“We’re melancholy guys, once you get to know us,” claims Jamie Maier of Bristol’s Tungz through restrained, ironic giggling. Bandmate Nicky Green, also present via FaceTime, does not hold back laughter. His comes with gusto. If you’ve heard Tungz lyrics, seen Tungz in concert, then watched their music videos, you’ll have traversed the entire spectrum of feelings.
On stage, they’re party-starters. On record, there’s frequent glumness. On video, they’re a quartet of wry absurdists. It’s a Bermuda Triangle in which you can get pleasantly lost. “We’ve got a lot of emotions,” chuckles Jamie, “but because we’re from such an insincere generation, we find it hard to express them. It’s like you see in Mac DeMarco’s songs. There’s an emotional boy in there, but most of the time he just seems to be fucking around.”
You see early absurdism in the video for ‘Window Love’, which includes enough silliness to justify a feature on its own, including using Jamie’s actual mobile number (“I’ve annoyingly only ever got one text from it.”) Then there’s the far moodier but situationally absurd video to ‘What I Wanted’.
In Nicky’s words: “We were trying to make the video as quickly as we could, so we were thinking of concepts where we could shoot it in one go. We wanted to create an ambience. The guy downstairs was like, ‘I’ve got this stage light that I nicked from my drama school,’ so we had the light. We wanted to get a smoke machine, but we couldn’t afford one, so Jamie went and bought a vape kit. It’s Jamie on one side smoking a vape cigarette under the camera and (drummer) Rick on the other side holding a balloon.” The video then ends with the enigmatic tribute, “In loving memory of James Monsees – 1980-present.” I’m expecting a sad story from the Tungz boys. Nicky grins mischievously: “Make people Google it.”
“We want to make stuff that’s futuristic. Everyone’s so hooked on nostalgic stuff at the moment.”
How did four 90s lads become swathed in funk and disco? Are they being self-consciously retro? For a second, Nicky looks deadly serious, “We wouldn’t want to think that we were deliberately doing a 70s or 80s thing. Sometimes we’ll deliberately reference things we like, but we want to make stuff that’s futuristic. Everyone’s so hooked on nostalgic stuff at the moment.”
Headlining Rough Trade this month, they’ll have come a long way from Jamie’s memory of their debut Bristol show: “It was No. 1 Harbourside, playing to people who were quite drunk. We played a long time, about two hours. We weren’t even called Tungz, we were called Best Friend Gang. That first gig, we just had a good time. The stakes felt quite low.”
And then becoming Tungz? Nicky takes the reins: “Despite all my bullshit about not wanting to be retrospective… When we first had an idea of what the band would be like, I thought that the name ‘The Silver Tongues’ sounded good, like an old rhythm and blues band, but a bit shinier. ‘Tungz’ was a nickname for that. And it seemed very much us – fucking around with words, being smart arses. It had so many of those connotations.
This Bristol show comes off the back of a run of excellent support slots in 2019. Jamie enthuses, “For a long time, we hadn’t played with anyone who really sounded like us, so it was a big step to be put on bills in a thoughtful way, like ‘Oh, your fans might genuinely overlap’ rather than ‘There’s a black metal band playing at The Fleece, do you wanna support?’”
Nicky concurs: “A stand-out one was supporting Her’s at Exchange, in January 2019. It was so memorable. It snowed all night. It felt like we’d all been snowed in together and everyone stuck around for extra time afterwards because it was so snowy and the roads were blocked. It’s special to have got to play a show with them because they were such lovely guys.” For the record, both gents did visibly emote at this point.
2020 is just warming up for Tungz, with a two-week tour in the offing. “We’re going to be releasing a lot of singles and making videos,” says Nicky. Jamie boldly concludes, “I dare say that it’ll be the most music that we’ve put out in a year,” followed immediately by the slightly less daring, “We can definitely say that we’ll be releasing at least slightly more music than ever before…”
And he smiles. And Nicky smiles. And so I smile back. It rather sums up the Tungz experience in a nutshell.
The Okay EP is out now on Future Bounce.
Live: March 14th – Rough Trade (with support from Mercy’s Cartel).
See Tungz play ‘What I Wanted’ live here: