On the back of the release of their second album, Born Under Saturn, in May of this year, UK alt-rock band Django Django stepped up their festival game in a pretty serious way. Lollapalooza, Glastonbury and Fuji Rock represent three high water marks for 2015; they also show just how global the band's appeal has become.
On the verge of taking off on tour once again, Tommy Grace (synthesizers) reflects on the year gone by and what lies ahead.
Left to right: Jimmy Dixon, Vincent Neff, David Maclean and Tommy Grace
I'm told you're deep in rehearsals at the moment.
Yeah, we're trying to re-sort the show, and put in a few other bits and pieces.
Any new material in there?
Nah, nothing new, just stuff from the current album I guess. I think we'll start writing new stuff once we've finished touring.
So the plan is to record again pretty soon?
Yeah, but to be honest – I was thinking about it, and last time we didn't do any writing whilst we were touring. And we were touring for almost three years with the last album [2012's Django Django]. When we finished we suddenly realised that we needed to pull our fingers out a bit, so this time we're trying to write whilst we're on the road – with sort of limited success, but we're doing some.
Is it grabbing time on the tour bus at 10am?
Yeah, that sort of thing. It's easier for Jim [Jimmy Dixon, bass] and Vinnie [Vincent Neff, singer and guitarist] who can play a guitar and flesh things out, so you can do bits and pieces but it is difficult. I don't think it suits the way we work. I think generally we lock ourselves away for intense wee periods – that's what we did on the second album [Born Under Saturn], anyway.
Recording, rehearsing, touring – how do the phases of band life compare for you?
They've all got their good points. I love actually performing live, I get a lot out of it – I really enjoy the buzz of playing to a good crowd. It's a totally amazing feeling. But also when we're on the road it is frustrating, you're thinking "we could be making new music, but we're just playing the same stuff." So that's in the back of your mind a wee bit. But at the same time, we've been travelling all over the place. We've got the chance to see all these places that we've never been to before.
"At festival shows it's just like one big ramp – the energy just gets bigger and bigger and bigger with each song"
Is rehearsal time any fun at all?
Nah, not really [laughing]. It's like reverse engineering: we've got the songs already. We spend a lot of time writing and then overlay stuff in the studio, working in a cut-and-paste way, to turn that song into a finished piece of recording.
And then it comes to rehearsal, and figuring out how to play it live: you've got to work out how to take out these hundreds of layers of sound, and distil it [down] to just the bare bone. I don't feel like there's much satisfaction in doing that – though actually performing them is good.
You've also got a deadline, I guess, because the tour starts on 2nd December.
Yeah totally, and we could just trot out the same set we've been playing – we're just recently back from touring in the US. But it's good to mix things up, it keeps you on your toes and stops you getting complacent.
And added to that, we spend a lot of time working on the flow of the set. To us it feels like a DJ set or something – we try and flow all the songs into each other, with big highs and lows. So we don't generally muck about too much with the order of the songs. Transitions between the songs are just as important as the songs themselves, half the time.
Do you play the same set at a headline show and at a festival?
No, normally we play an acoustic session segment in a headline show that we'd probably give a pass on at a festival. At festival shows it's just like one big ramp – the energy just gets bigger and bigger and bigger with each song. But over the course of an hour or an hour and 20 minutes you need a bit more ebb and flow.
Which do you find more satisfying?
It depends on the festival, or the show. I love a very small room that's packed – I think there's something really special about that. But at the same time, we've played a few big tents at festivals and that's been really special as well. Festivals are so dependent on so many factors.
Any favourite festivals?
Oh God, to be honest they all bleed into each other. I have a particular problem with memory – it's something that plagues me [laughing].
We did Field Day in London – that was pretty special. The British festivals are always special. We also did Electric Picnic in Ireland, which was an amazing gig. We don't go to Ireland as much as we'd like, but crowds there are really up for it and Electric Picnic was a great festival.
Do you get any down time?
We get some down time. Not a huge amount. We try and spend as much time as we've got with family now. Last time we recorded we went to a residential studio, so wives, girlfriends and children could come with us. Maybe we'll do something similar next time – it's nice to combine down time and work.
What are you looking forward to most about next year?
Definitely just having some time, a bit of space, and a block of time where we can get round the piano and the guitar, and start writing. I'm really looking forward to that. I can't wait to hear what we start to produce.
Do you have a hunch of where the next album will go?
Err, I don't know. I've got a bit of an idea – I think maybe it'll be a bit more minimal than the second album, a bit more direct and shorter. And I want to have at least three or four real bangers, that'll really work live.
Django Django tour Europe and then Australia, from 2 December and into January:
1st – Vicar Street, Dublin, Ireland
2nd – Nerve Centre, Derry, UK
3rd – Barrowland, Glasgow, UK
05th – Leeds University, Leeds, UK
06th – Albert Hall, Manchester, UK
07th – The Institute, Birmingham, UK
09th – Roundhouse, London, UK
11th – Ancienne Belgique (AB), Brussels, Belgium
12th – Melkweg, Amsterdam, Netherlands
30th – Falls Festival, Marion Bay, Australia
31st – Falls Festival, Lorne, Australia
1st – Field Day, Sydney, Australia
2nd – Falls Festival, Byron Bay, Australia
5th – Hordern Pavilion, Sydney, Australia
7th – Festival Hall, Melbourne, Australia
10th – Southbound Festival, Perth, Australia