Australian dance rock duo Jagwar Ma is getting a bit bored of the “Madchester” comparisons. The term was popularized in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s in England, where a wave of bands like the Happy Mondays and Stone Roses mixed rock with drum machines, funk and house music to make something new.
Yes, there are similarities with the music that Sydney singer-guitarist Gabriel “Gab” Winterfield and multi-instrumentalist Jono Ma make; there may be more parallels than with other acts.
But Winterfield had never even heard the term before the reviews started coming in.
“I was born in ’89 so I sure as hell didn’t see it,” he said recently, in a phone interview from a pub in London, where the duo has relocated. “The younger crowds, the NME kids, they don’t know it. They know of the bands, but it’s not what they would associate the music with.”
The band, which includes touring bassist Jack Freeman, has been making waves overseas with Howlin, a debut album that piqued the interest of Oasis’ Noel Gallagher and many others. But Jagwar Ma, which performs at The Independent on December 11, want to make a name for themselves that isn’t associated with a comparison to others.
“I’m always reminded of how much Tame Impala got slammed and told they sounded like Cream or something like that, and I think they’ve proven to the world that they’re something else,” Winterfield said.
Ma and Winterfield bonded over a shared love of experimental rhythms, psychedelia, surf rock and a bevy of varied influences. Howlin was recorded in rural France, where the two were able to escape their work and social commitments and concentrate on the music.
They grew out their beards and rarely had reason to leave their house. Ma, who Winterfield said has a love of cooking, even prepared many of the meals, such as Hunan chicken and duck confit.
Now that they are working on a follow-up album, they won’t need to relocate to a remote area to write and record.
“I’m really excited about the fact that I have a small bedroom studio in my apartment in London, and Jono has the same,” Winterfield said. “We’ve been e-mailing each other bits and pieces of songs that we’re working on.”
The duo doesn’t plan on making any radical changes for the follow-up, choosing to keep the same production team and approach to songwriting. Winterfield said they don’t even have any outside influences dictating their direction.
“I like the way Jono and I work together,” he said. “I like our creative relationship. It’s a very healthy one and quite fruitful. I’d like to keep that the same.”
But their live show is being forced to change with the growing audiences. This is Jagwar Ma’s second pass through the Bay Area, and the crowd is expected to double in size. For the first time, they plan to introduce new material, and songs they had yet to perform live.
“If it’s a bigger show, it has to be a bigger show,” Winterfield said. “Obviously we’re going to make things a bit more interesting as far as live things. We want to invest in production.”