When Gabriel Winterfield heard that Prince had passed away, he thought it was metaphorical – that it was a retiring of the name, as Prince had done before, and that there was a new era of music about to launch bright and bold from Cape Funk.
Then the penny dropped. “He was a really big inspiration for me – huge,” the vocalist and guitarist says. “Probably one of the biggest since forever. I mean, Give Me A Reason, that chorus? That was [us] trying to be Prince. Straight off the bat.”
Give Me A Reason is one of the standouts on Jagwar Ma’s arresting new record Every Now & Then. It has a swaggy bellride beat, bumpy electronic bass, and the “amoeba dance”, in which you “shleft” and you “shright” – which sounds just like a goopy bacteria party. “It was a by-product of standing in front of a microphone for 15 hours, not moving,” Gab chortles – a familiar sound from the track itself. “I think it was just straight-up delirium. That whole bit was just one take, and I started pissing myself.”
His favourite is High Rotations, which has an infuriatingly difficult-to-pin time signature at the beginning, but soon moves into a shuddering collection of effects which slice and teeter along with Gab’s voice. Don’t Make It Right sounds like you’re steeped in The Lost Forests, then moves seamlessly into beautiful closer Colours Of Paradise – which itself fades out to nothing. “I think it’s sort of like the closing shots of those old Westerns, where they ride off into the sunset and you see them slowly become a little dot, as if to kind of imply that the story never really ends,” Winterfield says.
The overall effect of Every Now & Then is of a gleaming, blossoming moss, and that impression fits with Jagwar Ma’s writing approach: Gab says the band are constantly recording little demos and notes in “primordial versions” of how the songs will go, and then studio time is for knuckling down to sift through them all. “If you’re an artistic person, I think you’re never not working, and you’re sort of not working at the same time,” he says. “I’ve kept a journal since I was ten, and I write almost quite fastidiously and quite religiously every day. Just stuff. Sometimes just sh-t.”
Every Now & Then is out now via Future Classic.