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Wednesday, November 29th, 2023  

Django Django

Adventures in Experimentation

Mar 14, 2012 Photography by Pal Hansen Issue #40 - In the Studio 2012 - Grizzly Bear, Dirty Projectors, and Twin Shadow
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Django Django is as much the result of musical experimentation and melding of influences as it is of circumstance. Synth player Tommy Grace, singer/guitarist Vincent Neff, and drummer/producer David Maclean met as art students in Edinburgh, Scotland in 2001, but each had his own artistic pursuit at the time. It wasn’t until seven years later that they met up again in London and Django Django came to fruition.

“I went to Chelsea College of Art and Design,” says Maclean, who was making dance music and DJing in his spare time back in Edinburgh. “Tommy was doing graphic design. Vinny was working as an architect. We’d all gone off and done different things. Then Vinny and I met up while I was doing my courses at Chelsea and started recording songs. It wasn’t like we got together and started a band. It was just something that we were mucking around with after work and after college.”

When he and Neff reconnected, Maclean was trying his hand at acid house, but it was the strength in Neff’s Beatles- and Beach Boys-esque songwriting that pushed him in a different direction. Over the next few years, aided by the diverse musical interests of Grace and bassist Jimmy Dixon, core songwriters Neff and Maclean nurtured Django Django toward what became its self-titled debut.

“My background is largely dance music,” says Maclean. “Tommy’s background is quite weird and mixed. He’s really into calypso and film soundtracks. He’s into quite oddball stuff. And then Vinny’s really into beat music, like ‘60s beat and garage. So when you put all those elements together, it’s what we are.”

Django Django is often compared to The Beta Band in terms of its eclectic sonic mix (Maclean is, in fact, the younger brother of The Beta Band’s John Maclean). The sound is something akin to early The Who crossed with Hot Chip. “Waveforms” sounds like The Stone Roses high on dancehall beats. “Life’s a Beach” plays like a remix of a lost Nuggets-era gem, and “Sky Over Cairo” rides high on percussion, electronics, and Middle Eastern textures. And then there is “Default,” a perfect synthesis of the band’s dance and rock sensibilities, wherein electronic textures are combined with a furious, repetitive electric guitar riff that’s so catchy you’d follow it right off a cliff.

“It started with a sample of an old post-punk record,” says Maclean. “It originally was synth-driven, and then Vinny came up with the hook and we ditched the sample and kept the hook.”

Maclean speaks of the band’s incubation period between 2008 and the late January 2012 release of its debut album in the U.K. as setting the stage for albums two and three. He already has ideas for releasing a more dance-oriented album in the future. But before Django Django heads off into the unknown, it’s worth clearing up a misunderstanding regarding the band’s name. It has been suggested by a few Internet publications that the Django Django is a reference to Django Reinhardt’s guitar teacher, who stuttered and thus addressed his pupil with his first name twice.

“It’s not true,” says Maclean with a laugh. “I don’t even know where that story came from. It certainly wasn’t us.”

“It was actually named after a rave record I had called ‘Son of Django,’ and then we wanted to do the Liquid Liquid thing, the double name, so it ended up Django Django,” continues Maclean. “We never thought that anybody would ever ask us why we did it. It’s funny to have come all this way, from just putting something on Myspace to people sort of deciding that we’re named after a stuttering guitar teacher.”


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