has 15 to 30 members, and nine performed recently on “Jimmy Kimmel Live.”) The group’s self-titled debut, out Tuesday on XL Recordings, reflects this spirit, with an exuberant, nostalgic mash of falsetto funk harmonies, disco grooves and eccentric electropop textures.
Ahead of a tour of the United States, including a stop next month at Lollapalooza, Lloyd-Watson and McFarland joined Stacey Anderson at a studio in Brooklyn, where the duo nursed hangovers and bemoaned England’s recent defeat in the World Cup. Here are excerpts from the conversation.
Q: What are your specific roles in Jungle?
Josh Lloyd-Watson: There is no breakdown. It’s pretty equal. There’s been times where I’ve had shakers strapped to my arms and feet and a tambourine on my head, playing the piano, which he thought was a great idea.
Q: So you’ve been a one-man-band of maracas?
Lloyd-Watson: And they don’t really teach that in classical piano lessons, which is a bit of a shame.
Tom McFarland: A lot of stuff that happens in the studio with Josh becomes quite beautiful accidents. For the track “Drops,” I left the room while he was working on the track, and the door creaked. We put it on the record.
Lloyd-Watson: On “Son of a Gun,” the snare drum is the crushing of a Coke can. We layered it up with eating a corn chip and someone throwing their keys on the table.
Q: When Jungle made its debut, there were similarities to Gorillaz, like not showing your faces.
McFarland: I saw Gorillaz when they headlined Glastonbury in 2010. I spent the first half-hour of the gig trying to find Damon Albarn onstage, and it turned out that he was just in the back corner playing piano. I found that a really amazing thing to do. He just sat back and let the other people, who he trusts and loves and believe in, do the talking for him.
Q: There’s a Motown influence on the record. How far back do your retro interests go?
McFarland: I don’t think we’re retro junkies, but we came to love good music like that. As you grow up, you learn that individualism is important. When we were 15, I’d never listened to a Korn record in my life, but I wrote “Korn” on my pencil case at school, because I thought it was a cool thing to do.
Q: Why do you prefer minimally shot videos of skaters and break dancers?
Lloyd-Watson: The main aim of these videos is to present something honestly in an age where everyone is paranoid that people won’t pay enough attention. Current music videos make me go: “A load of lights just blew my face off. I can’t remember what happened in it.” It’s not the most original thing to put a dancer in a video. We just try to present them in a simple way where it’s about that person, that emotion.