“Can we be real?” This question is one of the first posed by Jagwar Ma’s dynamic, lucid evocation of rave spirit and magic melody that is their second record, Every Now & Then. Producer/instrumentalist Jono Ma and singer/songwriter Gabriel Winterfield dispel any second album doubts and come across more comfortable and confident than ever, Every Now & Then’s expansive, exploratory nature belying an approach that encouraged experimentation and ignored artistic boundaries, dabbling, tinkering and probing their way to ecstatic results.
After a stint in Crescent Head on the mid-north coast of New South Wales to “break the ice ... having fun singing over things, doing a lot of surfing and hanging out and vibing”, the duo holed up in La Briche in the Centre-Val de Loire region of France for about five months to create the follow up to debut album Howlin.
“We kept quite funny hours,” says Winterfield. “Jono’s an early riser, he’d be up at six in the morning being all proactive, riding his bike and going to the shop and getting a baguette, and I wouldn’t get up until one or two, but I did work all night, and he would work during the day and we’d have this funny meeting point where he’d be taking a break and I’d just be getting up and he be like, ‘Check out this thing I did this morning’ and I’d be like ‘That sounds sick, have a listen to this thing I did last night’, and we’d show each other the stuff and then work together all through the afternoon, have lunch, have dinner, then it would get to 10, 11 and we’d watch a movie or something, then it would be one o’clock and Jono would be going to bed and I’d stay up until five or six, with my headphones, and just try and do vocal melodies. It was heaps of fun actually.” Their day/night division maximised productivity and brought out the best in each of them, Winterfield explains. “I just can’t not work at night, I need the quiet, the dead quiet. All the spirits come out.”
The spirit is strong in Every Now & Then, a benchmark second record that Winterfield feels justifiably happy with now it’s in the can. “I think it’s an accurate representation of where we’re at as people and as a band. It’s a more mature record – I was 20, 21 when we were doing the first one, I was really young and it sounds really young to me as well. There’s a big difference between being 20, 21 and then playing in a band and being 24, 25. It’s quite a different headset.”
“That character, Jagwar Ma, is maturing as a figure, and I think that’s nice to see in retrospect.”