Django Django received critical acclaim and commercial success for their 2011 debut. Their follow-up Born Under Saturn, due out on May 4, has been described as more of the same – only better. The Edge caught up with Tommy for a chat about producing the new album and their upcoming tour.
First of all, how is the run up to the album release going? Have you been really busy?
Yeah, it’s been kind of disrupted a bit, Vinny’s just had a kid, so its not been the ideal run up to an album release, but we’ve been doing a few gigs recently. We’ve been to Edinburgh, Leeds, London and we did a gig in Paris a couple of nights ago. It’s been really good and it’s good to know that we’ve not forgotten how to play live or anything like that. The new song is doing well too, so it’s been brilliant.
Yeah the new song is really good! What have you been up too since the first record? It looks like you have all been really busy doing individual projects.
Yeah we’ve done a fair few things, to be honest the bulk of it has been us getting our heads down and just writing and producing everything for the second album. Its been a lot of work rewriting and re-recording and remixing everything. Other than that J and I did a soundtrack to a play by the Shakespeare Theatre company called the White Devil. I’m really influenced by soundtracks and it was really nice to have the opportunity to do that for such an exciting play. We also did some work with Africa express and Damon Albarn. I guess we’ve done bits and bobs but certainly we’ve just been writing the second record.
What is it like coming from a small band to playing to 60,000 people?
It’s nuts. It is nuts. When you look back it seems remarkable. But, at the time it seemed like a steady increase. For a lot of people it wasn’t until the album got nominated for a mercury prize that they discovered us but by then we had been playing for three years, doing the same songs and playing small tours. We had been getting more support and a following, espicially in Scotland, so I never really noticed because it was so gradual. But looking back that’s when you realise “oh god thats real” or you see a photo and you’re like “oh my god”. We are just so fortunate – I don’t know what resonated with people in the first album but we are so grateful to everyone who comes to the shows and stuff.
The last album was largely made in Dave’s bedroom, where did you decide to produce this one?
Luckily we’ve got out own space now and our own studio so we don’t have to wake him up and get him out of bed and set everything up [laughs]. To be honest though our new studio is pretty much the same as David’s bedroom but with more things in it! We wrote all the demos in the studio that we use so in some ways its similar to the first album, but we spent a lot longer on this album. Dave took a step back and let the three of us concentrate on finishing songs before we thought about producing them or how it should sound or what arrangement we should have. So it was more to do with finding strong melodies and getting strong chord sequences and trying to make choruses. If you notice the first album doesn’t have many choruses. You don’t get people singing along without choruses, so we thought “what would it be like to write a chorus”. So, I guess, we spent a lot more time writing the song and then we took them to a studio called angelic studios. It was really nice, we could work on our demos a bit more and capture something we couldn’t do in our bedroom like use a nice live room with nice acoustics and nice reverb which was impossible to achieve in our studio. We were just lucky that we had more money to produce this time. Its a bit like the first album just more ambitious and chorusy [laughs].
I’ve heard there’s a bizarre back story to the track ‘Found you’ off of the new album – what’s that about?
[Laughs] Found you was weird because the basis of it already existed. Dave had made it with an organ and percussion years and years ago. We almost put it on the first album but it never got anywhere. For the second album we fished this old recording out to see if we could do something with it and and me and Jim had a go. It was really nice, Jim the bass player, didn’t do very much in terms of writing on the first album but he really came through on this second one. He’s got a great ear for melodies and he put in this melody that sounded like an indian scale or something and made the track a lot brighter and less dark. For a long time it was a dark gothic kind of song. It is amazing how a melody can turn things around and suggest places for a song to go. After that things started falling into place, it’s probably my favourite song on the album.
The first album was more Dave and Vinny, but you’ve all contributed on this one. Is that much better, or do you think too many cooks ruin the broth?
I think too many cooks ruin the broth if you have some kind of ego, but we’ve learnt there is just no room for that. You have to be able to take criticism on the chin and you have to be able to let someone else rip your work apart. You need to look at a song for its own merits and say ‘yeah what you’ve done is a bit better lets try doing this’. So working all four of us has been great. It is really satisfying to have an album that is a genuine equal split across all the songs. It also makes you a lot happier playing them live every night. Obviously when you’ve just released an album you’re going to be touring for ages and if you’re a part of each song it makes it more satisfying to play live.
Have you tried to keep your DIY roots on this album?
Yeah – I think if it’s not broken then don’t monkey around with it! We had help from an engineering producer called Neil Comber, who could work this big desk that was in the new studio, and it was really important to have help from someone like him, but he mainly facilitated ideas that we brought along. I just don’t know how else we would do it other than DIY.
What are you most excited about in the tour in may?
I’m excited to play the new song and play new material. We’ve played a few dates so far and you still notice there is a definite difference between the first and second album. We kind of like reinventing the songs so they work well live. The first album really evolved because we’d done so many live shows with it, and we were constantly changing it. The second album hasn’t had that process yet but the reaction has been really good none of the less. I’m really looking forward to the tour. We should have some good visuals as well. We’re working with Kim Coleman and she’s got a bunch of cool ideas. So it should look really great, and sound alright as well [laughs].
You guys are playing End of the Road festival this summer. Do you prefer playing at festivals or more intimate gigs?
I think it depends. I think in general what time we are playing at makes a difference. I like playing later when people have had a few drinks and are more relaxed and can dance. They are the gigs that work the best – when people are just dancing and having fun. I think festivals can be quite extreme. You have the highest highs or lowest lows. Sometimes the crowd just doesn’t click. But you have a higher percentage of success in a club. I also really like the acoustics in a club or a tent. It’s definitely more difficult when you’re outside in the open air, but hopefully the big festival dates we are doing will help now that we’ve got a lot of songs we can switch about.
What would be one piece of advice to new bands trying to start up today?
Don’t be afraid to not make money [laughs]. Eat beans for a long time. Its better to have little money but have control and time over what you are producing. You have to be prepared to do that because it’s not going to get big quickly. You’ve got the freedom and time to produce what you want to do and you do need time and money and friends but you need to make time for all three of those things.
Ok – Last question… if you were only allowed one word to describe your new album what would it be?
BIG – that’s pretty lousy actually [laughs], I don’t know. Biggy. Biggy Biggy.