Chasing the new

Interview with Jungle By Night

Chasing the new

30-04-2014 | 16.23

That moment in high school when you dream of being in a band, you probably dream of being in a band like Jungle by Night. I mean, imagine, you play only with your close friends; improvising on stage, having fun, touring all summer and people even dance to your music. And here dancing doesn’t mean fist pumping, but proper moving and sweating. And meanwhile, there’s nobody really telling you what to do: there’s no big plan, no band leader, nor a major label manager. That is Jungle by Night: nine friends just used to like – doing their own thing.

For the interview I meet with Sonny, percussionist, and Peter, their new bass guitarist. We sit outside in front of the studio; their new record playing through the open window. It’s the first time I hear the record, so it’s both a listening session and an interview. Their third album The Hunt is about to hit the shops in a few days, and just as we’re reaching the final mp3 of the album, Tienson, the djembe player, arrives with a box containing the first vinyl copies of The Hunt. While everyone sees the final product for the first time, we move in and listen to the album again, now from the record player.

With their debut record, Jungle by Night broke through as an ‘afro beat sensation’ - which was special, since they were nine young nice kids from Amsterdam. The Hunt doesn’t necessarily sound as afro beat; sometimes it’s even more like a haunting soundtrack for a road movie. Peter agrees that Jungle by Night is not all about afro beat. "You know what, a friend of mine thought one our songs sounded ‘afro prog’. Cool, right? I come from the punk scene; before I played with Jungle by Night, I never really listened that much to afro beat. More hip-hop like Wu-Tang." Sonny agrees. "Yeah, and I was a die-hard Opgezwolle (legendary, Dutch rap formation ed.) fan. That beat maker, Delic, he was the shit. I still don’t know how the fuck he made those beats. And also, with Jungle by Night we’re heading more and more towards house these days. After working with Awanto3 (for his track Baila Con Paula on Rush Hour ed.), I’m getting more and more into that stuff. But, it is hard – we still need to ask our drummer: can you please do a kick on every beat?"

On The Hunt, Peter is a new face. After the former bass guitarist had left, Peter got asked to rehears with them, but their show on Dour Festival was basically his first test. "I remember they asked me to play with them once. I listened to the songs a few times and they gave me some notes like: play it 7/8 here. First we were looking around a bit on the festival terrain, but when we went up to stage we found out we were playing for a packed tent for thousands of people. When we came on none of us dared to even look at each other or say anything. Then, from the moment we started playing the crowd went absolutely crazy. We just did it, with a lot of improvisation. For me, that was quite an experience."

With Peter they recorded their new album in a studio in the North of Amsterdam. So, not in the cozy studio where it once began: the basement of the house where Sonny and Gino grew up and still live with their parents. Sonny explains: "Yeah, this is a great place to jam together and it was essential for the start of Jungle by Night. For instance, there’s a lot of analogue gear here, so we could always play around with that. But for recording an album, you need something different. And this time we found the perfect studio - with an even better engineer. It’s fair to say that he also played a big role in recording this album. We could record there for 10 days till 10 in the evening, but even after 10 he wanted to go on or smoke a joint with us. Or he would come with ideas like, let’s try to put those metal trash cans against the drums. And it worked."

Recording music with a nine-piece band seems hard, but composing a song seems even harder. Tienson disagrees: "You maybe won’t believe it, but it works. Every song starts with everyone involved, just chaos, and together we make something out of it. And we record everything. For example, once we were playing at Oerol (an outdoor theatre festival on an island ed.) and because of the vibe there, the sound check turned out great. And just like that, even the sound check can become the start of a new track.’ 

The cover of The Hunt is shot in the basement of Trouw. According to Tienson there were a few reasons they felt the album was connected to the club. "I think the album turned out quite dark and grimy, the feeling that also comes to mind when I think about Trouw, especially the basement. But, also we’ve been going out there more and more. Because of deejays like Sadar Bahar and Antal, I started to like that kind of music. Before that none of us really listened to house, but a guy like Antal mixes those records in between funk and afro, so that I sometimes forgot that I was listening to house. And I think for other people, it’s the other way around: they don’t notice that he’s mixing funk in between his house records. He is convincing people on the dance floor, introducing them to new styles right on the moment itself. I love that idea.’

When I later asked Antal about Jungle by Night, he remembered how he signed their first record for his label Kindred Spirits. "It was crazy, the youngest was I think 15 years old and they were already composing and performing their own jazz and deep funk tracks! Now I feel they've had an influence on Amsterdam already, I can’t wait to see where that goes next."

This Friday, Jungle by Night plays the release party in Trouw where they kick off a long summer tour. Peter: "That’s the hunt: playing, looking for new crowds and chasing new styles."

Text: Luc Mastenbroek