Speaking with Sam Hales from The Jungle Giants

We chat about IWD, Love Signs and what's coming up this year.
Marjie Saunders
March 10, 2022

Happy international women's day! Who are some female artists you admire in the music industry?

Sam: “Yeah 100% I mean luckily in Australia we’ve got so many super, super close friends of mine that are aussie female acts that are absolutely unbelievable. A really close friend of mine CC:DISCO!, she’s from Melbourne, is a really amazing DJ and producer and she’s working on some tracks right now. Stella Donnelly, she’s awesome. You know I’ve gotta throw in Cesira, our guitarist who is like one of my best friends and one of the strongest people in my life. Her and I go so far back, to the point of being at school together just dreaming up anything. We talked in the car about being in a band just wanting to go on tour, so yeah we go very far. I’ve got a lot of strong females in my life, I was raised by my mum and I love her as well. It’s a special day and I think I’m really lucky to have so many strong women in my life.”

You mentioned there that you and Cesira went to school together. Was that when you first came together and started making music?

Sam: “Yes well it was kinda weird. I left as I was a grade above everybody which makes me sound weird but I finished my grade and was working on an EP. I remembered Cesira from school, we were becoming really good friends and I remember she used to just sit in the music stairwell playing guitar all the time. She was a really understated, quiet person but I could tell she really loved guitar. It was all she ever did to the point where she seemed really odd.” Sam smiled.

“She was just like a guitar person, she didn’t really talk to people. But when I left and started making these songs I just thought about it and I instantly knew I wanted Cesira in the band and Andrew as well. Keelan came after but yeah we all kind of met at school and we go really far back!” Sam laughed. “We’ve been a band for like 10 years now.”

That’s huge! Are you doing anything to commemorate it?

Sam: “I think we should!” He laughed. “Our first EP will almost turn 10, very soon. This year it turns 10! So yeah we’ll do something for sure. I’m not even sure if we’d be able to like remember how to play those songs but maybe we’ll DJ them or something?”

Photo by Josh Groom

It must feel like a lifetime ago that you created them. Is there anything from that first EP that you do ever play live?

Sam: “Yeah, She’s a Riot? No, that wasn’t on that first EP! No, there’s nothing that we play from that EP anymore. But it’s almost is unplayable now because the songs, like I’m really proud of the songs they were good but I think dynamically they just would not sound, or fit with the new music. I’m still proud of it!” Sam exclaimed.  

That’s it it’s a journey ey? 10 years ago, it’s good to reflect but we’ve moved onto Love Signs now.

Sam laughed and tapped his fingers together like Mr. Burns from the Simpsons: “Yeah new shiny album!”

With that, there is huge evolution in the last 10 years. What kind of changes have you noticed within yourself and your music since this new album is out?

Sam: “I mean so much has changed since the first album, the first EP. I mean since Quiet Ferocity, one thing that I’ve been enjoying seeing happen is the more I lean on myself the better things are becoming. Quiet Ferocity is the first time I ever produced a record for us and I found that really rewarding. It was really tough and really hard, but I thought it was a really good thing for me to learn how to rely on myself and know if the buck stop with me, just make sure I make the music perfect you know? And leave emotions aside I just played the role of producer.

Then surviving Quiet Ferocity I was really happy with the response, I thought people seemed to understand what I was going for. So going into Love Signs, I just reiterated that for myself. Then diving even deeper and I think I just made so much personal growth. Also I feel if I’m controlling the sound, I’m writing the songs and producing it. I feel like I’m getting more ideas out to the fans and an opportunity to really hear how the music is in my head. So I think fans who are liking the songs are liking the production more and it’s really just clicking a lot more so that’s been pretty rewarding, makes me feel good.”

It must be so overwhelming to have such control of that music and know what’s in your head but seeing it come to fruition and seeing everyone in the crowd enjoy it must be surreal?  

Sam: “Oh yeah. That feeling has been so good lately, after all this time, I almost forgot what it was like but then you know now after this run of shows have just been incredible. I’ve been in shock after most of the gigs! I haven’t really known what to think or what to do or what to say. It’s just been wild, it’s been absolutely amazing!”

I actually reviewed your gig at the Riverstage Brisbane. It was insane the way that the crowd we’re singing things back to you. I think my favourite part was in ‘Something Got Between Us’ the Hey, never gonna let you go, not this time’.

Sam: “Oh yeah the cool response thing! Yeah that was so good, I love that people have grabbed onto that bit. I love hearing that live because at the Brisbane show my in-ears we’re picking up them yelling almost louder than I could hear the guitars or the drums! It was so loud, so good! I love when that happens.”

Photo by Liam Toohey

You said on stage that playing Riverstage Brisbane had been a dream you hoped for, how did it feel when you were up on stage in January?

Sam: “It felt incredible. It felt like time stopped and also flew by. I kind of had these moments where I felt quite grounded. I’ve really missed feeling like I’m playing the songs to people, it seems like such a simple thing but I’ve really missed that feeling. For me a really big part of the process is making the album and then watching how people respond to it and then learning from that. So either changing something or taking from some other thing and progressing by using that as growth and I haven’t had that. So now when we finally play these songs live for the first time I’m just starting to go through that process again and I realised how much I missed that process. All at the same time, I’m thankful but I’m feeling showy-offy and I’m just feeling every feeling! It’s just been incredible, it’s been wild.

It just reminded me who I am,it just reinforced a lot of things for me. I can’t even put into words, it’s just me living my f**king life the way I really am supposed to!” Sam laughed.

I’ve heard you have something called ‘a shoulder test’ when making new music and?  Can you tell us a bit more.

Sam: “Oh yeah that is a classic one for me. If I find myself dancing naturally without thinking about it, that is always a really good sign. Because at the same time when I am making music I almost just imagine I’m not the one making the music, and I just vibe to the music. For me it’s like to not always be in my head but be in my body a little bit too and enjoy the song. If I feel my body enjoying the song then I can be like: ‘oh whoa, yeah there’s something natural going on here!’” Sam describes as he sways from side to side.

“So it's like past the shoulder test. There’s a lot of little tricks I do, when I was making Love Signs, there we’re a couple of weeks where I was completely alone in the house in lockdown making the record and i think my girlfriend was at the coast or something I don’t know where she was and I had to remind myself to stop. So I would start at nine finish at five and there would be so much music and s**t going around in my head at the end of the day. Sometimes I’d listen to a kick drum for two hours, that’s enough to drive you so mad that at the end of the day that’s all you hear. So what I would do is I would go into the house, I’d blast classical music and I’d get into the bath, I’d make a really hot bath and then just lie in the bath and put my head under the water and hold my breath for as long as I could. Then I’d kind of burst out and that would kind of get me out of that weird zone and then I’d wake up again, it was kind of like me reborn into the evening.

So that’s this new thing I’m doing. Sam laughed. “Doing the bath thing to help my brain stop. You gotta have tricks.”

Yeah I mean if that’s the way, I love it! So making this essentially in isolation from Melbourne’s ongoing lockdowns. Was it such an internal process for you or did you find yourself gravitating towards different sounds and making song of that? How was your process of creating this album?

Sam: “Well luckily most of the songs we’re done when I went into that period. Essentially I just had a big list of songs and I just started knocking away, knocking away until I had ten. Then I enter pre-production and that’s a really good phase for me because I can kind of turn off, I still write while I’m doing that but it’s not really writing. I can just go into the things that I’ve written and I’m just improving the sound of them, making sure they sound how I imagine or making them sound perfect for the record.

So that process is kind of relaxing to me because it’s like no pressure. I can spend all day on this high hat if I want and I just keep going until it's good, until it’s perfect. There’s something kind of cathartic to that, Where I’m just following a sound and decide: ‘yep that’s right’ it’s just like putting puzzle pieces together. I like that process because you can use less emotion and you can just go into the engineer side of it, which sometimes it’s a nice break.”

Do you think that will stick with you and you’ll take that on in the future of isolating yourself until you get the sounds right?

Sam: “Yeah for sure, a big part is when I’m writing a song I'm demoing it at the same time. Over the years the demos are getting better and better. So when I go into pre-production a lot of the bits are there. Sometimes I’ll love a vocal take so much that I just can’t re-record it. I’ll be like, that’s it! There’s always things to improve but there’s things that you just can’t touch. I have no idea what the next record will sound like, which is cool and exciting. But I know that the process will be very similar to just going into the bunker and getting things done.

Is that something that you’re working on currently, a new record?

Sam: “Yeah I’m working on music all the time. I like to think of it, usually I’m just like in creative mode just coming up with shit. Essentially I’m just trying to not even think that the music is for Jungle Giants, I’m just trying to make music, make anything! Eventually from that a theme will start to form where a couple of songs will stick together then you know a record is born!

But right now I’m just throwing stuff at the wall and seeing what sticks, it’s fun! Right now I just feel like I’m a kid with a paint brush just - splat splat splat splat splat! On the walls” Sam laughed while waving his hand in the air.

Photo by Liam Toohey

I’ve seen your TikTok account and it’s honestly all the good vibes I would expect from The Jungle Giants, whose idea was it to start having fun on the platform?

Sam: “I mean we have to get on these platforms otherwise you can be left behind in the tech world. TikTok doesn’t even make that much sense to me right now. Cesira runs the TikTok you know you gotta stay current you know it’s like a job in itself social media. I mean I do all the social media except for TikTo because it was just really hard for me to understand! I mean I get it, but there are all these tiny little nuanced things that only TikTok users get and luckily Cesira is like a 24/7 TikTok girl. She’s loving it, she’s always sending TikTok’s and memes to me, so it was a very natural progression for her to start becoming a meme-lord on TikTok and it’s going really good! It’s awesome.”

What are some of the best memes she sends?

Sam: “It’s hard to even pick, some of them don’t make any sense! I often need an explanation from her about the memes she sends. She has a deep internet sense of humour. Maybe one day I’ll convince her to start posting them on TikTok with just all her memes, you’ll see. I can’t even explain them, that’s for the internet to decide whether they are good or not.

So I’m guessing she’s the one who owns the tiny hands?

Sam: “Yep! Yep! She started the finger hand thing. He laughed.

She’s really funny. She’s got this kind of sick deep joke sense of humour where like the tiniest thing can be so funny to her and then she’ll repeat the joke, I mean she cracks me up. Omg on tour it’s just Ceseira and I laughing the whole time and often if we explain what we’re laughing at to people they’ll think we’ve lost our minds. You know? maybe we have.”

That’s a good friendship though that’s the kind of person on tour you’d want to have no? Someone who makes you laugh.

Sam: “100%”

So you are headlining and playing at some upcoming festivals (party in the apocalypse, yours and owls, out of the woods festival and Splendour) Have you played any of them before that you’re excited to return to?

Sam: “Yep I think we’ve actually played all of them before. On this friday (the 11th) we’ve got Hordern Pavilion which is the last show of the Love Signs Tour. Which is incredible. It's a bit of a dream venue for us. You know we’ve played there before supporting Two Door Cinema Club years ago. Which at the time was our favourite band so it was already a dream come true and now that we get to go back and it’s our headliner it’s weird to think!

But like we are ready, we are excited, we’ve kind of shaken off all the cobwebs with this tour so far so we are feeling really good on stage. Then after that, Splendour I’m super excited for it’s going to be a really big set for us. It’s going to be the first time we are playing these new songs at Splendour, it’s going to be so fun so we’ll kind of pull out all the stops spend the whole thing on weird lights and maybe some gimmicks but yeah there’s lots of shows coming up which we are so thankful for. It’s just like we are ready to return to the good times.”

Photo by Liam Toohey

Well I will see you at Splendour, I’ll be in the front row of the audience!

Sam: “Oh awesome, yeah sick! Awesome, well hopefully we have some nice gimmicks for you by then, maybe some lasers or something.”

Awesome, well good luck with the set on Friday. Are you doing anything special for that once since it’s the last one of the Love Sign’s tour?

Sam: “Yeah we have a guest performer for ‘Treat You Right’ which is a really good friend of mine I absolutely love called Owl Eyes, from Sydney. I’m so excited, we’ve never performed on stage together but I’ve seen so many of her gigs and I’m just super pumped. So yeah that’s going to be noice!”

Catch The Jungle Giants at the Hordern Pavillion, Sydney on the 11th of March for the last set of their Love Signs Tour.

Can’t make it to Sydney?

Watch live at their Brisbane Riverstage set out now on Moshcam.

Watch gig →
More features
Pennywise at the Enmore Theatre
Punk legends hit the Inner West for a sold out headline show.
Amy Halpin
February 12, 2020
Pictorial - Best Of Splendour in The Grass
We look back at epic Splendour peformance over the years.
Peter Dovgan
July 8, 2022
Amyl and the Sniffers go wild at the Bowlo
These manic Melbourne mutts refuse to be muzzled!!
Peter Dovgan
September 19, 2019