Jagwar Ma – The Interview
You can’t help but be a little bit captivated by Jagwar Ma, they’re a kaleidoscope of colour, a splintering of sounds, a gorgeous mess of intelligent chaos and just a little bit of an enigma. Fresh off the back of their tours with The Foals and The xx, Repeat Button caught up with Gabriel Winterfield to discuss the upcoming album, confirm a few awry facts and indulge our inner music nerds.
RB: Congratulations on the tour with the xx! You’ve just arrived home (to Sydney) How was it?! And how did you score the gig supporting The xx?
JM: It was really good, obviously the xx were amazing and playing at the Hordern was pretty special. We didn’t actually know about the tour, I mean there was talk of them considering us but in the end we just got an email from our manager telling us we’d gotten it. Then when we met them they told us that they’d been following our progress as a band for a while which was a big compliment.
RB: What are the xx actually like? Their on stage persona is that they are kind of pensive, deep and introspective…does that translate to real life?
JM: They are just all really lovely people. I’d say shy, not introverted but they’ve all been friends since they were about 5 so they have a very tight bond.
RB: So it was a fairly laid back sort of tour then? No wild parties along the way?
JM: No, it was definitely not throwing guitars out of hotel windows it was more sitting around having cups of tea or perhaps a glass of champagne.
RB: You guys spent your whole set at the xx show dancing! It was such a vast contrast with the xx’s performance…did that matter?
JM: Well outwardly, yes, our sound is very different to the xx but our set ups are quite similar, we both play in a trio with vocals, a bassist and then someone doing electronics…so even though outwardly yes we’re different I feel like we both may have come from a similar place, so we just gelled really well. In terms of the dancing though, yeh I did at times feel like our music was a bit too ravey! The xx crowd just kind of want to sit there and swoon to Romy’s amazing voice and we were heavier but it worked.
RB: Sometimes Jagwar Ma is a little but of an enigma, at times you’re a duo and other times a trio. What’s the story with that?
JM: Ok, so Jono and I recorded the album together and Jack (Freedman) plays live with us. But, then we do like to keep the enigma thing going, so it can get confusing. Sometimes we pick up articles and just laugh because everyone is someone else; Jack is Jono and Jono is playing Bass and Jack is me (Gab) so everybody is just wrong…its like ‘lead singer of Jagwar Ma, Jack Freeman’ so its totally mixed up and we have to clarify things…
RB: And where does the name Jagwar Ma come from? Obviously the Ma I’d assume is from Jono Ma?…
JM: It’s a bit of a long story and it stems from me having a guitar called a Fender Jag and then there’s this painting, you know the image of the Jaguar that we use? One of our mates, Gus (da Hoodrat) found it on the side of the road one night….in fact I’d probably credit him with the naming of the band because it’d just be a bit of an in-joke between friends for Jono & I when we were working together. Then when we were in France the French would be like ‘oh jagwarmaaaA’ (says in a French accent) and it sounded really cool.
RB: So you have actually just been in Europe touring with The Foals. As an Australian band how were you received internationally?
JM: The shows were obviously amazing but The Foals were just such good hosts, even on Twitter they were totally talking us up so I felt that, even though it wasn’t our show at all the real Foals fans might have actually heard something of us before so it made it really easy. Sometimes you can play with a band and they’re just definitely not your crowd but it felt like an easy way to be playing in front of a lot of people internationally.
RB: In terms of creating music…there’s been a lot of attention paid to the genre mixing within your tracks. Do you purposely layer genres or does it just come about organically? What can we expect from the upcoming album?
JM: Honestly, I am absolutely colour blinded by genre, I just don’t really care about genre. For example, the mix tapes that we play when we’re touring are completely random…we’ll be playing Frank Sinatra one minute and then we’ll go into De la Soul and then some 90’s Madonna and then Auchtecture and then Licenced to Ill and then some old jazz record. No one cares, all of us just really love what we think is good music.
But yes, we were trying to bring that into our record, the contrasts and moulding of genres. The album is due for release around the 10th of June and its hard to generalize, its 11 or 12 very different tracks but there is definitely a consistent groove and distinct beat through out it.
RB: With such dynamic musical influences do you and Jono clash in your musical preferences often?
JM: We have arguments constantly but they’re more creative debates that are enjoyable and inspiring and we always come to a really good conclusion. There’s definitely a bit of a yin & yang thing going on between us when we write songs though. There’s a few different ways that it starts, sometimes I just play the piano and sing to Jono and then other times he’ll have beats that he’s made and he’ll play a loop and we’ll play it over and over again and gradually record more vocals over the top. But we always have a good time doing it.
RB: What artists would you name as some as your most significant influences?
JM: I really admire Aphex Twin, he’s a bit of an inspiration because of the fact that he just does whatever he wants to do and has been successful because of that. It’s not even just from a stylistic point of view, a lot of his stuff is pretty intense but he’s inspirational anyway. That particularly rang true when we were in France making songs and we had no idea if anyone would like these tracks but we really liked them, and we thought if we like them and we’re relatively normal people then surely someone else would…
Jagwar Ma’s LP, Howlin is due for release on the 10th of June. You can pre-order it via itunes here.
Words – The Other Jess