Louder Than War’s Harley Cassidy caught up with Jagwar Ma – the band Pitchfork described as “The purest piece of Madchester revivalism to come around in some time” – at Bestival for a chat about how things are going for them.
If you think Jagwar Ma’s main focus in life was to become new dance pioneers and shift us towards sounds that delve into loose limbed dancing and dazed vocals then think again. Everything you think Jagwar Ma have built up so far in their musical backdrop is really a sinister ploy to become… wait for it… claimers of Kangol.
That’s right, Gabriel Winterfield and Jack Freeman feel like they’ve been “hijacked culturally” and won’t stop until they can wear bucket hats that feature their own countries animal. “Yeah basically the whole mission of the band is to earn enough money so that we can buy the rights to Kangol. It’s an English company with a Kangaroo on the front!” Is that not right I ask? Gabriel looks alarmed that I’ve even suggested otherwise – “You know it’s fine! Take one of our animals from our coat of arms!” OK, so Jagwar Ma are only joking (I think) and reassure me their primary focus is to make music but it’s this kind of Aussie pride that runs widely through Jagwar Ma’s musical genetics.
I ask them what they think of the current Australian music scene and what their take on two of the biggest exports Tame Impala and Pond are but it seems there is so much more to Australia than psychedelic offerings.
“Ok, so there’s this guy who toured with us called Guerre, he’s like an electronic musician” states Gabriel before listing a reel of further acts.
“Angelo Cruiseman whose more of a DJ, he was part of a collective called Bang Gang which is a bunch of really good DJ’s in Australia, but now he’s just about to put out an electronic album which is fucking amazing!” Jack then chips in with “There’s also a band called Splashh, with two h’s” and we know that Jagwar Ma know their stuff.
But what about Tame and Pond then? “Pond are very talented. The scene that we mentioned all the bands that you should check out is like our clique of people so that’s from Sydney. So Pond and Tame Impala, they’re from Perth and with Sydney and Perth that’s like the equivalent of New York and LA, they’re their own thing, so having said that Tame Impala are amazing and that’s another comparison that comes up. I love that, it’s like a brotherhood thing” nods Gabriel.
So Jagwar Ma don’t mind the Tame / Pond comparisons but what about the orthodox associations that have bogged the band since day one? It’s no hidden secret that Jagwar Ma have been given every Baggy/Madchester/Roses/Mondays likening under the sun but Jack sees it as “just a speck of sand on a beach”.
“We love that music but I don’t remember the last time I put The Stone Roses album on” he shrugs. “They’re brilliant bands and they’re all quite volatile, they kind of blew up and imploded which is quite exciting but we don’t want to emulate that. They’re very cool but we just don’t feel like they’re the same” concedes Gabriel.
Having just finished a storming set and what Jagwar believe to be “a bit of a benchmark show”, the pair look at ease and happy with Bestival. Their music is becoming less niche and allowing more chart concentrated fans to have a peek into the world of loping, stoned grooves.
Unlike most acts though Jagwar Ma are not too concerned about fracturing the charts but still believe that they could do so. “If you’ve got fuckwits like Miley Cyrus there, I’m sure we can knock her off” states Gabriel. Wait, nice complimentary Jagwar Ma getting the claws out?! Surely not? But no, these guys really hate Miley Cyrus.
“I feel bad slagging someone off but she sucks, I’m not gonna say anything about Rihanna, I’m not gonna say anything about Katy Perry, I love those girls but fuck her”. There’s another two fans lost then Miley.
Having first started as shoegaze unit Ghostwood in 2006 Gabriel sees no major role change for him now he’s in Jagwar Ma.“My skillset is singing and playing guitar which I’ve been doing since I can remember but we really like electronic music I guess”.
The pair hold imprints from every genre and cite My Bloody Valentine and Chapter House as influences along with “ARK, they’re amazing, they’re like a prototype band, almost like TV On The Radio in the ’80s”. It seems Gabriel was dabbling in Dance music during Ghostwood however and every single the band put out were on a 707 drum machine. The truth is Jagwar Ma just want to make people dance and tell me it was their purpose with debut album Howlin’.
With Dance music storming the market and titans like Disclosure and Rudimental dominating the scene, Jagwar Ma have definitely dipped their toes in the right pond, especially European waters. “Europe seems to really like us. There hasn’t really been a bad show so far apart from one in Sydney, our hometown! What does that say about Sydney!?” proclaims Jack.
Having toured Europe with Foals, Gabriel feels like they were taken under the bands wing and in general “owe them a lot” comparing it to a Nirvana and Sonic Youth situation. But, in the long run, we all know which band fared better in the end, don’t we?
All words by Harley Cassidy. You can read more from Harley here.