Throwdown: Jagwar Ma are the Aussie experimentalists taking on the world

We sat down with Jagwar Ma to find out why Australians make the best psychedelic music around.

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Jagwar Ma, made up of Gabriel (Gab), Jono and Jack, are the Sydney trio shining the light on experimental synth-pop, ready to expand their fanbase once again with the upcoming release of their second LP. Their hugely successful debut album, Howlin’ was an alt-dance meets indie-rock masterpiece and it’s fresh, bouncy beats caught the attention of musical heavyweights including The xx and Tame Impala, who invited them to support them on tour. Favourites on the UK summer festival circuit, they sold-out headline shows both in the UK, Australia and the US, as well as playing Bestival and Glasto.

Their upcoming record, the soon to be released Every Now and Then is an experimental triumph that serves up excitable synth-pop delights layered under almost trance-inducing vocals. Produced by Jono Ma himself and recorded in studios across Sydney, rural France and London. Jono reveals they followed a familiar route to their previous release when making their comeback LP, “We actually made it in a very similar way and similar environment.” Having spent much time on the road promoting their first release, it wasn’t until early summer of last year that they started work on the new material. “May was the first point of isolation when we took ourselves out of the city and went into Central Coast of New South Wales in Australia”, Gab tells us, “that was the first time we started to be like, ‘Okay let’s get fixed up and do the work’.” In spite of their early success, they tell us they’re adamant they’re not letting the expectations of their new album bother them. “We weren’t thinking about pressures of a follow-up record or anything like that, we were just continuing on with something that we love to do, which is make music,” Jono explains.

Looking back, all three members of the group had a musical affiliation dating back to childhood. Gab tells us that as early as aged nine he was saying that he wanted to be a “blues trumpet player”, while Jack says that during his teen years he “was a member of a Nirvana cover band” and Jono informs us that he’d spend his lunch breaks in the music cupboard teaching himself how to use synths. “I had a really great music teacher, her name was Mrs E,” he informs us, “and she was really, really influential for me because she was actually into quite a lot of experimental music.”

Old school television also had a big influence on them musically, with Gab connecting with the heavy metal undercurrent of Beavis and Butthead, and Jono becoming infatuated with Dancing In The Street, a music documentary series featuring the likes of Lou Reed and John Peel. “This series just kind of blew my mind and I went and dug through the record trying to find every kind of theme from that series that had an impact on me, it really opened my ears up,” Jono tells us. While on tour with other bands in Sydney Jono and Gab first met; Gab was in a band called Ghostwood while Jono played in a group called Lost Valentinos. After meeting on the Sydney music scene, they formed a friendship, playing each other material they’d been working on outside of their bands. They both liked what they heard and started collaborating, coming together to form the unstoppable Jagwar Ma. Jack completed the line-up when he joined the band in 2012.

After the release of Every Now and Then they will once again go back to what they know and tour major cities across the UK, America and France. When they’re not touring, the trio tell us they like to do everyday things like cooking, watching movies and hanging out with people who aren’t in the music biz. “You just sort of compartmentalise and do healthy stuff and try to put that life on the shelf”, Gab says. The trio tells us that the past few years had taught them how rewarding it was for them to be able to play their music for their fans. “We just want to play our music to as many people as we can and we want to share our music with them,” Jack says.

Paying homage to our Class of ’16 issue, we ask Jagwar Ma what they would say to their younger self if they could give themselves one piece of advice. Jack would tell himself to “get into techno earlier” and Jono would “actually bother to learn to read music.” Gab wraps up nicely by saying “I would say don’t worry about anybody else, just keep on doing you because doing you is going to work out for you in the future.” If we consider their impressive trajectory of achievements so far, we’d say things are working out for Jagwar Ma just fine.

Jagwar Ma play Roskilde Festival this summer.

This interview first appeared in Notion 74. Photography: Aleksandra Podburtnaja, Styling Tahnee Mitra
Follow Jagwar Ma on Twitter and Instagram
Words by Ryan Cahill

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