Don’t call Jagwar Ma psychedelic
It’s been a blur of ascension for Sydney guys Gabby Winterfield and Jono Ma. The duo (and occasionally trio) have been jumping around all over the place since their 2011 release Come And Save Me, which was launched from rural France. The groovy, nostalgic dance track earned itself a global response, shot-putting these young guns to international attention. Despite this, Winterfield still emits a characteristically chilled-out Sydney vibe, as he discusses the influence behind this move. “A friend of mine has a place three hours south of Paris … it just kind of worked out logistically to make more sense. Seems kind of really bold. When we played the shows in France I introduced us in French but it’s kind of like high school French. It’s pretty embarrassing. [But] I’m Sydney born and bred, so is Jono. It’s like in Women’s Weekly and stuff how they always refer to Nicole Kidman as our Nicole. Australia can claim lots of ownership over us.”
Jagwar Ma have recently returned to their homeland in a support slot for The XX’s Australian tour, straight off the back of a spate of European dates with Foals. Winterfield assures us that any differences in crowd reaction were not dependant on location, but rather the varied musical vibes of the headliners; with a few glaring exceptions. “I’m not sure whether that’s more to do with the fact that in Europe they were Foals fans and here they’re XX fans. I feel that people are just kinda people, everyone’s really the same. People went crazy in Berlin, because it’s Berlin. Same goes for the Netherlands aswell. Like Amsterdam … you know. Certain places seem to do that more than others.”
Despite this global criss-crossing, somehow these Sydney dudes remain laid back as fuck, while consistently extending themselves to new levels of success. But Winterfield is honest, admitting it was a mix of bloody hard work, little sleep and “flukey circumstances.” “It’s not a challenge if you just don’t sleep. That’s the trick: you just don’t sleep. I didn’t sleep. I haven’t slept properly this whole year, it’s kind of ridiculous. [With the album] I didn’t really know what was going to happen. Neither of us really knew what to do. But then we thought, ‘why don’t we just keep doing this and make some more songs?’ And that was kind of the history of Come and Save Me and The Throw. And the idea of the name of the song The Throw. I kind of like the idea of getting a record and frisbying it into a crowd and just seeing if it would work. Because it felt like Come And Save Me – well it wasn’t a fluke – but there was flukey circumstances with it. And then The Throw was kind of like, well you’ve got the platform now, see if you can do it again… But we knew the kind of album we wanted to make and didn’t have that much stuff necessarily. Like, we knew we could do it with just a laptop. I knew we could do it with just a laptop, and an 808 and a few bits of techno and a guitar and a microphone and that’s all.”
Whereas I have seen someone frisbee a record into the crowd, hitting an unsuspecting patron hard in the windpipe, Jagwar Ma have had a much better outcome. Big crowds take kindly to the duo’s trippy indie-electronica tunes, not to mention some legend-status big-hitting individuals who are likewise on-board. With bemusement and gratitude Winterfield acknowledged those big names that have gotten behind Jagwar Ma. Not merely The XX and Foals, but The Horrors, Arctic Monkeys and (to my unprofessionally scoffed laughter) Noel Gallagher; “I got an email saying that Noel Gallagher really liked it. Which is pretty amazing. So I was definitely pretty chuffed about that one. [Having recognition] is amazing. It’s really, really cool. It’s quite humbling.”
And you can’t be more humbled than being billed on a line-up alongside The Rolling Stones, as Jagwar Ma have with their upcoming slot at the fabled Glastonbury Festival. Discussing this, Winterfield confessed a dark theory for the headliners “I have a feeling that it’s their last show – like – ever. I know someone, that knows someone, that knows someone. Maybe chuck in a few more ‘knows someone’s.’ But I do have this feeling. Because they’re not getting any younger, and I think this and last year has been all about wrapping it up, it’s like fiftieth anniversary, all this sort of stuff.”
It would be easy for one of Australia’s newest buzz-bands to float off with the inflation of their own egos, as so many hyped up-and-comers do. However Jagwar Ma remain laid back and longing for relaxation, especially some 1990’s shoddy graphics goodness.
Gabby: I miss my Super Nintendo. It is so good. Such a creature comfort I just love it. I used to play Street Fighter and I’ve beaten the game so many times. I just find it really therapeutic. Sitting there and zoning out. Me and my brother always play it. I’ve got a brother that’s two years older than me and it’s this undying rivalry, we just get so competitive. We were four and six, and we’re just as competitive now I’m twenty-two and he’s twenty-four. It’s the same thing.
SYS: Yep, my brother and I are exactly the same. If you find us playing Super Smash Brothers it’s a fight to the death. It really is.
GW: Aw! Smash Brothers! Mate, it’s a stone cold classic! Who’s your character?
SYS: Kirby? The pink one?
GW: The little pink thing!
SYS: Yeah of course!
GW: Yeah he could slam down into a brick!
SYS: And he can inflate.
GW: He’s so good. So good.
SYS: Who was yours?
GW: Ummm I used to use Link.
SYS: Yeah my sister was Link.
GW: The green guy with the sword. I was a big fan of Link.
SYS: He’s very pretty.
GW: Yeah, he’s a bit of a pretty boy isn’t he?
SYS: He couldn’t even inflate, fuck that!
GW: Kirby’s pretty squishy though. He’s pretty cute.
SYS: Really cute. I think that’s why I chose him.
And even though downtime may revert Jagwar Ma back into 90’s kids, Winterfield asserts a strong opinion about the current musical climate. When questioning the trending resurgence of the so-called psyche movement, Gabby heads me off at the pass, gesticulating what is obviously a well thought out opinion. It came as a stark comparison to the pros and cons of various Nintendo characters.
“Well, first of all, I think that the word “psychedelic” gets used too much, it gets used to describe anything interesting or experimental. Surely people can use more words. It’s almost lazy – like Animal Collective is psychedelic, Ariel Pink is psychedelic, Tame Impala is psychedelic, Thee Oh Sees is psychedelic. But I don’t personally think we are. There are psychedelic elements of our band, but we’re more electronic. Having said that I think there are a lot of things happening with musical equipment and equipment always influences sound and style. And I love making rooms with music. I love imagining and making music as a very visual thing. I think it’s probably just escapism. Escapism never dies. It’s not even a trendy thing, people have always used it that way.”
Despite being only twenty-two, an avid Street Fighter fan and subject to “flukey circumstances”, it’s obvious that Winterfield’s successes are well deserved. And with Jagwar Ma’s upcoming debut album Howlin, you can be sure these recent successes won’t be their last.
Howlin will be available from June 10th, and you can pre-order digital, plastic and vinyl versions right now.