Psychotropic beat-pop four strip things back, with a little help from Jan Hammer.
In the wake of their self-titled, bedroom-recorded,
Mercury-nominated 2012 debut album, Django Django were afforded the luxury of working in proper studios for its 2015 follow-up Born Under Saturn. They didn’t enjoy the experience much. So for their third, Marble Skies, due in October, they went back to basics and rented a unit space in a warehouse in Tottenham, north London, and stuffed it with drums, synths and beatboxes. “It’s where we all come to just mess about,” says producer/drummer David Maclean. “You can do what you want to do without worrying about clock-watching or studio fees. To me, the last album felt a bit bloated.” While created more in the fashion of their first, the band’s third LP redraws their cut-and-paste rockabilly and futureheaded digital dance blueprints, not least with the skiffle-goes-dub rush of Tic Tac Toe and the Erasureinfluenced electronic pop of In Your Beat. The preliminary sessions for Marble Skies were unusual for the Edinburgh-formed band, however: Maclean, knackered from touring and unspecified personal problems, retreated to his hometown of Dundee for a three-month period, leaving the band to record loose jams in London with Metronomy’s Anna Prior replacing him behind the kit. All the while, the others sent audio files north for him to tinker with. But did Maclean perhaps feel like the band were cheating on him with another drummer? “Well, no, ‘cos she’s ginger as well, so there’s solidarity,” he quips. “Anna’s a real drummer. I’m a producer and I do a bit of drumming but I’m by no means a proper drummer.” Ultimately, Prior’s drumming only ended up on one song, providing the rapid pulse of the album’s title track. “I just wouldn’t do a Krautrock beat like that instinctively,” stresses Maclean. Another guest on Marble Skies features more prominently, the dancehall pop of Surface To Air being solely fronted by Slow Club’s Rebecca Taylor after an initial plan for the song to be a duet with the group’s singer/guitarist Vincent Neff was deemed too cheesy. “It’s a bit of a curveball for people maybe, ’cos Vinnie isn’t on it,” Maclean muses. “But to me it’s got the Django melody.” Making an appearance in spirit, meanwhile, on hypnotic drifter Sun Dials, is Czech-born ’70s jazz-fusion and ’80s synth pop maven Jan Hammer. For the track, Django Django keyboard-player Tommy Grace re-performed the piano motif from The Seventh Day (on Hammer’s 1975 album The First Seven Days). When he heard it, Hammer protested that Grace hadn’t played it correctly. “He wanted us to change it back to exactly how he wrote it,” says Maclean. “But it didn’t work with all our other parts. Luckily he understood, and just said, ‘OK, well if that’s the
way it’s got to be, then run with it.’”
Wham, bam, Tottenham: in their north London studio, David Maclean (left) and Vincent Neff avoid bloating.