Jungle are a duo from West London, comprised of Tom McFarland and Josh Lloyd-Watson, who were previously members of the band Born Blonde. The pair are childhood friends and formed Jungle at the beginning of 2013. They are joined at live shows by a seven-piece backing band. McFarland and Lloyd-Watson kept their identities hidden for the first year of the band’s existence, referring to themselves by just the initials J and T and not appearing in press shots. They told NME in October 2013 the secrecy came from a desire to emulate late producer J Dilla and make music – not the people behind it – a priority.
They released their debut single ‘Platoon’ on July 15 2013 on indie label Chess Club. The video for the release featured six-year-old breakdancer Dachlya Atkinson, aka B-Girl Terra, and went viral despite the band’s low profile. Second single ‘The Heat’ featured skate crew High Rollaz, who were initially mistaken for the band by some. When Jungle’s identities were finally revealed, they faced a brief backlash from American press who accused them of racism, with the New York Times writing: “Putting black faces on the packaging [leaves] a queasy aftertaste.”
Jungle performed their debut show at Manchester’s Roadhouse venue on October 10 2013. The group went on to sign a deal with XL Recordings, with whom they released singles ‘Busy Earnin” and ‘Time’ as well as a re-release of ‘The Heat’. Their eponymous debut album was released on the label on July 14 2014, with NME calling it: “a rounded future pop record; funky and reflective, ominous and ecstatic, as pouty as it is party.” Mcfarland told NME in July 2014 that each song on the recorded was written by imagining a different place, with the inspiration for ‘The Heat’ coming from Brooklyn.
In September 2014, the band were revealed as one of the nominees for the Mercury Music Prize. They also announced their biggest headline gigs to date, due to take place in February and March 2015, including a show at London’s Roundhouse.