INTERVIEW: Django Django (2018)

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TIC TAC TOE TAPPING

On the eve of the release of their third album, Marble Skies, and an hour before they take the stage in London to launch it, drummer/producer David Maclean chats with Chris Familton about where the inspiration comes from in the creation of their multifaceted sound.

Django Django are now three albums deep into a career that started with a bang when they released their debut self-titled album, garnered a Mercury Prize nomination and set off on a two year world tour. That segued straight into the follow-up album Born Under Saturn which nearly derailed the band entirely when they hit breaking point. Now they’ve regrouped, built a studio and rediscovered the essence of their music – that dizzying blend of electronic pop, surf guitar and postmodern psychedelia. “Now we’re back into it and excited again!” says Maclean.

With the stage beckoning, he admits that the band are always a bit edgier when taking out new songs for the first time and that they need to be worn in. “It’s always a bit nervy playing them the first few times so they’ll have to settle in a bit and they’ll keep changing and morphing and getting better and better until you kind of go on autopilot a bit and then you can kind sort of enjoy it and just relax and get in the groove a lot more.”

Marble Skies finds the band sounding more settled and focused than ever before and Maclean pinpoints a greater confidence in how they work together. “We’re definitely getting a bit more confident, but you don’t want to get carried away just because you can do something. We don’t want to get obsessed with the techniques. On the first record we didn’t now what we were doing and that was all we needed at the time. Our songwriting is getting better and we strive to keep working because we want our records to be played on the radio in 20 years time like Gerry Rafferty or Blondie or Cat Stevens,” Maclean enthuses.

In hindsight Maclean sees some mistakes with the recording of their previous album Born Under Saturn. “With the last album we went to Angelic which was the keyboardist from Jamiroquai, Toby Smith’s studio. It was a huge studio in the countryside and I guess we felt a little out of our depth as we hadn’t written any songs before we went there,” he laughs. “We ended up being in the communal living room all the time writing songs, even though we were paying thousands a day for the whole place. It’s not really in the spirit of where we came from or how I grew up with a four-track making music. We were more comfortable this time,” says Maclean, referring to their own new studio.

One of the key characteristics of their sound is the fusion of different genres and organic and digital instrumentation. “I think I’ve always been quite good at finding threads in different music. I remember listening to Public Enemy when I was younger and having that eureka moment realising they were sampling Jimi Hendrix licks and mixing in beats. Even looking at their production style and the similarities to what The Beatles were doing. These were all people just experimenting creatively. All music is a lot more connected than people think.”

ALBUM REVIEW: Django Django – Marble Skies

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In the past Django Django have managed to wrangle the seemingly disparate styles of electronic pop and rockabilly rhythms into songs that roll and pulse, both on the dance floor and as highly attractive synth pop. They continue that template here but it all sounds more refined and cohesive.

Their trademark vocal delivery and the way the melodies and harmonies are layered and blended is still the most distinct aspect of their sound. The area where they’ve gained the most traction and taken their songs forward is in the composition and instrumental arrangements. They run the gamut from the sugary jackhammer rhythm and Suicide meets early Depeche Mode of the title track  through to the Jan Hammer assisted piano, dreamy kosmiche vibe of the excellent Sundials. Both Tic-Tac-Toe and In Your Beat excel at marrying brain activity and feet movement with dizzying precision and economy, while the clipped guitar riff of Further reminds that they are still a band that play live instruments.

Marble Skies’ electronic pop psychedelia is a fine soundtrack for the summer months, immediately appealing music from thinking musicians who know how to find that balance between creativity and accessibility.

Chris Familton

ALBUM REVIEW: Django Django – Born Under Saturn

Rating7.5homepage_large.939fb9bcThree years ago another English electronic act added their name to the list that includes Depeche Mode, New Order and Underworld; bands that were able to harness futuristic sounds and marry them with a pop sensibility. They all wrote uber-catchy songs yet a common strain of melancholy coursed through most of their work. Django Django (and Hot Chip) in particular are continuing that legacy and on their sophomore album they delve into even more wonderful and magical musical environments.

There is a lushness to Born Under Saturn that sometimes takes a tropical form as it does with the steel drums of V’ibrations’ and ‘Break The Glass’. On the opener ‘Giant’ they make like Happy Mondays covering The Smiths with its baggy and propulsive groove. The partner to the album’s lushness is the groove(s) it digs deep into. Everything bounces and snakes with forward momentum. Sometimes it’s a twangy Art of Noise rhythm, at other times it takes the form of a Cure-ish gothic rumble as on ‘Found You’. What it always is is catchy, with earworms galore leaving snippets of their melodic trails running through your short term memory.

Single ‘First Light’ emits a certain sexiness with Vincent Neff’s nursery rhyme-like croon writhing around the percolated percussion with liquid qualities. In lesser hands it would be cranked up to anthemic levels but the art rock leanings of Django Django ensure they maintain the darker undercurrent and tension in that and most other songs. ‘Pause Repeat’ pushes the boundary of pop frothiness, taking on an Erasure-like euphoria in its chorus before we are pulled back down into murkier depths of kosmiche on ‘Reflections’ where the band have the bravado to incorporate a Duran Duran-esque saxophone solo courtesy of James Mainwaring from Roller Trio.

The lineage of sound that Django Django reference and expand on is a rich one. From Roxy Music to Kraftwerk, Syd Barrett to Wild Beasts, there’s an esoteric experimental quality to Born Under Saturn that perfectly balances the avant-garde and pop accessibility. It can at times be a head-swirling, disorientating listening experience but ultimately it’s a kaleidoscopic trip through psychedelic musical pop art.

Chris Familton

LIVE REVIEW: Django Django, The Cast of Cheers @ OAF, Sydney (01/08/12)

by C. Familton

Fresh from a weekend of Splendour, both of tonight’s bands were in town to play sideshows and build on the justified hype of their debut albums. The Cast of Cheers were in support yet they showed no signs of just being there to warm up the sold out audience. From the get-go they played fast, enthusiastically and with an endearing sense of humour. The Irish quartet showed an impressive synchronicity that maintained a wire taut edge to their sound that owes a debt to Bloc Party, Franz Ferdinand and in their rock moments Them Crooked Vultures. Loop pedals on Pose Mit and other songs allowed them to break free from the constraints of only playing what their hands allowed and some judicious use of synths added an electronic touch to many of their tracks. Human Elevator was a fantastic dark glam workout while Family drew the biggest cheer from a crowd that seemed completely won over by The Cast of Cheers.

Django Django appeared on stage in coordinated t-shirts and set about building on the vibe created by The Cast of Cheers. Theirs is a less ‘in your face‘ sound but it delivered a fascinating mix of styles from the Egyptian rhythms of Skies Over Cairo to the playful electronic krautrock repetition of Zumm Zumm and the slashing surf guitar chords of WOR. What seemed to bind all these disparate sounds together was their way with beats and percussion. Even when the music was spiraling off into rockabilly territory it was still irresistibly danceable and indeed most of the venue was bouncing, nodding and dancing along. Their biggest track was undoubtedly Default with its seductive robotic swagger. Live the band are a versatile bunch, switching instruments, ganging up on drums and oversized tambourines and all the while with grins across their faces. The crowd matched their enthusiasm with rapturous applause and even a spot of crowd surfing. We were repeatedly told how blown away Django Django were to have sold out their first of two nights at OAF and for once it felt like genuine surprise and appreciation from the musicians on stage.

So, two bands leading the charge for new polymorphic guitar music in the 21st Century and damn fine performances they were too. There is life left in this rock n roll dog yet.

 this review was first published in Drum Media and on theMusic.com.au

NEWS: First round of Splendour in the Grass sideshows announced

The wealth of talent appearing at this year’s already sold out Splendour in the Grass festival has now begun spilling over into sideshows. The first round features the long awaited return of The Afghan Whigs as well as headline gigs from Youth Lagoon and Django Django. Check the details below for all the shows.

THE AFGHAN WHIGS

WEDNESDAY JULY 25 – THE HI-FI, MELBOURNE

Tickets from: thehifi.com.au or ph: 1300-THEHIFI (843 443)

THURSDAY JULY 26 – THE FACTORY THEATRE, SYDNEY

Tickets from: factorytheatre.com.au or ph: 02 9550 3666

 

BAND OF SKULLS

THURSDAY JULY 26 – THE CORNER HOTEL, MELBOURNE

Tickets from: cornerhotel.com or ph: 03 9427 9198

FRIDAY JULY 27 – THE FACTORY THEATRE, SYDNEY

Tickets from: factorytheatre.com.au or ph: 02 9550 3666

 

COMMUNION: MICHAEL KIWANUKA with BEN HOWARD

TUESDAY JULY 24 – THE FACTORY THEATRE, SYDNEY

Tickets from: factorytheatre.com.au or ph: 02 9550 3666

WEDNESDAY JULY 25 – THE CORNER HOTEL, MELBOURNE

Tickets from: cornerhotel.com or ph: 03 9427 9198

 

DJANGO DJANGO with THE CAST OF CHEERS

TUESDAY JULY 31 – THE CORNER HOTEL, MELBOURNE

Tickets from: cornerhotel.com or ph: 03 9427 9198

WEDNESDAY AUGUST 1 – OXFORD ART FACTORY, SYDNEY

Tickets from: oxfordartfactory.com or ph:1300 GET TIX (438 849)

 

HOWLER with ZULU WINTER

TUESDAY JULY 24 – THE CORNER HOTEL, MELBOURNE

Tickets from: cornerhotel.com or ph: 03 9427 9198

WEDNESDAY JULY 25 – OXFORD ART FACTORY, SYDNEY

Tickets from: oxfordartfactory.com or ph: 1300 GET TIX (438 849)

 

FRIENDS

WEDNESDAY JULY 25 – NORTHCOTE SOCIAL CLUB, MELBOURNE

Tickets from: northcotesocialclub.com or ph: 1300 724 867

THURSDAY JULY 26 – THE STANDARD, SYDNEY

Tickets from: wearethestandard.com.au or ph: 1300 GET TIX (438 849)

 

ELECTRIC GUEST 

TUESDAY JULY 31 – OXFORD ART FACTORY, SYDNEY

Tickets from: oxfordartfactory.com or ph: 1300 GET TIX (438 849)

WEDNESDAY AUGUST 1 – NORTHCOTE SOCIAL CLUB, MELBOURNE

Tickets from: northcotesocialclub.com or ph: 1300 724 867

 

FATHER JOHN MISTY

FRIDAY JULY 27 – OXFORD ART FACTORY, SYDNEY

Tickets from: oxfordartfactory.com or ph: 1300 GET TIX (438 849)

SATURDAY JULY 28 – THE CORNER HOTEL, MELBOURNE

Tickets from: cornerhotel.com or ph: 03 9427 9198

 

YOUTH LAGOON

SATURDAY JULY 28 – THE FACTORY THEATRE, SYDNEY

Tickets from: factorytheatre.com.au or ph: 02 9550 3666

SUNDAY JULY 29 – THE CORNER HOTEL, MELBOURNE

Tickets from: cornerhotel.com or ph: 03 9427 9198