In a tough couple of years for the Australian music industry, Brisbane band the Jungle Giants celebrated their first number one album on the Aria charts in July. Love Signs, the band’s fourth album, was written and produced in lockdown by Sam Hales, who tells Broadsheet the band was pretty lucky in comparison to younger, emerging artists trying to break into the music industry today.

“For us, gigs being taken away has been hard,” he says. “But when you think about young bands that don’t have a fanbase yet, they haven’t had a chance to support themselves financially. A big part of that is hitting the road, touring; we really feel for them because we cut our teeth on the touring circuit.”

As the band gears up for the Love Signs tour this summer, and various Grapevine festival appearances across the country, they’ve formed an unlikely partnership with booze brand Smirnoff to launch a competition that will accelerate the careers of 12 emerging musicians.

Instead of using its online advertising spend to promote a new mixed berries flavour of Smirnoff Seltzer, the alcohol brand is giving away $1 million of advertising placements to artists. The Jungle Giants get to select the singers, songwriters, bands and other up-and-coming musos whose songs will feature on Youtube, Spotify, Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat from January.

“This is something new for us, but this partnership really seems to make sense with everything we’ve been about lately,” says Hales. “I’d love to hear some bedroom producer bands – bands that are in their shed just making their own music, producing it themselves. I really respect artists like that and I think it’s really cool when you can tell they’ve got their hands on the songwriting and the way that the music sounds.

“It’d be awesome to give a band a leg up – an opportunity to share the music they’ve spent so much time making and haven’t had an opportunity to really share with people,” he says.

The whole band – guitarist Cesira Aitken, bassist Andrew Dooris, drummer Keelan Bijker and Hales – will decide which tracks get picked for the three-month campaign called Ads for Artists.

To be in the running, emerging artists must submit a fresh track to Smirnoff between November 16 and December 12. The winners will then be announced on the Smirnoff Australia Facebook and Instagram channels.

“I think we have a responsibility to support young artists who may be questioning themselves or don’t really know where to turn,” says Hales. “We went in not knowing anything and we’ve learned so much – and the way we learned was from bigger bands taking us on tour. For instance, Boy & Bear took us on our first tour – they took us out to dinners, showed us how to tune our guitars better. We like being in a place where we can give that back.”

The impact of three months of audio-visual advertising could be huge for under-represented artists, hopefully resulting in radio play and gig bookings.

“We’re going to be adding links directly to the artist’s Youtube, Soundcloud and Spotify [pages],” explains Hales. “So their streams will go up, their views will go up … once you get people going to your pages they can see where your shows are, they can check out your entire catalogue.”

“If you’re about to start gigging, you’ll sell tickets,” says Aitken.

When the Jungle Giants started out in 2011, they soaked up advice from bands they admired. But Hales says the best advice he received was from a book he picked up in a cafe in Paris.

“Just after releasing our first record, I remember I read online that Kevin Parker went to Paris to write his record, and I was like, ‘I want to do that’. So I spent all my money and went to Paris on my own and had the worst time ever because I had no money and I was really lonely,” he says.

“I was sitting there trying to force myself to write music, and it wasn’t working. I went to this cafe, which had a bookshelf, and it had an Ernest Hemingway essay on how to write better. [It said] ‘Always know when to jump ship’ and the little caption underneath was: ‘Know when the idea is going well and don’t abuse the idea’. That was really good advice. I live by that now; I never push ideas, I just come back to them later.”

Releasing Love Signs was a really good distraction during lockdown, says Hales, but the band has missed connecting with fans IRL. “I’ve missed playing the music live so much,” says Aitken. “I’ve missed loud crowds and live music – having that connection is so nice. As corny as it is, happy faces and people singing back at you [is what I’ve missed most].”

“I miss being sweated on by strangers,” says Hales. “Now things are opening up and we can play our biggest shows ever, it’s so exciting I’m going to cry.”

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