INTERVIEW: The Jungle Giants

WTBU DJ and writer Sarah Burnick chatted with The Jungle Giants’ Cesira Aitken and Andrew Dooris ahead of their Cambridge show on Feb. 6.

Sarah: Why don’t you guys introduce yourselves?

Cesira: I’m Cesira [Aitken] and this is [Andrew] Dooris, and we play guitar and bass in The Jungle Giants.


Sarah: Where are you guys from?

Cesira: Brisbane, Australia. 


Sarah: I heard you all went to high school together?

Cesira: Yeah, we all went to [the same] high school. The four of us met in 2007, but Dooris and Keelan [Bijker] – the drummer – met in year one. But then the four of us met in high school. 


Sarah: So, what’s your story?

Cesira: The story is… we all met in high school together within the music department because Mansfield [State High School] is a music excellent school. And we were all major music dorks who would like to play and jam in bands and in music rehearsal rooms. 

Andrew: But we weren’t like “band dorks.” We were like pop music dorks and people who actually loved making music, writing it, and performing it. So it was kind of like this thing where there were the people who were in the choirs and we were kind of obliged to be in the choirs, but actually me and Cesira would sneak into another room and like play Jimi Hendricks songs together. We’d listen to Death Cab for Cutie. You know, all these stereotypical things that teens discovering music would do. 

So Sam [Hales] was actually a year older than us, and he did his own thing. He was a drummer in his band, and he and his best friend would make all this music. Somewhere along the lines, Sam picked up a guitar and started writing songs. Really, The Jungle Giants are born out of that. For some reason he turned to the rest of us and handpicked Cesira, me for some reason, and Keelan snuck in there in the end. It’s kind of been 10 years from there. 

Cesira: It’s been kind of wild. 

Andrew: From the beginning there was a family vibe. We were just all in it, and stoked to be doing music. We loved it. 

Cesira: It never felt like, at any point, that it was the wrong thing to be doing. Even though choosing music when you’re 17 and giving yourself no other option was a little risky. But it never felt wrong, there was no sort of pressure. It was just like, “This is totally it, we’ll stick it out and have fun.”


Sarah: And here you are now, touring the world. You guys just came from Europe? How was that?

Cesira: Yeah, that was cool. A short stint: it was just Amsterdam, Paris, and London. But that was fun, the shows were cool. We did a massive London show with 1,600 people and it sold out. We were very emotional about that one.

Andrew: Oh yeah, it was huge. It’s hard to understand, really. It’s hard to fathom. But it was so good. It’s been a long time coming for us to come overseas, and it’s quite hard for Australian bands to make it over.

Cesira: And to do any tickets overseas is super nice. Selling a show out is the cherry on top. 

Andrew: We’re still probably hemorrhaging money, but we’re having a good time doing it. 


Sarah: And this is your first show in the U.S. on this tour? Which is super cool and welcome to Boston. I’m sorry it was like the worst day.

Andrew: I was loving it! 

Cesira: You should have seen us when we woke up in the bus this morning. We were like, “It’s SNOWING!” This is the third time I’ve seen snow. It’s such a novelty. 

Andrew: I did not give any sort of a [care] about it. I walked probably about 4 kilometers. I walked from here all the way to Fenway Park, and then all the way back. Got a beer somewhere on the way. I was just loving it, even though it was freezing cold. And I saw a nice dog on the way. It was a great time. 


Sarah: So you just released a new single “Send My Ur Loving” a couple weeks ago. And I checked out the music video, and am curious what the thought process and inspiration behind it was. 

Andrew: So we worked with a Berlin-based production company. The directors of that company are amazing, and they do everything from like high-end ads to visual art and short films, stuff like that. And we’ve worked with them for a long time and really liked how experimental they were and their briefs are so professional. So it was a kind of back-and-forth process between them and Sam. This last single, though, has been a process with Sam and a new friend in Melbourne who is also a filmmaker called Julian Lucas. He gave us his brief. 

Cesira: We wanted a film with all of us in it again because it has been ages since anyone had seen us. It’s like, they’re a band, but no one sees them?

Andrew: It was an intense collaborative process between Sam and Julian to nut out the plotline for “Sending”. But it came mostly from Julian’s idea of wanting to create something very filmic and something in the same vein as that film “The Lobster.” We wanted to make something like that. That was the inspiration for the “Sending” video.


Sarah: What part do visuals play in your musical expression?

Cesira: That has changed over the years. Really early on when we were super invested in putting these awesome film clips together, we kind of just got shy and would [leave] it more to the production companies to give us briefs. Now there is more involvement especially from Sam. Especially with “Sending”, the concept of running an intimacy retreat/hotel, which is totally bizarre but also in so many ways is like us and very on brand. That’s where the difference is now, we’re just trying to make everything really cohesive and work really well together. And putting out film clips that do that. 


Sarah: What kind of changes have you noticed within yourself, within your music, and within the dynamic of the band over the last 10 years? 

Andrew: It’s weird to reflect on because we sort of just jump from one thing to another. You don’t really think about how things have changed. With Sam’s writing, Sam as a producer, and Sam as a creative force, he has just grown from strength to strength. In the very beginning, it was Sam coming to us with an acoustic guitar and just in his bedroom fleshing out all these parts. Now it’s to the point where everything you’re hearing on the record is made by Sam, played in by Sam. And unless we get a special moment here and there to come into the studio, really everything is played by him now. I’m just so proud of him and our dynamic. We can create an environment to have him foster and take on this pressure and do it in such a way that is still good for our band dynamic. I’m so proud of that. Individually, I have a lot less ego. I think we’ve all grown as artists in our own respect. We have a clear idea of what our taste is. Our tastes have grown so much. Anything from pop music to world music, we’re just so eager to listen to it and hear new things. And that’s a huge part of our growth. What do you reckon?

Cesira: Bang on. We have been touring together since we were 18, and us being 26-27, and how much we have all changed. We’re like siblings, truly growing up together. Which is bizarre because you get really reflective and spend all this time together. And now we’re like, “remember how we were, like, children?” It is bizarre. And when you grow up with siblings and you’re really little, you don’t really remember those early days because it’s like we were infants. 

Andrew: I think that is one of our strengths. We still remember those things, but we do just jump from next thing to next thing. We fondly remember the past, but we don’t live in it, you know? It’s been one of our advantages, like we’ve changed styles, we’ve changed our production live and in the studio. We’ve been able to make progress by not really giving a crap about who we were in the past. But it’s such fun to reflect on.


Sarah: What have you wanted to get out of music?

Andrew: It doesn’t really happen like that, doesn’t it?

Cesira: This was all born out in a place of innocence. It wasn’t like we were trying to be in a famous band in Australia. It was just like this is what we wanted to do because it made us happy. So we just threw it all on that, and no one has been unhappy. So it’s been successful in that way.

Andrew: James from another band Soho is from the same neighborhood in Brisbane. He said he’s been asked before “oh, what was your dream?” And he was like, “I just wanted to play a gig. The moment we got our first gig at Rick’s Bar in Brisbane I was like “Sick! Woo!” And everything after that was just cream on top.” But I so relate to that. When Sam asked me to play in a band when I was 16 I was like, “Cool, maybe I’ll not give up on music now. Maybe we’ll play a show together and earn 100 dollars collectively and I can go to my friend’s 17th birthday the next weekend.” Even though you can imagine all these things, you are just stoked on that first decision.


Sarah: What kind of impact do you want your music to have on people?

Cesira: It would be amazing to have even half the impact that we’ve had in Australia overseas. To have that would be pretty incredible. The goal now is to expand on what we do so in Australia and make it more worldwide. We just want to reach as many people as possible.

Andrew: Coming to a Jungle’s show is all about energy and uniting people in a way. If you ever get the pleasure of meeting Sam, he’s just a ball of energy. He and Cesira are two people who can whip an entire room into a frenzy. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from, it’s about getting together and getting down and having fun to music. And really connecting, you know? Taking that across the world, and not taking yourself too seriously but not being afraid to be a bit deep as well, I think those are kind of the Jungle’s ideals. Have fun, look after one another, be crazy, be silly, be whoever you want to be. But also, be as deep as you want to be, too. Have no shame. 


Sarah: What kind of feelings are you trying to evoke from your music?

Andrew: This is definitely Sam’s territory. I know Sam is such an empathetic person, he can stare through you sometimes. And it can be intimidating honestly. But he wants to make you move and make you feel something, that’s all he’s really after. He does the ‘shoulder test’, a tried and tested Sam method. When he’s working on something he’ll sit back in the room and play it really loud. And go to the corner of the room and if his shoulders start wiggling he knows it’s alright, he knows something is going on. He’s just after creating what music does to him in other people. Whatever that emotion is, as long as it’s a powerful thing. I don’t know, ask Sam!


Sarah: So what’s next for you guys?

Cesira: So we’re on this tour. There are murmurs of a single and an album.

Andrew: It’s hush hush, man! I wish we could talk about it. But there’s some really cool stuff that he’s making and I think the world will get to hear it sooner rather than later. That could be coming sometime. In fact, Sam has set up a little studio in the back of the bus. We’re pinched for time with all this touring, but definitely before the end of the year you can expect to see some stuff.

Cesira: 2020 equals “stuff”. And when it’s ready it’ll be dropped on you.


Sarah: Any last comments you want to put into the world?

Cesira: Thank you so much for the Boston cream… puffs? 

Sarah: Boston cream pies. My pleasure! They’re the best. 

Andrew: And thanks so much for the interview! I freaking love Boston.