Five questions: The Jungle Giants

Aussie band out of the inferno, onto the stage at Fishtown's Johnny Brenda's

Aussie band The Jungle Giants
Australian band The Jungle Giants plan to light up the crowd on Feb. 9 at Johnny Brenda’s. Image | Jesper Hede

Australia has been in the news lately for all the wrong reasons. Out-of-control fires have ravaged the country.

Come Feb. 9, though, Australia will be in the news here for much better reasons. The Jungle Giants, wildly popular in their home country and making big news on their current tour, will be at Johnny Brenda’s.

The four-piece band has sold out tours across its home country and seen more than 150 million streams to date and counting. 

Together they’ve  released three LPs, “Learn to Exist” (2013), “Speakerzoid” (2015) and “Quiet Ferocity” (2017), with new music to come. “Quiet Ferocity” produced the ARIA-certified Platinum single “Feel The Way I Do,” as well as three ARIA-certified Gold singles: “Used To Be In Love,” “Bad Dream” and “On Your Way Down.” 

The Jungle Giants are vocalist/guitarist Sam Hales, lead guitarist Cesira Aitken, bassist Andrew Dooris and drummer Keelan Bijker. 

Produced entirely by Hales, their third album saw The Jungle Giants land at the top of multiple Best of 2017 lists, complete two mammoth sold-out national tours, and deliver electric sets at a raft of festivals, including Splendour in the Grass, Falls Festival and many more around the world, including the U.S., Canada, New Zealand, Malaysia and Indonesia.

PW recently caught up with Dooris to talk about the group and it’s upcoming Philly show.

We’ve read that all four of you attended the same high school in Brisbane. Talk a little about how the band came together, and is it a good thing or bad thing you’ve known each other for so long?

Yep, that’s right, we were actually in competing bands at school. Sam and Cesira in one, and Keelan and I in another. Every year there was a battle of the bands, and we each took turns winning for a few years, until our band chastised our bass player to the point of leaving (the irony that I would become a bass player is not lost on me). 

At that point, Sam started playing guitar and writing songs, then left school. Shortly after, he approached Sira to start a band, then me, and I suggested Keelan to play drums (someone I’ve known since I was 7; now 20 years). 

“For real though, [our show is] high-energy, so hydrate yourself, send a text to your Mum and call in sick to work.”

Sam Hales, vocals/guitars, The Jungle Giants

Doing music professionally is pretty infamously unstable, so the fact we’ve been able to do what we have for nearly 10 years now makes me think that our shared history has been a benefit. We don’t have long memories and we’ve always created a family culture within our band. We’re four of our favourite people on the planet, and we’ve always got our mind firmly on the future.

Vogue said that your live show describes the group’s name as it features “rhythmic layering and huge indie pop riffs.” How did the name come about? Did your music prompt the name, did the name drive your music, or is it all just a coincidence?

Coincidence. The name came from a panicked string of text messages when Sam went to the mastering session for the first batch of songs (which ended up being the first EP). We didn’t realize we had to have a name at that point. 

Luckily, there were a few names going around. Initially, it was going to be Sam Hales and The Jungle Giants, but on the spot, Sam decided he wanted it to be a proper band. The other front runner was The Bears in the Attic, thankful he didn’t choose that and thankful that Sam chose us to stick around. 

From rather humble beginnings, you’ve gone on to appear on the same stage as legendary acts such as Pearl Jam, your music has had more than 150 million streams, and you’re touring the world. When you were first putting it all together, did you imagine this kind of success? Why do you think you’ve achieved so much?

When you’re a dumb kid learning how to play your instrument, you imagine everything. Every musician you know, successful or not, has power-slid down the hallway air-guitaring and screamed songs in the shower. You have to have dreams and imagination to accomplish anything. 

Just as everyone starting out has dreams, everyone also has doubts, and I guess it’s about consistently making decisions that keep the dream alive and challenge your doubts. I think our band has been able to do that individually and collectively. 

Also, Sam is talented as heck. The man was just made to make music, so that helps a lot.

So what will your fans see when they show up at Johnny Brenda’s on Feb. 9?

Four Australians thankful to get out of the blazing inferno and into the cold. For real though, it’s high energy, so hydrate yourself, send a text to your Mum and call in sick to work. 

What’s next for The Jungle Giants? Where do you want to be in five years?

This is just where the dreams start, but it’s bad luck to say. The only thing for certain is all of us together with a Tommy’s margarita listening to the latest thing Sam has created.

The Jungle Giants | Sunday, Feb. 9, 8 pm. $16-$18. Johnny Brendas, 1201 N. Frankford Ave. Tickets and info: johnnybrendas.com.