Django Django Talk Self-Titled Debut Album

Posted by Billy Gil, September 24, 2012 07:19pm | Post a Comment
Django DjangoUnfortunately, this in-store show has been canceled due to travel delays. You can still catch them at The Independent later tonight. 

For a new band without an album out in the U.S., British psych group Django Django already have a lot going for them. A band that began in drummer/producer David Maclean’s bedroom after the band met in art school in Edinburgh, Scotland, earlier this year Django Django (which also includes singer/guitarist Vincent Neff, bassist Jimmy Dixon and synth man Tommy Grace) released their debut, self-titled album, a whirling stew of spaghetti western guitars, Middle Eastern-inspired synthesizers and psych-pop structures, to universal acclaim in the U.K., putting them up for the esteemed Mercury Prize. As their album is set to release in the U.S. Oct. 9, they’ll play Amoeba San Francisco Sept. 25 at 6 p.m. Catch them before they blow up stateside, and preorder their album here! I caught up with Maclean as the band was in Chicago, settling into its U.S. tour, which also will put them at S.F.’s The Independent the night of Sept. 25 and L.A.’s The Echo Sept. 26.
PST: You guys haven’t done many interviews in the U.S. press yet, but there’s already a lot of chatter about this album. We’ve been hearing about it from the U.K. for some time now! Are you excited to come here and take over.
Maclean: Yeah, it’s good to finally have a label sorted and have it coming out in America. As you say, it’s been out in Britain since January. To finally have a release over here and get to come over and do some proper shows is amazing. We’ve been itching to do it all year really. It’s taken a while to but it’s good to finally get here.
PST: U.S. audiences seem to have become more amenable to psych pop as of late with the success of MGMT, Hot Chip and the like. Why do you think that sound is resonating with so many more people now than, say, in the ’90s?
Maclean: People like Beck have had the time to grow a long career now. I guess he would be someone who has influenced a lot of bands in the moment with the kind of way he mashes up psychedelia and funk and hip-hop. I guess since he broke out, there’s been a lot of bands both in America and Britain that are interested in pop music and making it slightly weird, whether its MGMT or Hot Chip, there’s a certain kind of strain of bands that have been doing that for quite a while, so I guess that it’s starting to resonate with people and sort of spread throughout pop culture.
PST: I’ve read you are sort of the aesthetic director of the band. How do you decide, amid all the musical ideas presented, which is a good fit for this band?
Maclean: I guess yeah, it’s different sometimes because we can sit down and start a track that ends up sounding completely different. From that starting point, it gets twisted and manipulated and the more people who get involved with it, it ends up sounding like us. I guess we’re happy just to take a starting point from anything, whether it’s a rockabilly riff or a drum machine beat. We just take it and work it ’till it’s something we’re happy with. So many songs … have started out sounding like garagey and ended up sounding electronic or started off techno-y and ended up garagey. They just go through a lot of phases and we end up happy where we’re at. … A lot of the ideas, we wanted a big psych sound and would aim toward that and end up with something else in the process. It’s just a mixture of playing around and also pushing limited resources — one mic and floor tom and guitar. For me a lot of the fun of making the album was pushing the sounds, not even pushing but just letting the music come out. … I think they all kind of are jangle but they come from sort of disparate places. For us that was just a fun thing to do, let the music sort of take us on a sort of trip.
PST: The aesthetic of the record sort of reminds me of steampunk. Like it makes me want to play Final Fantasy or something. What are some of your non-musical influences?

Maclean: We all went to art college, so probably a lot of art. Personally I was into a lot of ’60s art, pop art, people like Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns and Kurt Schwitters, and Fluxus a lot as well, and I guess that aesthetic ended up being a big influence on the album because it was made with a lot of cutting and pasting and collage on the computer. A lot of movies as well and soundtracks. The opening to the album is very spaghetti western. I think we’re influenced by a lot of things around us as well as music. Even being in this suburb of Chicago today, places like that can sort of plant a seed in your head.
PST: I could see your band’s association with classic psych-pop groups as being a double-edged sword. On one hand, there’s a real fondness for groups like The Beta Band (Maclean is the younger brother of The Beta Band’s John Maclean), Clinic and Super Furry Animals. On the other hand, that could potentially be limiting. Does it bother you at all to be compared to those bands?
Dave Maclean
Maclean: No, not really. I guess they are bands that we grew up with, and I guess they are bands that probably their record collections are similar to us — lots of dub and folk and psych-rock. I guess it’s inevitable, especially with The Beta Band connection, and then we get compared to Hot Chip a lot, and I guess — no, it doesn’t re really bother us to be associated with other bands, whether they’re around now or not. I guess when we made the album, it was just in a bit of a bubble making music. We never thought about bands we’d be lumped in with, I don’t think we thought about it like that. To be likened with bands like The Beta Band and Super Furry Animals is good for us because we like those bands.
PST: I also wouldn’t want to limit you either by this description. Truthfully I see it more as exotic pop than psych pop — pysch to me implies sort of extended passages, improvisation and disassociation. Django Django to me sounds very present, grounded and pretty well-edited. Is that an important element to your sound — control, brevity — vs. kind of allowing yourself to meander?
Maclean: I think it was possibly to do with the fact that we made it in a way that there were only really two of us in a room in a time looping things on a computer or four-track or whatever. If you have these kind of 12-minute long tracks where everything is sort of freaking out on a track, that would come from all of us in a room together playing together. The record was made with more of a dance music sensibility, with looping and layering. I guess it makes sense for us to keep what works. I guess a lot of the songs we’ve been listening to like The Beach Boys and The Beatles or whatever, it’s like this psychedelic influence, but it’s pop and it’s concise, and I guess that’s what we want the songs on this album to be like — to the point and poppy. … The other thing from a dance music perspective I’ve always loved is when people do a 12-inch version. … When you find those records that’s an extended dance version of a song, I think that’s where we see ourselves, with 12-ince maxi mixes and live as well, live we extend things.
PST: On the other side of it, nothing is too over-the-top on the record, and it’s catchy but not in an overtly obvious, singsongy kind of way. Do you also try to actively steer away from the sort of arena-pleasing thing?
PST: I think it’s natural for us. I guess a lot of the songs were built around a simple groove and then things just get layered and added. I don’t think we sit down with an acoustic guitar ever and try to write a song like that, like a standalone song. Generally it’s messing around with loops and samples and seeing what kind of comes out of it. I think where we’re at is actually quite on the poppy side. I think we could have just as easily made a weird kind of record without any hooks on it. I don’t know if stadium rock or anything really does it for me. … It kind of reminds me of some sort of cultish experience. I’d rather go to a sweaty basement bar and a good environment with 20 people there. I prefer to go to little clubs. I don’t think you’ll find us trying to write songs in the hope to headline festivals or getting more fans or have a hit single. If a song on the record strikes a chord with people and takes off like “Default” did in Britain to a certain extent, we’re happy with that.

PST: What has been one of your most surreal moments thus far, especially as the band has gotten more notoriety?
Maclean: The Fuji Rock Festival was sort of one of those moments where we had to pinch ourselves. It seemed like we’d come a long way from the album in five months, it’s kind of crazy. Getting a Mercury Prize nomination in Britain was quite weird. I think every month really since we released it, we try to take stock. It surprises us when we made this album in our bedrooms a year ago and didn’t think anyone would care that much about that album. … We try to take everything with a pinch of salt and take it in stride. We’re always thinking of the next thing rather than this album. This album is gone and behind me really, and at this point I really want to be more working on the next one and making a better one.
PST: Where does the name Django Django come from?
Maclean: I guess in a roundabout way, it comes from the Django westerns, the spaghetti westerns. I kind of like the word because to me it conjures up images of African things and Jamaican things and the fact that a lot of Jamaican guys were getting into westerns and naming things after Clint Eastwood. I always thought it was kind of funny. To be honest, it was one of those things where we had a MySpace page and a song and thought we’d put up a song for a laugh. I never thought I’d be talking about it years later. We probably meant to change it down the line, but I guess with a name, once you’ve done it, you’ve done it. I guess it owes itself to Django the western really.
PST: Which of these things would you like to happen, and which could you see actually happening: writing a James Bond theme song, getting sampled by Kanye West or recording a song with Ke$ha?
Maclean: They’re all very weird things. I think maybe as a side project, I would get involved with something like a James Bond theme. I mean that would be nuts, but it would be fun. It would be the ultimate get for a band to do a James Bond theme because people would think … I don’t know what people would think. What was the second one? Kanye West? That would be great. To be sampled by anyone — well, not anyone — but I grew up with hip-hop and I have a lot of hip-hop vinyl and DJ it a lot, and I was always a crate digger and trying to find out who sampled who. So yeah, to be sampled by a big hip-hop act would be brilliant. And I don’t know who is Ke$ha is. Rihanna, I think she’s great. I would love to get into in the future producing for someone like Missy Elliott, thatwould be my ultimate dream. Or Rihanna or Kelis or somebody like that would be a sort of dream. I can’t see any of these things happening ever, but you never know.

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Django Django (5), The Beta Band (1), Psych Pop (1), Amoeba San Francisco (106)