Ever since their 2012 eponymous debut, London-based quartet Django Django have been making waves in the music industry due to their unique ability to blend countless genres into one dense, electrifying sound. At their best, they flirt with an impressive array of influences ranging from 60s psych-rock to 80s pop, classical to post-dubstep and 90s indie to dancehall.
At their best, they flirt with an impressive array of influences ranging from 60s psych-rock to 80s pop, classical to post-dubstep and 90s indie to dancehall
Their Mercury-nominated debut propelled the foursome to the top of festival bills including Glastonbury and Fuji Rock, a far cry from their humble beginnings recording in Dave’s bedroom. The album reached number 33 on the UK album charts in its first week of release, with their 2015 follow up Born Under Saturn peaking at number 15.
Brimming with sonic ambition, bassist Jim Dixon, drummer and producer David Maclean, synth operator Tommy Grace and frontman Vincent Neff released their hotly anticipated third album Marble Skies in January this year. An accompanying major UK and European album tour stops in to Bristol’s SWX this month. Ahead of the show, Jim took some time out from his busy schedule to chat to Nitelife about their new album and upcoming tour, as well as what’s in store for 2018.
Taking success in their stride, the band went from DIY bedroom recording to completing their second record in a professional studio, although this cost them in creative autonomy, Jim tells us. So the band were eager to regain full control on Marble Skies and return to their self sufficient roots.
It meant that we weren’t chasing our tails constantly trying to cram three songs into five days of recording
‘This time round, having our own studio in Tottenham meant that we had more time to work on tracks. We were able to spend a full day on just a single track and then put it to one side, coming back to it a couple of weeks later. It meant that we weren’t chasing our tails constantly trying to cram three songs into five days of recording.’
Marble Skies is unmistakably Django with its sizzling synths, beatful basslines and mixed up sound, though you can tell that the group had a lot more fun with its creative process. The album feels a lot lighter than the last, with its galloping pop songs, playful explosions of singalong choruses and harpsichord-styled keys.
galloping pop songs, playful explosions of singalong choruses and harpsichord-styled keys
‘I think that’s a result of us going back to our own space’, explains Jim. ‘It’s filled with our own instruments like Tommy’s synths, percussion, drums, guitars and stuff. It just freed us up a little and we felt more comfortable with the process, so we were able to enjoy it more.’
Naturally, the pop-psychedelic art rockers did learn a lot from working with a skilled studio engineer and have been able to adapt their original working method to create a more succinct album than its predecessor, and clearly their best work to date.
‘There are elements that we took from recording the second record. For example, we had no idea how to mic up drums and amps and stuff like that. But certainly having our own space and being able to come and go when we please meant that it was a happier working environment and it allowed us to be more playful with the songs.’
it allowed us to be more playful with the songs
As a band, Django Django are impossible to pigeonhole due to their constant toying with genre-bending sounds, ranging from techno, synth-pop, dancehall and rockabilly, to name a few. On paper this might sound like an almighty headache, yet this London-based quartet manage to amalgamate all of these different sounds into a coherent whole with the help of Dave and Tommy – the glue that holds these disparate influences and styles together.
‘We rely on Dave’s style of producing and Tommy to help hold us all together. Dave is a massive DJ and record collector and having him produce the records kind of galvanises all our songs and all those different styles.’
Each track on Marble Skies seamlessly blends into the next like an unspoilt DJ set and this adventurous, genre-blurring approach to music has certainly served the foursome well. However, aspects of traditional rock found in their earlier works are becoming increasingly hard to decipher due to the quartet’s thirst to keep innovating. Guitars rarely take the lead on this new album as the band experiment more with electronics and synthesised sounds.
Guitars rarely take the lead on this new album as the band experiment more with electronics and synthesised sounds
‘Working with Metronomy’s Anna Prior on these early sessions really influenced the music, as her drumming style definitely pushed a few tracks in certain directions that we wouldn’t necessarily have gone down. I think Tommy was a lot more involved in the initial writing process as well, so a lot of the tracks are really synth driven.’
With four strong creative forces in the band, Jim explains how the band go about incorporating all four of their personalities into a single track:
‘We usually start by writing out a really short narrative or loose storyline, almost like a film synopsis. Or it might just be a lyric that gives us a sense of what the song should be about. Having that synopsis allows us to pin all four of our focuses on one idea and we are able to write lyrics individually and bring them back to the studio where we can patch them together. It seems to work for us – it did take a little while to get used to writing lyrics as a four, but we’ve gotten used to the process.’
Having all met at Edinburgh College of Art, there’s no doubting this talented bunch have creative bones in their bodies and they’re not afraid to start from absolutely nothing, with no preconceptions. By not forcing their tracks into a particular genre or style and not focusing too much on how they think they should sound, the band allow themselves a freedom few artists get to enjoy.
‘We don’t worry too much about whether a certain song is a Django song’, explains Jim. ‘If it sounds good, generally we’ll run with it. As soon as you start thinking about it and try to shape a certain style, you start to second-guess what you should be doing. For all of us, that just doesn’t seem natural.’
We don’t worry too much about whether a certain song is a Django song. If it sounds good, generally we’ll run with it
The London-based foursome continue to come up with sounds that are unpredictable and playful, as they strive to create new ways of expressing themselves rather than tying themselves down to what’s currently popular. Their philosophy of just going with it and seeing where their sound takes them is akin to the escapist and psychedelic tones in their music, influenced by the band’s desire to remove themselves from the everyday.
‘I’ve always loved going to galleries and museums and just immersing myself in an alien world completely. Writing music in a studio in North London can be pretty grey and miserable at times, so it’s nice to try and remove yourself from that.
We’ve enjoyed forgetting our everyday lives and using music as a vehicle to go somewhere else
‘We all read a lot and watch a lot of films,’ Jim continues, ‘music can completely transport you and affect your mood. Like film, music can pick you up and take you on a journey. We’ve enjoyed forgetting our everyday lives and using music as a vehicle to go somewhere else.’
The foursome are currently working on their live show and promise to deliver brand new eye-popping and crowd-pleasing visual spectacles. Jim informs us that they’re completely pulling their set apart and attempting to totally shake things up in true Django style.
Hopefully we’ll have Rebecca Taylor doing a few shows with us
‘Hopefully we’ll have Rebecca Taylor doing a few shows with us’, says Jim. ‘It will be great having her about. As and when we have the chance to get people involved we’ll be doing that. It’s still in the development process, but it’s exciting for us all.’
With their second record Born Under Saturn, Jim admits that they found a lot of the tracks difficult to play live. Individual parts were recorded separately, so they rarely came together as a band on stage. This time around, a different studio process has enabled the band to record their songs collectively, resulting in a smoother transition from the studio to the stage.
‘It’s a bit of a backward way of doing things but we generally take the recorded version apart when it comes to playing it live and build it back up. There are so many elements in the tracks on the album, so we have to strip out all the unnecessary parts.
a lot of the times we play the songs live they are different to the recorded versions, which keeps it exciting for us
‘It’s almost like two separate processes, meaning that a lot of the times we play the songs live they are different to the recorded versions, which keeps it exciting for us but also for people who come and see us play.’
Beyond their current tour, Jim assures us that Django Django always have stuff bubbling away in the background and that they’re looking to put something out later in the year. ‘Hopefully over the summer we’ll keep the momentum going, as we really want to do as many one-off gigs as we can. Most of the ideas that we’ve got at the moment are in their early stages, but over the next couple of months we’ll be putting stuff together and announcing it.’
So, keep an ear to the ground for further updates, crazy beats and melodies from this boundary-pushing quartet. Which far-off land will their music be leading them to this time?
Words by Georgie Partington