Having released their debut album Howlin’ in June 2013, Jagwar Ma has inadvertently brought back a sound that was quintessentially ‘80s to early ‘90s Manchester – the dance oriented, Madchester-informed baggy – by way of down under. The record also did the unthinkable, it caused Noel Gallagher to put off any thoughts of reforming Oasis because they are “too busy talking about f*cking Temples and Jagwar Ma.” The usually uncouth rockstar cvnt’s got something good to say about another band? Now that’s praise. Being a two piece band, Jono Ma and Gabriel Winterfield go together like spaghetti and meatballs, and that is perhaps what separates them from their previous bands. JUICE manages to get a hold of Gabriel, naturally we drill him on the intricacies of being a duo, how much influences affect a band, and his experience in Malaysia.
Being in a two piece band, how does that work for you guys in terms of delegations?
I guess it’s like a marriage, we both just do everything. We both play guitar and bass but I sing and write the lyrics and Jono plays the synths and drum machine. Everything else we do together.
How is the songwriting and recording process like as a duo? No head butting occurred?
It’s really, really fun. We really like working together. Jono and I spend a lot of time together working in the studio; we’ve got quite a good chemistry. It’s quite funny, whenever we hit the studio we just f*ck around and always end up coming up with something cool.
Are the bands you’re currently listening to similar to the music you’re playing?
No, not really. I listen to Hendrix and Dr. Dre’s The Chronic, which is one of the best albums ever made.
Seeing as how they’re quite a number of similar bands surfacing these days, we’re curious: What’s the method behind making electronic-tinged dance-y rock music like?
I think there’s no point trying to explain how we write songs because firstly it changes every time and secondly it doesn’t have anything to do with the equipment we use, it just comes from us. I think the record sounds different; guys are always really interested in how we did it, like it was a magic trick or something and I don’t even see the point to say how because I think it’s not really that important. I don’t know how Daft Punk did Homework but I still love the record.
Fair enough. You mentioned Hendrix and Dre earlier, two disparate acts. How much do your influences play in your music?
(Pauses) It’s impossible to know how much they do because I can’t not be influenced by people I’m influenced by. Generally the case for musicians and bands is that they don’t necessarily make music like the music they listen to. A lot of the time, you’d be surprised what people’s influences really are. The obvious ones would be this group called Death Grips, they’re an amazing hip hop group that we toured with last year. One of the guys was completely hip hop and he said that one of his main influences was Hendrix. He loves Jimi Hendrix and I understand that because I love Jimi Hendrix as well. You shouldn’t love them for just the music they make but how they come across as people. For example, Marvin Gaye is one of my absolute heroes, he just cannot do anything wrong (he never did anything wrong in my books). I love how he went from ‘What’s Going On?’ to ‘Sexual Healing’.
In your opinion, why do you think it’s harder for Australian bands to reach commercial success as compared to other countries like for example, UK?
Hmm… I don’t think that’s the case. I think a lot of bands in Australia make it. It is a bit difficult sometimes because it’s hard for bands and it’s expensive for bands that are coming up. Getting to Europe is hard. The first few months of travelling can be very expensive. We’ve been very fortunate. It always helps to know people, but not like in a Mafia kinda way (laughs).
What’s next on the touring agenda?
We’re going to US in a couple of weeks and then Singapore, we’re really excited. I love Singapore and I love Malaysia as well. I just remembered when I went to Malaysia and went to all the butterfly houses and stuff when I was a kid. I remember that really well. I actually read a book about it when I was 19; it was a short story about butterflies. It would be great to play in Malaysia, that would be really, really cool.
Randomly, what’s your favourite curse word?
Uhhh… okay (laughs). So on Tumblr someone made a fan page of us and it’s called F*ck yeah, Jagwar Ma I thought that was pretty funny, very Australian. F*ck yeah, it’s really positive, it’s like YES!
If there was a specific purpose or situation where your music can be applied, like a real life soundtrack, what would it be?
Just living it. It could be any factor. I’d like to think that it could be anything. If you feel like dancing, maybe listen to ‘Four’ – I don’t know, I wrote the songs at different points in my life while making the album and surely it could apply to different points in other people’s lives. That would be the ultimate compliment.
Jagwar Ma will be playing St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival in Singapore on 25 January ‘14. For more information, visit www.singapore.lanewayfestival.com.