If you have too much colour on the canvas it just ends up brown… you have to be careful.
Django Django are set to re-introduce themselves to the world this month. The follow up to their self-titled (and Mercury Prize-nominated) debut is ready to hit the shelves and they’ve perfected a fresh live show — but it’s been a far from straight-forward process. I spoke to chief synth-man Tommy Grace about the journey so far.
“We had a lot more resources this time, I was like a pig in sh*t because we recorded the last one in Dave’s bedroom”. For album two, the band prepared material in their own studio before taking it to Angelic Studios, where the mass of equipment to hand left them wanting to try everything they could. “I guess we went a bit nuts in the first couple of weeks we were there just because we had everything at our disposal. Then we went back to our own studio and reviewed what we’d done. There were both good bits and bits that were lacking compared to the first album”.
It was quickly realised that they needed to strip down the gear they were using. “I was talking to a friend recently about the problem of having too much gear. He told me that if you have too much colour on the canvas it just ends up brown. I thought that was a really good analogy. It’s true, you do have to be careful”. It’s been quite some time since the band put out their last record. I ask whether it was important for them to take their time and there’s a definite pause. “I’d rather have brought it out before now, for sure, but at the end of the day if we’re not 100% happy with what we’ve done we’ll scrap it and start again”. He admits that if they’d have released the tracks from that first session, they “wouldn’t have been unique, they wouldn’t have been us”.
Unique is very much a keyword with this band, but what gives them this individuality? “I think it’s that if we sound like someone else when we’re recording then we’ll scrap it. We’re quite strict about that”, he insists, going on to cite their art college background as a possible source of such sentiment. Django Django first brushed shoulders while studying in Edinburgh, and Tommy remembers this time fondly. “That was probably the best time ever at art college. That said, nearly everything I liked about it was from the social side of things”. I ask if he remembers his first encounter with the others. “I saw Dave in the first year of art college, simply because he would just never be ignored. Then I went around to his house one day; I remember being like, f*cking hell, look how many records this guy has got”.
And the rest, as they say, was history. The bunch formed a solid friendship which saw them move down to London, where they set to work on their debut album part-time. “We had no-idea of the success that album would have. It was just something else that we were all doing at the time. It was just a thing we were doing, so we didn’t even give it much thought”. Material for the new album came about in quite a variety of ways, however. “We’d be writing individually or in pairs, but a lot of the time it was just going back through old recordings on our phones or hard-drives or whatever. They’d literally just be tiny little glimpses, like guitar lines that we’d try and re-create”. These little parts are essentially what spawned the whole record, with much of the sounds heard coming from ad hoc recordings made on the road.
I ask if there are any nerves around the release of this follow-up, but the enthusiasm in his reply would suggest not — “I’m just really looking forward to just having the record on my turntable; being able to play something that I’ve had a part in. I find that hugely satisfying”. It’s quite warming to hear the appreciation Tommy has for physical records, saying that he even struggles to believe sometimes that these physical documents are still around, rather than solely MP3s. When I mention the band’s show at Bristol’s Academy for the NME Awards Tour back in 2013, records seem to be at the heart of what he remembers: “One of the first things we do when we get to a city is scout out the record shops and Bristol is brilliant for that. There were, like, five we went to that day. I remember crouching down by a crate of records and Tricky walked in the door, I was totally star-struck”.
The band’s upcoming visit is also at the Academy. “We’re working on some special staging and lighting, changing it up, so that should be exciting. Also my setup on the keyboards and stuff has totally multiplied. It’s going to be great. We’ve got all of these new tunes to play, but also the stuff from the first album, which, now we’ve been touring for so long, we’re really tight at.” If one thing’s certain, the well-missed band’s arrival certainly won’t go unannounced this year.
Django Django play the Academy on 21st May, with ‘Born Under Saturn’ out on the 4th via Because Music.
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