UK four-piece Django Django visited Australia across New Years to perform at Falls Festival. Their gorgeous 2015 album Born Under Saturn, following on from their eponymous 2012 debut, garnered critical acclaim, and made for one hell of a live set.
We recently sat down for a quick chat with drummer and producer David Maclean and synth-man Tommy Grace to talk about the transition between albums, why they chose to record primarily older material for their sophomore, and the importance of learning how to play live.
One thing I love about Born Under Saturn is its diversity on such a macro level. It’s not that each song sounds different, more that there’s so many elements within each song, everything from ’60s rock to modern electronic. Did you plan to sort of wear all those influences on your sleeve, or was it more natural?
Tommy: It just comes out, really. I grew up listening to 60s stuff as much as 90s stuff, and it’s come out as a bit of a mishmash. The Stone Roses and Primal Scream, bands I was into when I was younger, I was already seeing them fit their love of 60s music and dance music together, so I think since Screamadelica and that era, there’s been a mishmash of it all. Even in the ’60s they were using those electronic elements.
The second album of course was a collaborative effort than the first [their first album was primarily created by Maclean], are you planning to continue along in that way?
David: Yeah, definitely. I can imagine it’s gonna work similarly. We’ll be starting the new album in a few weeks time, but we haven’t actually had a talk about it, really.
T: I think it’ll be played live more. I think we’ll take much more time over it, I don’t think there’s as much of a rush to get something out now, it’ll all be done from scratch. With this album, there was a lot of getting rid of old ideas that were hanging around, that we felt we needed to get off our chest.
So what made you choose to focus on that older material rather than starting fresh for this album?
T: I think if you just let ideas hang, you wonder what could’ve been. It’s annoying for me to have unfinished stuff, so I wanted to get that all out and done. We have now, so maybe there’s two or three starting points, but really it’s starting from scratch.
How did the full band effort change the production process?
T: it just made it quicker! If there’s three people working on something, it’s better than one, so it just made it move quicker.
D: Less dead ends. If you’re stuck, just pass on the ownership to someone else. *laughs* We’re not precious, we’re pretty honest and frank with each other. If something’s not good, well just say it. No one really gets that upset. I guess you’ve just gotta be that way though, or you wouldn’t get anywhere – and there’d be a lot of tears.
I read that you were so surprised at the reaction to the first album, it was so much bigger than you had expected it to be. With the second album, did you feel like you needed to hone in on certain elements of the first, that maybe you hadn’t thought of as a main focus the first time around?
T: If you see the live set now, it’s really different. The songs we play live are totally different to how we recorded them on the first album. They’re better because of it, we know which bits to change, we started to learn what works with our audience. You can tell when things are working when you’re playing them live, so certainly in that respect we were keen to have those elements and incorporate them into the recorded stuff we’ve been doing.
Which elements in particular were those which translate so well live?
T: Drum break downs *laughs*. Big, extended outros, disco edits of all of our tunes. We put the tempo a lot, it’s a tempo race – just stuff to dance to!
There was a quote in an interview which said “we were running to keep up with where the album was going.” Do you still feel that way?
D: I think it’s settled down and plateaued a bit now. We’re used to playing live now, so it’s a bit easier. In the beginning we felt like we had to learn how to play on the job, none of us are trained musicians or anything, we winged it a bit. We just got better as things went along. Like there wouldn’t really be drums, there’d be a drum machine and a kick drum. But it just built from there. For the first two years there was no snare, no cymbal…
So it was all programmed?
D: No, we just had a kit that was really stripped back, a bit like Alt-J. But then it just built up as I got more confident with it.
You keep coming back to how the live performance affects the studio recording so much. Did you take that into much account for the second album?
D: We didn’t really have time to make the second album very live sounding in the end, because we spent most of the time writing and recording as opposed to playing. There was such a small time frame for when the songs were written, there was no time to demo it. I think if we made the second album now, it’d be better. It’d be more live sounding, it’d be more interesting, but that’s always the way. That’s what we wanna do next time. With this [next] album, we want to make sure we have time to go back and forth and take the live stuff properly into it. It’s just nicer to have them closer to being live than on the album, there’s less work when you go to play it live *laughs*. People love a live sound.
Django Django’s second album Born Under Saturn is out now.
Image: The Guardian