INTERVIEW: PAVE THE JUNGLE | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image by Amelia Read

One of the many frustrations, and perhaps necessary evils, of being an independent musician is being unaware of how your music will be perceived or even if it’ll get heard at all. An interesting by-product of this can be that artists feel more able to honestly lay their emotions and true opinions bare, unaware of the impact they may be having; that someone could hear their music and have it resonate so completely with them, must be exhilarating and terrifying in equal measure.

It’s this conundrum that Rachael Whittle faced when writing songs for Pave The Jungle’s first EP, The Hissing, back in 2019/2020. Roundly celebrated for its acerbic takes on alienation, mental health and addiction as much as its rhythmic heaviness and off-kilter swagger, Rachael wrote with a ferocious intensity and honesty which thrust her and drummer bandmate Scott Jeffery into the limelight.

The first EP was written before Pave The Jungle really existed. I didn’t think about people listening to the songs, or hearing those lyrics, I just wrote for myself.” Rachael explains, as the duo prepare to unleash their second EP in as many years, Waiting For Nothing, this month. “I guess this time I was more aware we’d be putting these out. Perhaps I’ve made them less personal lyrically as a result.”

Subject-matter aside, what remains ever-present is the band’s alt. rock mastery; Waiting For Nothing is heavier, angrier and sounds like a band completely at home with their sound. “It’s definitely more urgent than the previous stuff. I do feel sorry for Scott on drums at times!” Rachael admits. “This one is written from a more observational standpoint, maybe with the exception of Picture of Health. I write about places I’ve lived in Oddball and Lucky Ones, whereas Moirai talks about the three fates within Greek mythology. How they’re said to weave a tapestry of people’s lives, and if they cut the thread the person dies. They’re also said to visit a newborn baby within three days to decide their fate. It’s just a concept that fascinates me.”

Up North we generally have to shout louder to be heard

Moirai kicks the EP off with typically punishing rhythmic intent, punctuated by stabbing guitars. Rachael’s extraordinary voice has a melodic depth; her powerful vocals are almost baritone, loaded with menace, guttural yet carefully controlled. Oddball’s squall of snarling guitars and almost spoken word interjections are underpinned by Scott’s ever-present thrashing drums, as Rachael caustically describes “a love/hate relationship between an individual and a place” and learning how to embrace feeling like an ‘oddball’. The melancholy and massive Lucky Ones is as wistful as Pave The Jungle are likely to get; while standout track Picture of Health sees Rachael laying bare her own underlying health issues, resulting in themes of procrastination and negativity exemplified by impassioned vocals and an expertly controlled quiet/loud dynamic. It’s a track which demonstrates Pave The Jungle’s growth as architects of thrillingly visceral alt. rock.

Waiting For Nothing will undoubtedly be the release that sees Pave The Jungle step up their profile, both in the region and beyond. Rachael’s process of demoing to the point of perfection has clearly paid dividends, alongside the enforced stasis of the last 18 months the band have been able to more carefully hone their creative process, and Rachael confirms that their forthcoming tour is sure to influence whatever comes next. “Writing the songs is just one part of it. We love it, but it can be all-consuming. I’m lucky as both Scott and our manager Jules are very well organised. I can’t think of anything worse than planning the logistics around a tour or a release. They really take the reins on that front. That gives me time to focus solely on the music and the artwork.”

With management coming on board shortly before The Hissing was released last year, Rachael recognises the groundwork has been laid for future growth, but acknowledges that it can be difficult for independent artists to progress. “Tangible progression more often than not requires substantial investment, and that’s something our region goes without in more ways than one. Up North we generally have to shout louder to be heard, and unfortunately that leaves the door open for opportunists and monopolisers. These kinds of exploitative characteristics aren’t good for local music. Especially when you throw deceitful, or downright abusive, practices into the mix,” she says, alluding to the allegations surrounding promoter SSD Concerts which have been well documented online.

When asked about how musicians in the region can progress without compromising their own ethics, she’s resolute in her response. “Ultimately what I think matters most is owning your vision and staying true to it. Everyone encounters their share of snakes and bad actors, and at times they’re hard to distinguish from those with an honest and healthy interest in your art. In fact it can be paralysing. We all just need to stay on course and lift others up whenever the opportunity arises.”

Unafraid of demonstrating this DIY spirit, the duo have been quietly promoting their own shows under their Cow House moniker for a few months now, bringing artists from outside the region as well as spotlighting local musicians. “We’d talked about putting gigs on for a while, and post-pandemic seemed like a great time to start. Scott handles the bookings/promo and I do sound on the night. It’s been a lot of fun so far; bringing up-and-coming bands we personally love to a safe, fun and supportive space like Little Buildings.”

Little Buildings plays host to Pave The Jungle’s Newcastle leg of their tour in celebration of the EP release, which also sees them perform at Middlesbrough’s Base Camp. “We’ll be touring with a full band! We did a couple of gigs as a duo once lockdown ended, but it didn’t feel right at all. On a good day we’ll be loud, explosive, dynamic, and interesting. On a bad day we’ll be loud. But seeing as Base Camp is at the beginning and Little Buildings is on the last night of the tour, we’ll be firing on all cylinders!”

Pave The Jungle release Waiting For Nothing via Cow House on 26th November. They play Base Camp, Middlesbrough on Saturday 6th and Little Buildings, Newcastle on Friday 26th November


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