Since dropping their debut album Flight 314, Jungle Brown have been going from strength to strength. Bridging the sounds of grime, boom-bap and soul, Jungle Brown are a collective consisting of Maear, Ric Flo and Tony Bones. Despite not having major label backing, Jungle Brown has spent the last few years carving a considerable name for themselves through steady grinding. They have appeared at Glastonbury and Boomtown and shared the stage with De La Soul, Big Daddy Kane and Ghostface Killah.
Taking numbers into account, Jungle Brown has also done pretty well for themselves. Across streaming platforms they’ve garnered more than half a million in streams, charted on the iTunes charts and appeared in several big Spotify playlists. I caught up with Jungle Brown to discuss independent success and music aspirations.
Let’s talk about the new project! Full Circle is released March 9th this year, what kind of direction are you going with this album?
Maear Season: Really we just wanted an eclectic range of music. All the different vibes we like and are inspired by. It’s full circle so we also have a full circle range of topics and themes… things we care about, things we relate too.
Ric Flo: Full Circle embodies the eclectic influence of sounds that have shaped our journey in the city jungle and life experience that come with that. It’s dedicated to working class millennials who have a desire to follow their dreams and have fun while doing it.
Can we go back to the beginning? How did you guys come together as a group?
Maear Season: We have made music together for years before we formed the group. We all got a studio together and thought why not make a group too.
Ric Flo: We all cross paths back in Bournemouth. I was fostered there in my teenage years. Met Tony The Producer via a freestyle beatboxing cypher on the streets and first collaborated with Maear back in 2006, Myspace days. We supported Jehst, Klashnekoff and LowKey when they came to the south coast back in the day.
We reconnected in London after University via the love of rap music. Got a studio together for solo music endeavours and organically created music collectively about 4 years ago. Our first collective release was the ‘Take 1’ EP and it all took off from there.
What’s the creative process like between all three of you? How does the songwriting come about?
Maear Season: The beat is always the fundamental, once Bones gets even an idea down, myself and Ric will start vibin’. Either one of us, will have a few bars or a concept and we get the song down there and then. We’ll go back to it to add a hook or extra production elements, but anytime we start a song in studio we always get the verses down or even the full song in that moment.
Ric Flo: The foundation of the music is created in the moment. Tony creates the beat on the spot in the studio and me and Maear free flow our thoughts and build upon it from there.
My usual solo process is often to brainstorm ideas prior to coming to the studio but I enjoy the organic nature of our collective process, keeps me present and open to ideas. Knowing each other pretty well, we work quick so within a few hours we always have the main elements of the track done. Wayside is one of our best tracks and was created all in-house from start to finish in 24hrs and the video was shot and edited in a weekend!
2016 and 2017 were big years for Jungle Brown. On the touring front you shared the stage with De La Soul, Ghostface Killa and performed in Boomtown and Glastonbury. How did you find touring with a bigger platform — has it impacted your sound?
Maear Season: We were transitioning into different sounds before we did all of that, but it definitely impacted our show… it made us aspire for the best show possible. De la soul was huge for us, they really put on a show and we learnt a lot.
Ric Flo: For sure, Wayside was definitely born out of having more hype tracks for crowds to go wild too. Even Wicked I had the vision for big crowds to mosh too! We found the value of live instruments being essential to making us stand out from other acts and giving people more than just beats and rhymes. We are currently experimenting with the live instruments & Maschine set up and I’m excited to see where we can take it.
You’ve also racked up a decent amount of streams and have been independent throughout all of this success, so it raises the question: are you looking to sign to a label? Do you think it’ll help you reach your musical aspirations?
Maear Season: I don’t think we are necessarily against labels or for them. I think it’s just about cutting the right deal. I know there is a lot of finessing going on, on the parts of label and we have come way too far to play victim to that. I do think the right label and the right deal can push things to the next level though. Cash is king at the end of the day. Someone is funding someone’s career even if it ain’t a label. It’s essentially the main reason people sign the deal, it’s a glorified loan, and the second reason is the reach and connections. Both things can be good…but we riding the wave no matter what happens… The destination is guaranteed, the journey is variable.
Ric Flo: All of our success has been down to having the right team and dope music and we just want to continue to build on that with integrity. We are happy to talk to labels to see what they can offer but we in the rise of the independent and I’m loving the journey. We are going to keep doing what we are doing and release more music as collectively and individually.
In an earlier interview with Keakie, Maear said “the UK has never really kicked off when it comes to black music…it has niche moments and people get bored.” With the success of Stormzy, Little Simz and other BME acts, do you think the UK music industry really respects black music right now? Are things changing?
Maear Season: I don’t think the UK respects anything black, it’s all about money, if you can prove it makes money then they will show some sort of support. The scene right now is bubbling due to the entrepreneurial vision and love of music of people like Stomzy and Lil Simz. It’s not because the industry wanted to start focussing on black music, black music focused on itself and people started to take notice. Things are changing in the sense, there is another wave, it’s bigger than it’s ever been, and due to platforms like GRM, believe digital, Tidal, specialist radio and YouTube more artists are able to jump on the wave independently and make a name for themselves. The industry can’t ignore the numbers, it can’t ignore the noise, and so as long as we do our part, it will improve and improve, they will not only take notice but install more systems to champion it. One thing we must focus on is diversity. As long as we show a wide range of music, the people will stay interested and not get bored, it won’t die down. So far this year I’m seeing that being reflected, there’s more to go, but that’s what makes this period so exciting. What we do from here could solidify us forever, the labels and agencies like disturbing and #merky etc, being established and grown, is all part of the puzzle, once we have wealth and distribution capabilities, the world is our oyster… It’s crazy!
Ric Flo: The industry was never about respect it’s about money but with the rise of the digital revolution and successful independent acts the industry has no choice but to take notice of what the people really want. We’re blessed to be part of this generation and market direct to fans regardless of what the industry is trying to promote.
Are there any artists you’d like to collaborate with?
Maear Season: Yeah loads, a few at the top of my head UK wise, is Knucks, SNE, Shakka, Coops, IAMDDB.
Ric Flo: Bonobo, Sbtrkt, Sampha, Tom Misch, Jay Prince, Mundu, Lil Simz, Soma, Sango, Dave B.
Do you have any live shows for us to watch out for?
Saturday 10th March – Birthdays – Dalston
Saturday 31st March – Hootanannys – LIVE – DJ Snuff
Friday April 6th– Watford
Saturday April 7th — Liverpool
Saturday July 14th – Lovebox – London
Listen to more from Jungle Brown and get your copy of the FULL CIRCLE on March 9th : http://junglebrown.com/