Locked down at home in Australia in 2020, and fresh off a world tour, Sam Hales successfully relocated all his equipment into his house in Melbourne, creating a studio “cockpit” in a spare room, and continued working on something he started years earlier: The Jungle Giants’ fourth album Love Signs.
“It was a pretty slow and fragmented process this time around, mainly because I was recording and writing in little bouts between tours,” says Hales of Love Signs, following up the band’s 2017 release Quiet Ferocity. “Every now and again a song would come through that I’d get crazy excited about. The track would stay, and I’d keep building up the album that way.”
He adds, “Everything was super fresh when I got back into it. Once one song came together, every song after that had to match the energy.”
Back home, Hales found himself experimenting with more elements of ’90s R&B and hip hop (a la Ashanti and Timbaland) while playing around with some new “toys” in the studio. “All the tracks on ‘Love Signs’ sound like they come from the same world in production,” says Hales, “but also in some elements of playfulness.”
With all the lyrical and sonic elements in place, Hales began recording and producing Love Signs.
“It’s been a really good process, really self-affirming,” he says. “When you trust in your ability, and you trust in your heart, and just be really honest, that’s the best feeling in the world. The album is about all those little messages we send each other, the love signs.”
Love Signs sends off all the right signals. An uplifting feat, each of the 10 tracks dips into the deeper, fulfilled end of life, all elevated by Hales’ techno-orchestrations and samplings. A ringing analog phone opens the electro-funk title track, deftly dancing into “Treat You Right” and “In Her Eyes” and pulsing through matters of the heart on “Sending Me Your Love,” “Heartless” and the beating “Heavy Hearted” and on through the pouncing close of “Monstertruck.”
Another step in The Jungle Giants story, the years have been nothing but transformative for Hales, in songwriting and production, and it’s evident on Love Signs. “My demos are sounding more like the finished product and it’s helping me have a little more freedom to play around,” he says. Hales tested character-driven lyrics and added on more strings and orchestral-inspired instruments like the marimba and timpani.
Writing and recording everything from his little sunlit studio above a pub near his Melbourne home, when Hales has a new batch of songs completed, he’ll invite the band—guitarist Cesira Aitken, bassist Andrew Dooris, and drummer Keelan Bijker—over for a listening party. “I’m always a little nervous on those days,” he says, “but I make sure there are heaps of margaritas for everyone, especially me.”
Throughout the band’s nearly decade-long career, Hales says he’s maintained a “healthy perfectionism” to his work, particularly since Quiet Ferocity.
“I learned a lot on the last record, and even more on this one,” reveals Hales. “Being the first time that I’ve recorded everything myself in a bedroom, I learned how to be kinder to myself while trying to reach a goal. I focused on each day and tried not to worry about how far I had left. I just kept my eye on the prize and made sure I was keeping everything to my standard.”
Hales adds, “I really listened to myself, and that felt cool as the record was evolving. I feel like I spent a heap of time just hanging out with myself while having a great time making music.”
Set to tour the U.S. in 2022, The Jungle Giants are rehearsing for a livestream performance at the Australian festival Splendour in the Grass, “Splendour XR,” before filming their performance on the Gold Coast and will continue spreading Love Signs to the world. Then, Hales will move on to the next thing—preferably with a change of scenery.
“I really want to go overseas and get started on the next record,” says Hales, “in a pine forest somewhere.”