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Interview: Ali In The Jungle talk beginnings and the making of ‘Anyway’

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Ali In The Jungle, the fresh UK indie band, is the splendid incorporation of all things different, tackling all kinds of genres, from post-punk to glam rock to jazz to piano-pop. They recently released the official music video for “I Don’t Even Know You,” a track on their first EP Anyway that came out in early 2020.

We caught up with these guys to talk about their beginnings, their EP and what the future looks like in the midst of the pandemic.

First off, how did you guys come up with the name ‘Ali In The Jungle’?

The name came from a song we liked on a football video game FIFA 2008, and was all about overcoming the odds and achieving greatness and all that, so we thought it’d be a good mantra to take on. (Saying ‘achieving greatness’ makes us sound like Lord Voldemort doesn’t it…). But the name was word play in a way too… We formed when we were at school, and Ali (our drummer) was considerably older and cooler than us so in order to get him to join, we chose the name Ali In The Jungle, so his name was in it (and he could get a bit more attention that way, because he’s a brilliant drummer).

Who are some artists who have inspired you in the making of your EP? Who have inspired your sound in general?

As a whole our genre bending can be put down to the influence of The Beatles and David Bowie, both incredible musical chameleons. Otherwise our sound is akin to the ‘post-punk revival’ genre (The Arctic Monkeys, The Strokes, Franz Ferdinand), but we’ve mixed it with alternative piano elements inspired by bands such as Radiohead and Keane. We call it ‘post-piano revival’ now cos it’s easier that way.

On the EP, “Drunk Generation” sits midway between post-punk revival and glam, drums and bass informed by the former, while lead guitar and piano took hints from bands such as Queen. It’s also infused with an element of Brit-pop in its drunken guitar chords and Cockerish vocal moments.

Which song on Anyway was the most difficult to write? The most fun? How so?

“I Don’t Even Know You” was difficult. We had the first verse and choruses come to us all at once quite a few years ago, but it wasn’t until the year we recorded it that the rest of it came together. I (Tim) remember it was my last few days at university when I sort of slumped sadly over the piano and wrote the second verse vocals. The rest came from playing it together as a band, something we hadn’t been able to do very often as we’d been at different universities around the country. I think finishing “I Don’t Even Know You” took a great deal more life experience from where we had started with it, in order to convey the difficult emotions it wrestles with in a way that could be truly concise.

The most fun to write? I think “Drunk Generation” because it was a case of making as many jokes as possible in order to convey. Also musically, the whole thing has to be going over the speed limit with energy, so naturally to get that in, we had to have a lot of fun with it. As opposed to our track “You Make Me Feel So Alive” which has an insane amount of chord changes, “Drunk Generation” is really only 3 chords, so the power of what you’re doing is in the layering and the way you build up or let loose the instrumentation. I love how Ali’s drum fills become more and more manic for example, and the guitar solo below the vocals in the second verse which harmonize as though they’d crashed into one another. When the hook for the song first came to me, I remember running around my house and literally bouncing off the walls I was so excited I’d found it, and I called Chris (our guitarist) over straight away.

Can you take us on what a day looked like for you guys when writing the songs on your EP?

Well they were written over many years so the process was pretty strange I guess. We don’t often get the luxury of a whole day to work together, so all our writing is like a diary written over a longer period of time. The songs were shaped by spending as much time outside of school/university/work on them as possible. We practice in Chris’ backroom while Sam and I sample the mad cordials he’s got at his house – ginger and lemongrass being a practice classic. These songs were written amongst many other songs so it was more a case of choosing how we wanted to introduce ourselves with the EP and working on the four songs we wanted to use from there (albeit picking four songs which had a shared through line). You may notice the EP begins with a “Drunk Generation” and ends with a “wise-guy waiting for the bar to close”…

Once we knew which songs we were recording, we went over every nook and cranny of the songs to make sure we were happy with each others parts and the overall sound. “I Don’t Even Know You” and “You Make Me Feel So Alive” underwent great changes at this point too as we combined our more mature sensibilities with our earlier songwriting.

You just dropped the music video for “I Don’t Even Know You.” How did you guys come up with the concept behind it? What made you go down the path you chose for the video?

It’s a strange song to do a video for because it can mean so many different things to different people, so when attaching it to tangible visuals you don’t want to be too direct with an interpretation. It was the first video we shot and we thought to relate it to our position at the time of making it. We’d all just got back together properly having finished our studies, having had a ‘sort of’ 4 year hiatus. We’ve loved finally being able to pursue our music properly and as mates all being together again and writing together. The concept for the video was us rediscovering this, our music an abandoned space. I personally felt real grief for all the days I hadn’t spent making music; it’s so important to me, so that’s one of the emotions I wanted to get across in the video.

Can you elaborate on the transition in your video that you have mentioned, from “desolate, damaged and empty” to a lighter, “warmer” feel? What does that transition mean to you guys relative to your own personal experiences?

That transition is a resolve of the feelings of distance and separation; a visual statement of togetherness. On a personal level, it shows the belonging we feel by being in Ali In The Jungle, and getting to work with and have the support of friends. I suppose relationships allow us to overcome our own feelings of emptiness etc, though there’s always a truth that we’re alone anyway I guess…. “I Don’t Even Know You” explores the relationship between these two ideas.

That got a bit soppy but the video is using the band as an example of interpersonal relationships and the gaps between them that will always be there (which I suppose the end of the video is a reminder of). The feelings described in “I Don’t Even Know You” can apply in so many different types of relationships, we’ve just tried to put a personal image to it.

What does the future look like for you guys, especially during this pandemic? What do you want it to look like?

It’s a very strange future for sure, in terms of gigging at least. We’ve loved making the music videos so much, and we’ve been able to reach so many fans through them that if gigging is so long away then recording and making videos is just the thing to keep doing, to use the internet to reach our audience. We’re super exciting to continue with our EP tour when the we can though!

I’d want the future to look like a quick end to the virus and everything back to normal. But in the meantime I think our current dreams are to get onto a record label to make it more possible to keep releasing great records.

Stream Anyway here.

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