Having bounced from a bedroom-DIY debut that brought a Mercury Prize nomination, to a follow up they seem to have dismissed as an uninspired blip, Django Django – an almost impossible band to peg – are back with a third album, ‘Marble Skies’, and heading for Dublin..
Django Django have been hovering around the edges of a burgeoning indie scene for years, hard to define but easy to love. They draw in aspects of straight-up indie rock, electro-punk, mild psychedelic tendencies and plenty of varied, often-sampled beats.
The entire concept seems to hang on limitless experiment, something that’s evolved strongly through their careers, and now revolves around a large practise room in Tottenham (North London), crammed with their monstrous vinyl collection and all the instrumentation they need.
“We have to take it a little differently now,” frontman Vincent Neff – a native of Derry – says of the band’s everyday life. “When we’re back in London, it’s very much a normal working schedule, as some of us have families, so the whole all-night, up drinking while we write music thing is largely a thing of the past. That’s totally different on tour, of course, but when we’re recording we have to consider family life.”
“What we produce comes largely from a lack of belief in genre. Dave [Maclean, the band’s producer and drummer] has a crazy techno record collection, while the other lads have other influences. There are five or six new records coming into the practise space every week. Growing up in the 90s you were going to a gig one night and a rave the next, listening to the Happy Mondays and hard house. I don’t really understand how anyone can just be into a genre, and come out with stuff like ‘I just listen to techno’. That idea eroded for us a long time ago.”
There are difficulties with that variety, of course, not least in Django Django’s textured and nuanced sound being extremely difficult to reproduce live. “It takes a long time to sort,” Neff admits, laughing. “You get onto the stage and it sounds different. There are definitely some songs we just can’t do, and others that are different live, that we change the rhythm of, or use different instruments.”
“Some songs we try for a few minutes as a live setup and it’s immediately obvious it’s just not going to work. Others we kind of stumble on solutions.”
Latest album ‘Marbles Skies’ has been a long time coming. “By the time it comes to release you’re just excited to have it out there,” Neff says of the launch of their third release. “It’s been six months finished, and working on other stuff, like videos, and how to play the tracks live, and it’s more of a relief than anything to actually have it out there.”
“Ideally we’d like to put it out the next day, but things don’t really work that way, though I did come across a label that does that recently. We actually wrote this one apart, in a sense, and that worked quite well. It was quite dynamic at the beginning. We got Anna [Prior, the drummer with Metronomy] involved. Dave being away from us was a bit of an accident, but in a way it gave us all space, and we came at each track with fresh ears, which made things slightly different from before.”
There’s a sense, in fact, that Neff wasn’t all that happy with Django Django’s second album, which saw the act shift to the ‘big time’ but perhaps become a little less themselves. They moved from a very-much bedroom recording set up in their 100,000-selling self-titled debut, to a high-end studio production in sophomore release ‘Born Under Saturn’.
“You can say you don’t care when the critics aren’t as into it,” Neff says, “but that’s only so true. If someone pummels it, it’s not like you can go out and just fix it the next time. Nothing’s ever going to be to everyone’s taste and you kind of have to go with your gut. But I don’t really believe anyone doesn’t care what people think of what they’ve put so much work into.”
“We work with an amazing label, and that gives us real freedom,” he continues. “At the time we started out, they were the only label willing to offer us a decent contract, but Because Music have been excellent, they’ve supported us without trying to influence too much what we do. I’ve heard a lot of grumbles about labels interfering in music, but they have a really varied roster and are into really different stuff. We draw from everywhere without a real common theme. We’re like musical magpies. So it kind of makes a lot of sense for us.”
Based on the reception of its early singles and the first few days of the new album, it seems likely the Marble Skies will be the popular return to form that Django Django were looking for. The critics are certainly infatuated, if continuing a charming and convoluted struggle to pin down exactly what this band actually are.
“For us, it’s mainly about moving forward,” Neff says. “We’d hate people to feel that we’re just going over old ground. I think we had this idea that we’d be a little cult band playing to 150 people each night, forever, and that would suffice. Once it took off we had to think a little differently, but, things went beyond our wildest dreams.”
Django Django play the Tivoli Theatre on Francis Street on March 2. Their acclaimed third album ‘Marble Skies’ is out now.
This article is part of my weekly music column for the Dublin Gazette, reproduced here with permission. Note: this column is published in the Dublin Gazette several days ahead of on this website. The Gazette is a freesheet paper available across Dublin, published on a Thursday. Pick up copies at these locations.
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