Joshua Lloyd-Watson, left, and Tom McFarland of Jungle | Credit: Lydia Kitto 

The journey to becoming Jungle — a hard-to-nail-into-a-genre band that is one of today’s most innovative artists in electronic music, known as much for their incredibly creative and free-spirited choreography as they are for their beats —began in cofounder Tom McFarland’s bedroom in London, where he and childhood friend and cofounder Joshua Lloyd-Watson began experimenting with music production at the ripe old age of 10. Their debut album was in 2014, and their first three records have since amassed more than a million equivalent album sales and a billion streams worldwide, leading to a select run of European dates last year supporting Billie Eilish on her Happier Than Ever tour.

Hot off the August 11 debut of their new album, Volcano, their fourth, Jungle stops by to headline at the Santa Barbara Bowl on Wednesday, September 6, as part of a worldwide tour that includes stops in Paris, Barcelona, Madrid, Lisbon, Milan, Zurich, Brisbane, and Amsterdam, among others. 

McFarland took time out from rehearsals in London to answer a few of my questions.

I understand the two of you (Tom and Joshua) have been friends since you were little kids. Did you ever imagine you’d have this huge international career when you were starting out?  Certainly not, so it’s been a really incredible journey thus far. Setting our expectations low was important for us, because really we just started making music for ourselves with no real belief that it would reach anyone. Everything we’ve experienced over the last decade of making music for Jungle has felt so natural, and the growth, although seemingly quite rapid from the outside looking in, has seemed very gradual and manageable. I think if we’d experienced a crazy explosion to the top of the mountain, then the climb would have been less enjoyable. 

Tom McFarland, left, and Joshua Lloyd-Watson of Jungle | Credit: Joe Petini

What kind of team and band are you touring with right now for your live show?  It’s a family. People that we’ve been touring with for years. It’s important to have a tight-knit group of people around you, especially when you can be away for such long periods of time. There are six in the band, and we’re tighter than ever. With each year comes a new level that we seem to reach onstage together, and that feels rare and exciting. Starting a tour in the U.S., especially on the West Coast, is probably one of the most romantic ideals of what touring is for a Brit, so we’re just super excited to come back to California. We played the Santa Barbara Bowl in 2015 when we opened for Alt-J, but to be coming back to play our own headline show is something we just feel so lucky to be able to do.

Is it comfortable to go from a duo to a whole group of people and back and forth?  Being adaptable is what keeps it exciting. Sometimes we go and deejay together as a two(some) or even on our own, but the real kick comes from playing music with your friends in front of a loving and open-minded audience. It can be a challenge to translate the songs from the studio to the stage, but it wouldn’t be fun if it was easy.

Your musical style is a little bit difficult to describe. If forced to describe yourselves, what would you say?  We like the fact that we’re difficult to pigeonhole, and we want to keep it that way. 

Your videos and artwork and your whole aesthetic is so impressive online. [Check them out on YouTube.] Can you explain a little bit about how that gets translated into a live performance?  “Energy” is the key word we use. So much human energy goes into the creation of all our art, whether it’s the videos or the albums themselves. So when we want to bring that vibe onto the stage, all it demands is energy and love. If we project the right levels of energy into the audience from the moment we step onstage, then we see the response from the crowd that we need to fuel us to give even more. It’s a cycle. 

Is there anything else you want the people in Santa Barbara to know before we go to the show?  Only that we’re just so excited to come back to Santa Barbara after all these years and hope that we can all have a dance together on September 6! —Leslie Dinaberg

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