Jagwar Ma | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Jagwar Ma

LSD Dance Moves

Jun 26, 2013 Issue #45 - Winter 2013 - Phoenix Photography by Cybele Malinowski Bookmark and Share

Enjoying toast and a cup of tea for breakfast in the Sydney suburb of Chippendale, Australian native Gabriel Winterfield humbly acknowledges that he’s not a good dancer. He’s quick to note, however, that this hardly stops him from engaging in the act. “I really just like dancing,” he says. “I’m really bad, but I really, really enjoy moving.”

These days, much of Winterfield’s impetuous choreography comes as a result of the unique strain of psychedelic pop that he and songwriting partner Jono Ma have developed as Jagwar Ma. The two forged a friendship several years ago when their former bands regularly crossed paths on tour. In 2011, they decided to collaborate on a one-off song called “Come Save Me.” Winterfield remembers, “We put it up on YouTube as a bit of an experiment, like, ‘All right, let’s see if this works.’”

After getting an unexpectedly strong online response, the two gave the track a more polished treatment and released it as a proper single, which eventually earned the most-played spot on Australia’s premiere radio station, Triple J. Commenting on their success, Winterfield says, “These last 12 months have been about making sure we could back it up.”

To record their full-length debut, Howlin, Winterfield and Ma flew halfway around the world to the French countryside, taking residence in an abandoned church and recording in the attic of the property’s convent. In their secluded state, the two friends worked utilizing a series of musical volleys, with Ma providing the backdrop of samples, MPC loops, and 808 sequences and throwing them at Winterfield, who in turn sang a chorus or played a guitar riff to throw right back to Ma to build even further. They oftentimes got so involved in their back-and-forth technique that the songs would morph into epic escapist jams.

“That happened a lot,” says Winterfield. “It would start out as a normal song and then we would just leave the beat running and enjoy the song for another five minutes. At times, the second half of a song actually started becoming something else. There are some songs where we need to cut the tail off and decide whether we’ll actually keep it or make it something else. The track listing is going to be interesting.”

With a sound that brings to mind the fluid, rabbit-hole-diving grooves of Screamadelica-era Primal Scream and the electronic beats of The Avalanches, Winterfield and Ma hope that listeners will feel the impulsiveness of the compositions and the need to move as much as they did while making them.

“I think we both sort of realized that if we were going to make music that was going to make people dance, then we had to be dancing while we were making the music,” says Winterfield. “So we didn’t stay still the whole time we were making the album. It was normally the tape would be running and Jono would be dancing around on his synths and his drum machines, and then I’d be cutting shapes in front of the vocal microphone, and it was like we were at the biggest rave ever but there was just the two of us.”



[This article originally appeared in Under the Radar’s March/April 2013 print issue.]


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