Interview | Jagwar Ma

Jagwar Ma have lived a pretty short existence as a band so far, but they’ve been making waves from the outset. Their first singles “Come Save Me”, “What Love” and most recently “The Throw” have been met with a whirlwind of international acclaim and have grabbed the attention of many of the music industry’s heavyweights, who are sharing the love all over the place. Foals liked them so much they’ve brought them on their current European tour, and The XX had the same idea for their Australian tour in April. Great minds. I had a chat to Jagwar’s Gab Winterfield from their hotel in Paris about the current Foals tour, their upcoming album, and gardening.

So you’re on the road with Foals at the moment, how’s that treating you? Is it a bit overwhelming Yeah, but it’s amazing. The Foals guys make it easy because they’re lovely guys. It’s always nice to tour with a band who are really nice people. I’ve been in a different city every single day and that’s kind of incredible. It’s all pretty cool.

You guys are pretty young as a band and I saw you at Big Day Out on the Gold Coast and you said it was your fourth ever show. Do you feel a bit like you’ve been thrown in the deep end now?

I think it’s always good to have a challenge. It makes you have to step up and keep on trying to do bigger and better things. I have to say, at the Gold Coast show we had a really, really good time. The crowd at the Gold Coast were just amazing, they got really into it so we all had a really good time. That actually felt like it set the precedent for us as far as playing goes. We have to make it as good as that, if not better. That was a cool show.

How did you guys come together to form Jagwar?
Jono and I played in different bands before and we kind of knew each other. We went on tour with our other bands together and jammed together. We were all kind of in that Sydney scene. Jack, as well, played in another band. It kind of all came through that, I suppose. We were working on some other stuff and Johnno had a song that had no vocals on it, and he was like, “Do you want to sing on this?” and I thought I’d have a go. I also had some demos of some stuff I’d done from years before, just on my own. So we started working on each others’ stuff and I guess that’s where Jagwar Ma started.

Obviously you guys have really strong sixties influences that you emulate through electronic music, where have those influences come from?
I think because both of us play guitar, we’ve learned from a lot of different things along the way. Guitar was Jono’s start as a teenager and he was very much into Nirvana and things like that. As you go further and further and further back before you know it, you’re listening to Bo Diddley. If you play guitar, it’s very difficult to ignore the last 100 years because a lot of cool things came out of each decade. Even going beyond the sixties and into the fifties. It all filters through. You should hear this song “Hey! Bo Diddley”. He tells the story of all the different bands in the sixties. It tells a cool story.

Who would be some people that really stand out for you that you’ve listened to growing up?
When I was 14, I basically wanted to be Hendrix. For a long time. I would listen to his records over and over again and try to play guitar like him. I used to turn up to parties in flares and stuff because that’s what he would wear… That was a big thing. I’ve always liked more eccentric sort of music, funkadelic stuff, people like Curtis Mayfield and Marvin Gaye. All of those sorts of things.

I heard the new album will be out around May, is that the time frame you’re still looking at?
Yeah, it should be out around the last week of May.

Can you tell us much about it, will it be along the same lines as the EP?
Yeah, it’s kind of like… None of the songs are the same, they’re all quite different. All sorts of sounds come through. Another thing as well, we were constantly dancing throughout the whole making of the record. Some of the songs might not necessarily be danceable, but we were moving the whole time. If you’re singing or performing and you dance you can actually hear the difference. You can imagine Diana Ross or someone singing, if she was completely still, it would sound different. That also set the mood, as well. Johnno would be on the drum machine jiving away, and I’d be shuffling away in front of the microphone and that definitely had an impact, I think.

So you’ve got The XX tour coming up soon as well, which is another massive one to tick off the list, how did that one come about?
They somehow got in touch and asked us to play with them, I don’t really know. I just got an email from my manager saying, “Do you want to play with The XX?” And I was like, “Definitely.” I don’t know much more of the story but I’m super excited, I can’t wait. Their new record’s pretty rad, I love what Jamie (XX) does, it’s pretty incredible. I’m excited, it should be cool.

Then you’ve got your own headline tour in Australia, which will be good to play a home crowd.
Yeah, that’ll be rad!

Because you guys are so young, as Jagwar Ma at least, do you feel like you’re all set and things have tightened up as a live band now?
Yeah, I think so. I think, when you’re presented with a new challenge, you definitely evolve. Orchids, the flowers, they glow really well under stress. I’m really into gardening. I really like gardening. There’s a story to do with orchids that if you neglect them, you don’t water them, you neglect sunlight, you just leave them, their shock reaction is that they sprout more and they bloom much better. I think there’s something to be said about that in music as well. If you’re put under pressure, it can definitely work that way.

That’s a nice analogy.
Not too much pressure, or else you end up like Amy Winehouse.

Yeah, probably not ideal.
Maybe you shouldn’t use that. People might not like that.

So, what’s been a highlight of this Foals tour so far?
There’s been so many. There have been some pretty funny moments. We were on the Autobahn, listening to Kraftwerk on the Autobahn. That was fun. Just playing the shows has been amazing. The first time we played a show in Brussels, we played a packed show, there were about two thousand people there. I just looked at Johnno and was like, “Are you fucking serious?” We had a bit of a moment like, “This is unbelievable.” There was also this group of girls that actually followed the tour, they were at about five shows, singing the lyrics of songs we hadn’t even released and they didn’t even speak English. So that was kind of amazing.

That’s dedication. Pretty cute, slightly creepy. So it must be a relief to know that the album’s coming out soon. What else is happening for you guys after the release?
We’re playing a lot of UK festivals in the summer, like Latitude, Escape, Field Day, and a few others I can’t really mention yet.

Are there any places you’re particularly keen to head to?
Yeah, there’s a couple. There’s a festival that the Wu Tang Clan are playing at, that’s going to be amazing. I think Elton John’s playing as well, which is funny, as well as Snoop Dogg. Field Day is going to be incredible as well because Solange is playing, I really like Solange so that’ll be cool. Yeah, there’s some very cool stuff.

Sounds like a pretty amazing year ahead.
Yeah, things are looking up!