Sam Hales, The Jungle Giants
My idea of happiness is being challenged and fulfilled, surrounded by people I love ...
The Jungle Giants may have only stepped onto the stage for the first time together in 2011, but two EPs, one full-length album and countless tours later, the local four-piece is certainly deserving of its tag as Brisbane’s indie-pop darlings. Yet The Jungle Giants story started well before 2011, when future band mates Sam Hales, Cesira Aitken, Andrew Dooris and Keelan Bijker spent their teenage years battling it out on the stage in opposing high school bands. Fortunately, that rivalry was channelled into collaboration, when the four local talents came together to form The Jungle Giants. After a recent whirlwind jaunt across the US, the band returned to Australian soil this week, fighting through the jet-lag fog before heading off on yet another national tour. Ahead of hometown gigs at Ric’s Big Backyard block party this Saturday March 29 and Alhambra Lounge on Sunday, frontman Sam talked love songs, underpants and words of wisdom with The Weekend Edition.
Can you remember the first song you ever wrote?
My first song was for a girl I wanted to kiss and it was called ‘Winter Bird’. Oh man, so embarrassing. It worked though, so it was sweet!
Which song in your back catalogue are you most proud of?
I still really love Mr Polite. It was pretty much the first indie-pop song I ever wrote, and it hasn’t lost its energy when we play it live three years on.
The Jungle Giants just returned from touring the US, which included a coveted gig at SXSW. What can you tell us about that experience?
Man SXSW was awesome. We were so excited even to just be in the US, let alone playing shows. We met so many great people, got to hang out with our Australian friends in Texas and LA, and got to play to totally different crowds. The calibre of live acts there is crazy. There’s always so much going on and so much to do. The whole trip was an insane experience.
What’s the first thing you do when you get home from tour?
Turn my fan on, get in my underpants and lie in bed for four days.
What do you love about playing to the hometown crowd?
It’s always good playing at home. We get to hang out with our good friends and Brisbane crowds are always really crazy. We often see people who have been coming to shows since we first started – it always gets a bit wild.
What do you enjoy more – performing on stage or experimenting with music at home?
Performing on stage is really up there as one of my favourite things to do, but writing is more what I’m about. I treat writing like a relationship; I have good days and bad days. But as long as I’m working on ideas in some way, I feel good.
You were awarded a Billy Thorpe Scholarship for your songwriting skills when you were just 17, how did you first get into songwriting?
I used to play drums in bands with a friend and he taught me how to read guitar tabs, and after that I just started learning guitar. It wasn’t too long after that I started writing songs. I was really into Bon Iver at the time so I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how he wrote tunes.
And you met your fellow bandmates while playing in rival bands at high school?
Yeah Cesira and I played in a band called Central Hero. I played drums and she played guitar. Keelan and Andrew played in a band called Phaic Tan … we had shit names. We would enter battle of the bands competitions every year. I’m pretty sure they beat us most of the time.
You worked two jobs and invested a lot of time into producing the band’s first EP. How did you feel holding the finished product in your hands?
I remember just being real keen to get gigs with it. I met up with a couple of school music teachers and friends in bands to get some advice. It was really fun but it also taught me that I am definitely not cut out to manage a band.
What’s your idea of complete happiness?
Spending all my time being challenged and fulfilled, surrounded by people I love.
How do you define ‘success’?
Pushing yourself as an artist, and having that work recognised in a way that you have total freedom to continue.
What are your words of wisdom?
Think for yourself.
Only a Brisbane local would know … Bedlam is where it’s at.