Django Django on “Marble Skies”

Heads in the Clouds

May 08, 2018 Issue #63 - Courtney Barnett
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"For the next record we should get together in a room, play the songs, record them in a couple of takes, and then go out on the road and play it how it is. That's what bands are meant to do, but we've never really done it," says Dave Maclean, producer and drummer for Django Django.

The third album from the London-based genre-blurring quartet is anything but a traditional rock band record. "The way we produce music is like people making dance music in a bedroom. It's broken-down and looped, and there's over-dubbing," explains Maclean.

Marble Skies is an experimental showcase of the musical interests of each of its four members. Maclean has a background in DJing"I was into rave, jungle, house, hip-hop, then onto reggae sound systems at college"- while dancehall influences come from bassist Jimmy Dixon and synth-player Tommy Grace, and smatterings of folk and rockabilly edge in from vocalist and guitarist Vincent Neff. "We put a lot in, we pile it up," says Neff. "It's just our personalitieswe've never been able to pull it back."

The record may sound full and vibrant, but the making of Marble Skies was no easy ride. At the start of 2016, Maclean didn't head into the studio at the same time as the rest of the band. "I needed some time out. The last full tour broke me, I was so knackered." He headed to his parents' house in Scotland. Back in London, Metronomy's Anna Prior filled in on drums, enabling the rest of the band to experiment with new material. They would send tracks to Maclean, who had all his gear set up in Scotland. "I would take what they had sent and break it down, and move things, then send it back. In the end it was helpful to have someone with some distance on the whole thing."

"Marble Skies" as a title was Maclean's ideahe came offstage after a set at Lollapalooza, Chicago and looked up at the sky to see "a massive sheet of marblevery still. It was one of those moments that was weirdly romantic, poetic, without you having to say anything." In agreement on the title, and seeking a photo to use as artwork, it was left to Neff to find the perfect shot.

"We were staring at clouds for weeks waiting for the right formation," Neff explains. "We wanted a lot of blue sky with some partials of cloud. It was an ordeal. I was trying to emulate what Dave had seen, even though I hadn't seen it!" They finally got the right shot at a children's paddling pool in Tottenham, London. "It was taken from underneath the water, looking up, as I lay behind a bush with the balloon hanging out."

The resultant image is a stylized hint at the band's experimental tendencies as musicians who pour over their equipment, piling up layersa swirling host of bright pink clouds, and the underside of the balloon which, if you didn't know the back story, could be a glimpse of another planet peeping out above the water. "We're not too bothered about what kind of band we're supposed to be or what kind of music we're supposed to make," Maclean says. "If we wanted, we'd make a techno album."

[Note: This article originally appeared in Under the Radar's Spring 2018 Issue (March/April/May 2018), which is out now. This is its debut online.]




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