Pillowtalk with Sam Hales



The Australian music industry, and its associated live music culture, is the cultural backbone of the country. Everyone has favourite memories of their favourite acts, wild pub nights at a gig and live music is synonymous with summer here in Australia. However, the disruptions to gigs and festivals and the intermittent lockdowns have changed the way that musicians create their works and connect with their fans. It’s taken perseverance and creativity, but the Australian music scene has continued to flourish. Amid the uncertainty, The Jungle Giants reached a significant milestone in the Australian industry, when their song Heavy Hearted was nominated for the ARIA award’s song of the year in 2020. Now, in 2021, the band has reached another milestone, 10 years since their first EP and the upcoming release of their newest album. We had the opportunity to sit down with Sam Hales, the band’s frontman, and talk about his musical beginnings, The Jungle Giants’ evolution, and what live music looks like in the current Australian landscape.




Slow mornings or long nights?

Long nights.


Were you exposed to music at a young age? Do you remember the first song that truly captivated you?

Yeah, there was heaps of music in my house as a kid! My older sister is a professional pianist and cellist, and she used to teach in the room next to mine, so as a kid I’d wake up on Saturday mornings to the sounds of piano and cello. It was really nice. My mum is also a mega jolly, Irish woman, and she’d always be putting on records and talking to me about music and artists she loved. One of the first tracks that really made a mark on me as a teenager when I started making music was For Emma, Forever Ago by Bon Iver. It gave me heaps of direction with my songwriting at the time. I was like, “that's what I wanna do”.


Do you think that your formative experiences with music still inform your creative practice today?

Absolutely. There’s so much to learn in music. Everyone makes it differently and I’m appreciating that more and more these days. Sometimes it's those little, tiny things that people do in their process that makes their music really unique.




You’ve been in The Jungle Giants since 2011, how does it feel to reach the 10 year anniversary in your band? How do you think you are still the same and how have you evolved?

It feels pretty weird to be approaching our 10 year anniversary for our first EP haha. That went reaaaally fast. Feels right though. We’ve changed so much as people but our friendship is as important to us as ever. Maybe even more now. We know each other so well and we know how to make each other feel supported. I’ve been changing the sound with each release to match more with who I am at the time. I feel like that’s really important. The music has to reflect what I’m into and has to be fun. It’s a fun challenge each time, making sure I push the sound but also bring people along too.

It’s been a little while since your new single, In Her Eyes, was released. How do you feel now that the dust has settled and it has been received so positively?

So happy. I was really interested to see how people would respond to it. It’s the slowest track I’ve ever made... also was kinda saucy in its production haha. I’m really excited to release this album, people have been responding really well to the production which makes me happy!


You’ve said that you had to produce your newest, yet to be released, album outside of the normal studio environment, what was this process like?

During Melbourne’s lockdown I just had to grab my favourite things from my main studio and set up a little makeshift studio at home. It was good to scale back, and helped me keep things focused. It definitely wasn’t the easiest time to write music though, but I just took a day by day approach and tried not to think about any negatives. I like the bedroom producer vibe. I’ve never really messed around in a big massive studio… maybe next record.



Are there any internal and external environments that you need to work creatively?

I love writing within a routine. It helps me deal with any anxiety or expectations. I actually set up a little hour to hour routine after reading an essay that Ernest Hemingway wrote. It was kinda based on a bunch of little things that can increase creative productivity. So now I start and finish at the same time every day. Always start with a new idea, then have lunch and work on an old idea after that. After I get into the flow of the routine I really feel like I’m time travelling ha. Days go so quick.


If you could express your current mood in a song, what would it be?




How does it feel coming back and touring again? Is the atmosphere and vibe the same for you all?

We aren’t back to touring yet unfortunately. Capacities and venues’ rules haven’t quite gotten there yet, but we’re feeling pretty proactive about the next few months, things are looking good. All that being said, we are so lucky to be able to play shows at all. We’ve been stringing together one-off festival shows for the last couple months and we are so thankful for those to be back. Never ever ever gonna take it for granted again.

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Stay positive, and when you’re deep in it, focus on what’s right in front of you.

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What was something that 2020 taught you in terms of how you approach your music and artistic practice?

Stay positive, and when you’re deep in it, focus on what’s right in front of you.


If you can dream big, what is something you would love to do with The Jungle Giants?

It would be amazing to get something big going in America on this record. Been dreaming of getting over there and really having a big, fat crack at it.

If you could wake up anywhere tomorrow, where would you be?

Phuket, Thailand. On a lil beach with a coconut in one hand a pina colada in the other one.




Photography by Ted Minted