Photos: Fiona Garden
To be innovative within your art is by no means easy. Without it, you cannot remain relevant, interesting or remotely inspiring, yet try to force it and your work can quickly become false, vacuous and insubstantial. An abundance of innovation is what makes Django Django so incredible; after three albums and numerous remixes their work is still consistently and curiously fascinating.
Cut into any one of the band’s songs and it bleeds uniqueness, while managing to retain a cohesive sonic direction that correlates across their work. A great deal of this can be attributed to the genius of David Maclean, the group’s drummer, producer and spokesman, who recently spoke to me about the processes behind recording, manipulating and performing their work.
“I just try to channel everyone’s ideas into one track, otherwise there can be all kinds of chaos going on.”
With third record, Marble Skies, having been released to both critical acclaim and commercial success last month, the quartet could have been forgiven for taking some time off to revel in their success. However the modest Maclean assures us that this hasn’t been the case: “We’ve just been practising; playing the new songs over and over again so we can get them really good.” This is, of course, preparation for their upcoming UK tour which sees them visit SWX on 24th March, with the promise of new versions of their established material for this outing: “It’s a bit louder, a bit more bombastic, a bit faster and a bit longer than on the records.”
The band’s latest recorded work is certainly concise, oscillating effortlessly between genres. From acid house to jazz-fusion, via dancehall, their breadth is such that their common umbrella term of ‘indie’ really doesn’t seem at all a fitting description. Title track ‘Marble Skies’ packs a notable punch, as does further standout, ‘In Your Beat’, soaked with mesmerising allure. However the record as a whole has a unique flow, albeit shorter than its predecessors. Reflecting on his band’s work, Maclean acknowledges: “On the first album we put a lot of effort into making it flow well, especially with the first half, but the second album we just sort of chucked all the songs together.” Laughing, he continues: “With this one we wanted to go back to the idea of an album to listen to from start to finish, with a concise A and B side; we wanted it out on one vinyl, not a double.”
“At the end of last year I’d just had enough of all of it. Trump, Brexit, I just couldn’t deal with it anymore.”
Despite possessing the ultimate power of decision in the production stages, Maclean reminds us that each member of the group (vocalist-guitarist Vincent Neff, bassist Jimmy Dixon and synth-player Tommy Grace) are of equal importance and downplays the significance of his own role: “I just try to channel everyone’s ideas into one track, otherwise there can be all kinds of chaos going on.” He does, however, express gentle unease at relinquishing creative control of the band’s videos, which have gained significant praise from fans for their quirky approach, seeming to deftly capture the essence of each song: “I get quite frustrated because I’d like to have the time to make my own videos, but I just don’t; you just put it in someone’s hands and hope for the best,” before questioning “how popular even are music videos anymore?”
The band are renowned for their political commentary across various social media platforms. Just the other day they tweeted a picture of a certain Mr Rees-Mogg, captioned simply with the appropriately snappy ‘This Prick’, and the conversation soon turns towards such topics: “At the end of last year I’d just had enough of all of it. Trump, Brexit, I just couldn’t deal with it anymore,” explains a clearly frustrated Maclean, before offering his wise advice: “I made the decision at the start of this year to just stop paying attention because it was making my blood boil.”
“That’s why music is great, it’s going back to basics and it’s escapist, it can’t help but be escapist.”
Maclean ensures that the band’s music remains separate from this murky world, appreciating that whilst it is crucial to voice an opinion on the matter, it is just as important to flee to music for comfort: “The world is run by money, by corporations, by power, but you can’t let all these people make you feel like life’s not good”; subsequently summarising perfectly: “That’s why music is great, it’s going back to basics and it’s escapist, it can’t help but be escapist.”
In Django Django, we are graced with a band willing to challenge their own creative boundaries in the search for sonic satisfaction. It would have been easy for the Londoners to stick to the pattern of the sound that saw their first album nominated for the Mercury Prize, but they have rather taken the opportunity to test their art, time and again. It’s truly difficult to pinpoint where their next album may take them – equally plausible that it will be to the moon as to their studio in London – but herein lies their intriguing beauty, and long may it continue.
Django Django play SWX on 24th March, with Marble Skies out now via Because Music.