Django Django are impossible to pigeonhole. They’re constantly spooling through an eclectic mix-tape of genre-blurring sounds, from psychedelia and art-rock to house, techno, synth-pop, Krautrock, Jamaican dancehall, rockabilly, surf and even skiffle. That may sound on paper like an almighty headache, a messy punch-up at a record fair, but this London-based quartet have managed to knit their multiple personalities into one coherent identity. The distinctive dry-bliss vocals of singer/guitarist Vincent Neff and the galloping horseback beats of Tayport-born producer/drummer David Maclean are Django Django’s signature motifs, the glue that holds their disparate influences together. They sound like no one but themselves.
According to Maclean, the younger brother of Beta Band lynchpin John, their open-minded love of almost every genre of music was forged long before they met at Edinburgh College of Art ten years ago.
“When I was a kid,” he recalls, “I was into industrial strength techno music. People thought it was bonkers and unlistenable, but John Peel used to play a lot of that stuff and I was drawn in by it. People hated it, but he didn’t care about being cool.”
“You’re drawn to something because of the energy,” he enthuses, “so by now our record collections are full of everything from old jungle records and hip-hop and classical and God knows what. When you don’t care about genre then that’s it. It’s a bit like food, no one would ever say, ‘Oh, so you like pizza but you also like sushi?’ Well I love food, I love music.”
Released in 2012, their Mercury-nominated eponymous debut album was recorded DIY-style in Maclean’s bedroom. The more fluorescent follow-up, Born Under Saturn, was the result of their first visit to a professional recording studio. Their latest album, Marble Skies, brings them back to their self-sufficient roots, as it was recorded in their band HQ. That is, a warehouse in Tottenham.
Almost every day without fail, the band tumble into this work-hub to write, record and generally take care of essential Django Django admin. So what’s it like in there?
“It’s a big room rammed full of synths and broken bits of drum kit,” Maclean explains. “Loads of vinyl and everything we’ve collected over the last ten years of the band and, I guess, 30 years individually. We talk about doing a clear-out every year but that never quite happens. It’s a mad studio stroke dumping ground.”
The band learned a lot from working with a skilled studio engineer last time around, an experience they’ve since adapted into their original working method. The winning result is a more concise record than its predecessor.
“We’ve reached a happy medium where essentially it’s DIY but we just know a bit more about recording,” says Maclean. “In terms of song length and the way it’s structured it’s much more disciplined. The last album was a body of work, it was just chucked in there without structuring it as an album too much. With this one we wanted to have an A and B side, you flip the record over and it makes sense like that.”
The music of Django Django is undoubtedly eccentric and sonically ambitious, but the reason it never descends into a self-indulgent orgy of wayward nonsense is because it’s always rooted in accessible pop-craft. They’re slaves to melody and big pop hooks.
“That was important from the start,” says Maclean. “I guess what we all had in common was our love of The Beatles. What always attracted me to them, even as a little kid, was how weird they made pop music. Strawberry Fields is a pretty out there production. It’s quite mad, there’s backwards tape loops and stuff but at the heart of it is a little pop song you can play on a guitar.”
For the time being at least, they have zero interest in creating a consciously avant-garde opus. “We could do that if we wanted to,” says Maclean, “We could do a very crazy ambient record, but it just doesn’t satisfy us so much. We want to be quite immediate and poppy, because we love pop music.”
Maclean’s preferred soundtrack of choice on his car stereo is shiny ’80s commercial pop. “It’s all about wanting to write those kind of songs while being playful with the production,” he says. “We’re always striving for that. I think we want to keep trying until we get it right. If we did something and realised we’d reached our zenith, we’ve nailed this thing, then maybe we’d all go off and do different things.”
Django Django then. Not your standard guitar band by any stretch of the imagination. They’re beady-eyed magpies, record-collecting Wombles, sonic adventurers with excellent taste, song-writing chops and a refreshing lack of musical snobbery.
“I’d hate to just be an indie band,” says Maclean. “Music and people are more complicated than that. We try to let the music lead us rather than package it into a box, we let it be what it wants to be. We’re just following it and not knowing where it’s leading us half the time. But that’s the fun of it, you go into the studio every day without knowing what you’ll end up with.”
Marble Skies by Django Django is released on 26 January. They play Dundee’s Tropicana & Vogue on 26 February, www.djangodjango.co.uk