Combining live disco and funk, indie songwriting and bedroom pop production, Tungz bring something genuinely unique to the new music scene, certainly within the local landscape. Their forthcoming debut EP, Okay has just landed via Jamz Supernova’s Future Bounce imprint and we’ve got it on repeat.
We had a chat with Tungz vocalists Nicky Green and Jamie Maier, who also take care of keys and guitar respectively, about the four-track EP and upcoming UK tour, which kicks off at Exchange tomorrow night.
Their friendship was born on the Bristol live circuit
Nicky and Jamie are usually joined by bassist Ollie Horne and drummer Rick Holland, and all four have been close friends since meeting at university around six years ago. Their friendship was born on the Bristol live circuit, playing in different bands in similar scenes; Nicky in a funk band – which Jamie confirms included a lot of James Brown dancing – while Jamie sang in a band he didn’t realise at the time was ‘quite Red Hot Chili Peppers adjacent. Funky, bluesy, rocky kind of stuff.’
‘We played together in other bands and I used to come play in Jamie’s band as well. It was a mesh of all of us’ Nicky explains. ‘We used to have these house parties where we’d all get together and play in our front room’.
‘Nicky had the vision of combining them and sticking around’ says Jamie. ‘So we stayed in Bristol with the express purpose of doing that and we’ve been here ever since.’
Nicky had the vision of combining them and sticking around
Though Tungz have been earning their stripes on the live scene for a few years now, their first single Window Love only landed last February. Though that was enough to get the attention of Radio 1Xtra DJ and future music tastemaker Jamz Supernova.
Late into the eve of the Window Love single launch at The Canteen, Nicky noticed a tweet from the 1Xtra DJ and switched over to hear their debut single playing on Radio 1.
‘It came completely out the blue’ Nicky explains. ‘We’d found an old tape deck in the kitchen, so we were recording our song onto tapes for the show. I think everyone had gone to bed by this point, so it was just me sitting at the desk and then my phone went off and I saw a tweet that said “hashtag NP and Tungz” from Jamz Supernova.
I couldn’t tell if it was my tape or the radio until she started talking
‘I didn’t know what it meant, then I realised NP is “now playing” and I switched the tape deck to the radio. I couldn’t tell if it was my tape or the radio until she started talking – I still have that tape!’
‘It felt pretty flukey at the time’ says Jamie. ‘We were fully self-everything for our first two singles. We did all the photos and contacted blogs and everything.’
‘After that we messaged her and got talking on Twitter’ says Nicky. ‘Eventually, she said “I’ve just started this label, do you guys wanted to get involved?” It works really well, because they’re very DIY-focussed. So it’s more about us being part of the team – what have we got that we can help each other with and what’s the best route’ Nicky says.
‘They gave the impression that they would let us do whatever we creatively thought was the right thing’ says Jamie. ‘That appealed to us as having started with that independent vibe.’
‘Their aim was to be a platform for us to get going and introduce us to their world – and get out of our bedrooms, basically!’ says Nicky
Their aim was to be a platform for us (…) and get out of our bedrooms, basically
The Okay EP’s opening track Do You Like It? offers a neat introduction to the band, transporting you straight underneath a disco ball, with a heavy funk bassline, glittering percussion and galactic synths. Thematically, it explores letting go your inhibitions, being true to yourself and doing things a little differently.
Musically, we don’t like to be too self-conscious
‘Musically, we don’t like to be too self-conscious’ says Jamie. ‘So we’re just trying to reflect what we’re actually doing and not be too cynical about it or work any angles.’
Listening through the EP on SoundCloud, the platform’s algorithm struggles to place Tungz. If you’re not paying attention, it’s usually easy to fall a few songs down the hole before realising that you’ve changed artist, but once you’ve run through Tungz’s short discography it feels like being snapped out of a different world.
Though this all-round uniqueness is far from a gimmick, it’s a geographical coordinate landed on through equal interests in live band musicianship, classic funk and disco, indie songwriting and electronic production.
‘Because we’re all so close it feels really nice and natural to play together, so when we get together, stuff comes out’ says Nicky. ‘I don’t know where it comes from, but it ended up being this kind of sound. And then because I’m quite into electronic producers and I wanted to try and make something on a laptop, we decided to take that into it too.’
‘I don’t think we ever creatively strategised’ Jamie adds, ‘it’s all been as a result of the process and where our interests have landed.’
I don’t think we ever creatively strategised
People hearing Tungz’s music before seeing them live might be surprised to see a traditional live band set up on stage, as their recorded songs wholeheartedly embrace electronic production. But Tungz are part of a growing trend of acts who don’t see the need to be either / or.
Tungz are part of a growing trend of acts who don’t see the need to be either / or
‘In the early stages of going into the studio, there was a certain amount of indignation over: “we’re a band, being in a band is about playing live” and that’s gone away’ says Jamie. ‘The idea of being in the studio producing or sending emails and feeling like, “is this being in a band?” But that gap is closing for us and it’s all become part of the same package.
‘There’s definitely a difference in the live sound and the recorded sound’ Jamie continues. ‘And we’re quite conscious of wanting to keep that going. The live experience is different to the recorded thing – you get a slightly different offer when you come and see us.’
you get a slightly different offer when you come and see us
In offering something new, it means that Tungz don’t have any blueprint to work from and it’s been a long process that’s taken them several trips between the stage and the studio to work out exactly how they want to present the Tungz sound.
‘The fun thing is when you go into the studio and you make something that’s a bit out there – not something that would come out of jamming together, something that only comes from being in a studio and being experimental,’ says Nicky ‘then trying to do that live in a different way.
‘So sometimes we’d have loads of synth parts, but Jamie will play them on guitar. It’s fun working out ways of playing a song that makes it a bit special when it’s live and not trying to replicate the song exactly.’
I think it’s nice for a live show to be surprising in a way
‘I think it’s nice for a live show to be surprising in a way’ says Jamie. ‘I see lots of bands and think, this is really great, they’re playing their songs perfectly and that’s gratifying in a way. But if there’s a surprise element or something that you don’t hear when you’re at home, that’s a plus.’
Equally, when listening at home there are two levels of Tungz that you can choose to engage with. The music itself is certainly enough to warrant a play, but those wanting to listen on a deeper level can connect with the songwriting too.
I was a bit of an indie kid as a teenager
‘I was a bit of an indie kid as a teenager’ Nicky explains, ‘so the songwriting, the melodies and stuff – from my perspective anyway, because we all write together – probably comes from that side of things, whereas the underlying groove stuff comes more from the old school music we all listened to growing up.’
‘We want to write songs, not just jams’ confirms Jamie.
A continually recurring theme when it comes to Tungz is this multi-dimensional approach, which balances electronic and live instrumentation, recording and performing, as well as in the variety of the songs themselves.
We want to write songs, not just jams
My Baby Can Stand Being Alone offers a smooth, finger-clicking, pop track, whereas What I Wanted presents a slow, disco ballad.
‘We have written lyrics in a variety of set ups, some are completely Nicky, some are completely me and some are a mixture. The songs that we write individually might be more personal’ says Jamie.
‘If we write as a band, songs like Do You Like It? come out as this group feeling – this is what we’re about’ says Nicky. ‘With individual stuff, there are songs that I might write just sitting in bed and when people listen to that, they might be in the same place, feeling maybe the same thing. The vocals at the very end of Window Love are just me lying in bed with a microphone’ he laughs.
The songs that we write individually might be more personal
‘We like to have dynamics, different vibes in different songs’ says Jamie. ‘It helps with the live stuff as well, because there will be an ebb and flow; it’s not all party bangers, sometimes we’ll bring it down a bit.’
Taking their time in this process has proved a worthwhile endeavour and now that they’re confident in who Tungz are and what they sound like, Jamie confirms that they’ve got plenty of new material in the tank, which we’re likely to get a glimpse of at their Exchange show this month.
We’ve been writing more than ever
‘We’ve been writing more than ever’ says Nicky. ‘We’ve had these songs we’re releasing for a while now and it’s been a development, because we’ve been working out how they sound in a studio. Now we know that and now that we’ve gigged those for years, we feel quite rejuvenated. We’ve got it out and now it’s time to make some new stuff.’
Until recently, Tungz have been 100-percent DIY, from learning to mix and master themselves, to making baked goods at their shows.
‘The process of a song being written, to it being a listenable, released song is much shorter now. It’s gone from maybe four years to being quite quick. It all feels quite exiting’ says Jamie.
Before this EP, we were going all the way up to the mastering process on our own
‘Before this EP, we were going all the way up to the mastering process on our own, so we could get it exactly how we wanted it,’ says Nicky ‘but you’ve got to get over that at some point and just get on with the songs.’
Talking about the Exchange show, Nicky continues: ‘There will be more songs, more of a show, new material. We’re getting back to being a live band.’
‘We really want to offer people as much as we can – the whole experience. Focus on making it a big show, a party for everyone’ says Jamie.
At their last headline show in Bristol, Jamie handmade 60 donuts, which they served out of Nicky’s keyboard case. So we can expect Tungz to pull something extra out of the bag (or keyboard case) to make the EP launch at Exchange a memorable, positive evening for everyone.
‘We feel like we’re developing into our sound and this is just the start of it’ says Nicky. ‘It’s exciting to think what we could do in the studio and what we could do with our live shows.’
We feel like we’re developing into our sound and this is just the start of it
Photos by Dominika Scheibinger