In the build up to the release of their hotly-anticipated fourth LP Glowing In The Dark, Alex Duke caught up with Django Django members Tommy Grace and Jimmy Dixon to discuss their transforming sound, memories from tour, and the future of one of the nation’s most mesmerising art-rock troupes.
As the 2010’s draw to a close, Django Django can look retrospectively at the decade with a lot of pride. Three successful, critically acclaimed albums, worldwide tours, a unique sound and a devoted fanbase, the quartet have enjoyed a great deal of achievements since their inception back in 2009. Bassist Jim Dixon and synthesiser operator Tommy Grace both play a vital role in their idiosyncratic sound. It looks like the 2020’s will be no different for the art-pop band.
With Glowing In The Dark scheduled for general release in February 2021, Jim assesses whether the new record is a change in direction, or a continuation of their distinctive brand of alternative rock: “I think we’ve gone full circle on this record, we’ve gone back to working in an environment which we’re comfortable with.” He continues thoughtfully: “In terms of content, we’re always trying to move forward and challenge ourselves. We’ve always taken it idea by idea, you find links between songs and you build the album that way.”
“It [the record] just came together really organically. I guess there’s a kind of fearlessness, an amateurishness to it.”
Dixon’s nod towards the band’s past, blended with an unwavering desire to change and develop, is symbolic of the band’s impressive discography. Subtle differences are evident between the first three records: Django Django, Boys Under Saturn and Marble Skies, yet the band are able to consistently convey a style that is distinctly theirs. Tommy adds: “We’ve made four records now, and you can find a way of working that suits you and suits the music. I don’t think it’s a huge departure and I don’t think we’re ever likely to make a conscious decision that’s completely like the old or away from what we’ve done.”
Formed in London, Django Django began to garner a reputation on the indie circuit following the release of their self-titled debut record. Tracks such as Default and WOR were used on car adverts and in popular culture, with the former appearing in Season Nine of the acclaimed comedy It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Selling over seventy-five thousand copies and earning a Mercury Prize nomination, the record quickly became essential listening within the neo-psychedelic world. Tommy explains: “We had zero expectations of it. It just came together really organically. I guess there’s a kind of fearlessness, an amateurishness to it.” “I think it was easier to relax on that first record,” adds Jim, “it was easier to be more playful. As soon as you have any expectation, you start putting more weight on decisions. Dave was still working out how to produce. There were mistakes, but those mistakes were what made the record so unique.”
The band’s intimate connection with their fanbase is a driving force behind their success. Django Django’s emphasis on appealing directly to their fans helps them convey tailored, meticulously constructed music across to an ever-growing network of devotees. “We were gigging and writing at the same time, which really helped. We were able to play a song out live to gauge the audience’s reaction, that fed back into the writing. It’s less easy to do that now with Covid.” Adapting and creating music during Covid has been a dilemma that all artists have faced over the last few months. Alongside the release of the album this February, Django Django’s use of live-streamed DJ sets on their YouTube channel have been received favourably. “Whenever we play live, we always try our best to incorporate visual art,” iterates Tommy.
Art and music have always been inextricably linked with Django Django. From glittering, radiant light shows and videos in their live sets to subtle, intricate explorations of the relationship between art and song in their music videos, Django Django understand the complex relationship between visual imagery and music to create art. Tracks such as First Light boast understated, simplistic visual stimulation, yet earlier singles like Hail Bop convey a more abstract charm. The band’s appreciation for visual content helps consistently delivers fascinating work.
“First Light felt like the first track where we were all writing and recording at the same time. It still sounds very fresh.”
Stylistic changes took place on their third record, Marble Skies. Released in 2018, the album took on a more synth-orientated sound, and in many ways moved away from the riff-based, alternative genre that was so apparent on the previous records. Jim clarifies: “With Marble Skies, one of the reasons that it was more synth-driven was because we were ready to change. The first two albums, the songs on it were much more guitar-driven, certainly in the song-writing.” “We made a conscious decision to move away from that and start writing melodies.” He smiles slightly. “We also let Tommy play around on the synths.”
2020’s cruelty has made concerts, tours and festivals become a thing of the past, but Jim and Tommy nostalgically reminisce on some of their best memories on the road. “The first time we went to America was pretty special. The venues we were playing, people coming out to see our show is always amazing. But going to places like America, like Australia, playing in New York and LA is remarkable.” “I still remember playing Glastonbury several years back,” Jim recalls, “that was pretty special. At the end of the first album we finished the touring campaign at Shepherd Bush Empire in London, on the back of the year where we got nominated for the Mercury Music Prize.” Tommy adds: “The most recent tour that we did took us to Mexico. It was a really fantastic place.”
My final question to the pair was perhaps a more difficult question, but as a huge admirer of the group, it was too compelling not to ask. What is their favourite Django Django track? Jim hesitates for a moment. “First Light felt like the first track where we were all writing and recording at the same time. It still sounds very fresh.” Tommy’s answer is slightly different. “I really like Found You. I find that quite satisfying, but it sounds very fresh because we don’t play it live. But First Light is a good shout from Jim.”
Django Django’s new album, Glowing In The Dark, is expected to be released on February 12th 2021.
Written by: Alex Duke
Edited by: Olivia Stock