The soul sound can often be a blend of time and genre. It might be 1960s-style R&B, it might be 1970s-style funk, but it always redefines the boundaries of how we listen to pop music. JUNGLE fits right in, mixing effortless dance grooves with anthemic group vocals for a spectacular live show that lives up to the hype. Mix caught up with the band in Seattle in March, while on tour for their second studio album, 2018’s For Ever.
“JUNGLE have released two albums so far and they are both quite different in terms of production and sonics,” says FOH engineer Antoine Richard. “I find their sound urban, energetic and complexly simple; each song often has its own sonic and is built around two or three main elements. My primary role as FOH engineer is to make their music sound engaging live and manage to translate that energy and subtlety with a well-balanced mix. There are many details that need to be heard—or felt—without being too distracting. It is a really interesting challenge as there is a lot going on with seven musicians on stage playing: a full acoustic drum kit [using triggers on certain songs], a decent size percussion rig, three keyboards, and a fair few MIDI-controlled sounds, as well as the classic guitars and bass and five singers.”
“The entire band is on IEMs, which lends itself perfectly to creating clean, isolated mixes,” adds monitor engineer Barrie Pitt. “To supplement this, I use a 2x18 sub under the drum riser, which acts as a butt kicker for the drummer. It also adds weight to the center of the stage without having the need for side fills.”
JUNGLE may be a neo soul dance band, but these are also love songs (requited or otherwise), so a broad, compelling approach is important. “I think my mix is extremely dynamic,” says Richard. “I don’t use snapshots; I want to keep things fresh and open on a creative level. The dynamic through the set is pretty wide, as it is composed of some dance tunes, slow jams and a few intimate, down-tempo, minimal numbers.”
That also means Richard and Pitt keep their gear needs to a minimum, easily able to replicate their setup in a small club or on the many worldwide festival dates the band is known for.
“For the sake of consistency, I’ve been trying to keep things extremely simple in terms of outboard and plug-ins,” says Richard. “I am currently using the in-built premium rack of the Yamaha CL5, the Portico compressor and the Neve 5045—a game changer!—on all vocals, as well as a few channels of dynamic EQs that I primarily use on the bass channels and vocals. We both carry a UAD Apollo that we use to transfer some very specific effects used by the band on records to the road. They have a distinctive Leslie effect on the main vocals and a chorus effect on the bass.
“In addition, I also use an Empirical Labs Fatso Jr. on a stereo drums bus group, as well as a few channels of SPL Transient Designer to get a big and tight drum sound,” he continues. “I also always carry an Empirical Labs Distressor that I use on the main bass DI channel, and the physical version of the Neve 5045. Once you start using them, you don’t want to mix without them ever again! I’ve got all I need in a 3U sleeved rack that I can fly anywhere, which I find absolutely mind-blowing.”
“I tour with a small rack with a Kemper Profiler, which has profiled Josh and Tom’s [Lloyd-Watson and McFarland, the band’s founders] guitar amp and it gives great consistency for shows, especially fly shows where you're at the mercy of backline hire companies,” adds Pitt. “I have API2500 comps on both the main vocals, which gives weight and awesome coherency and clarity—something which is hard to achieve on higher-range, falsetto vocals.”
Those falsetto vocals are an integral part of the sound, as they contribute to the rich aesthetic they aim to bring off their records and to the live audience. It’s a sound that references everyone from Marvin Gaye to Bon Iver, but with seven musicians on stage, it’s a big show, one that is becoming more and more their hallmark.
“Mix-wise, the band are all really good players and know exactly what they want to achieve with their sound,” says Pitt. “Josh and Tom have a very detailed FOH mix, and I use snapshots to make small adjustments between tracks. The rest of the band have similar mixes with the emphasis on their own instrument and vocal. As a band, they always strive for perfection and are immensely passionate about what they do.”