In about ten minutes (if you haven’t already seen Django Django around yet) you’re going to have a new favourite band. They’re this a wonderful band from Dalston, who are like something between Orange Juice and Hot Chip, and they’re totally going to be bigger (and more influential, and more relevant) than both of them. The Scottish (mainly) group make really tight indie pop that references dub, acid house, glam rock, motorik and rap, but ends up sounding like nothing but the most perfect British dance music. Which is to say, mindblowing, weird and totally awesome. “We wanna get back to the rock’n‘roll dance music – people want to dance to music that has that live sound. Whether it’s Chicago house or rockabilly, it’s all got a line running through it,” drummer Dave Maclean says.
Chatting over beers in the Pride of Spitalfield, Dave, who’s in his late twenties and is really nice, tells the band’s story: himself, Vincent Neff, Tommy Grace and Jimmy Dixon met at art school in Edinburgh about eight or nine years ago, where they were variously studying painting, sculpture and architecture. Mates from the off, they set up and ran a gallery called the Embassy, and it’s one of these links from the Scottish art scene that gave them their first single, Storm/Love’s Dart, a limited ed 7 on artist Luke Fowler’s label, Shadazz, which is out really soon. Anyway, Dave, who has a background in acid house and reggae, moved down with a few others a couple of years ago, ostensibly to take up a masters in painting at the Chelsea College of Art, but also just to see a new place. In fact, he found himself spending time making weird music at Vinnie’s flat. “I hadn’t played drums in ages, and as soon as I got back with Vinnie, it was just good to get back on the stool. When I think of drummers I like, like her from the White Stripes or the girl from ESG, I prefer that instinctual drumming rather than the technical type. It’s totally that, it’s hitting things, it’s primeval.” Their live show has a reputation for tightness. “It’s how I see it – get in, get the job done, play short little pop songs. The idea was that everything would be stripped back, pure, like these old rock and roll guys like Bo Diddly, with everything there for a reason… It’s a switch from the recorded stuff which is really textured, whereas the live band is pure, like The Monks, y’know – with nothing that doesn’t need to be there. Music just snapping together.”
From the off, Dave’s background in dance music slipped through, though it’s more subtle the “whack on an 808 in Cubase and push the distortion button” approach of most synth-rock bands. Buried deeper, underneath the glam song structures and melody, there’s a real focus on texture and sparseness. “We’re interesting in textures, and the sound of sound – we like producers like Joe Meek and Arthur Russell who loved pop but wanted to make it stranger and more true to themselves,” he says. Unsurprisingly, the band have done lots of remixes, including one for My Tiger My Timing, and also DJ quite a bit, running popular night Bad To The Bone in Bethnal Green. “My favourite song of the last five years is Paul Woolford’s Erotic Discourse, it’s this bonkers acid house tune, that just has two parts – a kickdrum and a bonkers bassline. I love that simplicity – and it’s that simplicity that the best dance songs have, whether it’s Bo Diddly or DJ Rush.”
There’s a really cool experimental, home-made side to Django Django, from their bedroom productions to their cymbal-free drum kit. “I’d imagine you’d be a bit lost, but with a syth and half a drum kit, you’re pushed to do something extra. But it would be nice to have stuff like cymbals. People ae always like Wow it’s really cool you don’t have cymbals and I’m like Yeah, I just couldn’t afford them… So, with an unlimited budget, I’d probably buy cymbals. Sky’s the limit,” he laughs. Later, he says something interesting about the growth of DIY bands in the last year or two: “it’s just a case of If you don’t do it yourself, it’s not going to happen. We want to do it ourselves, and do it our way, and that’s the history of the DIY scene from the punk days to now. Though, the money would be nice, we could buy a cymbal. One massive, massive one.”
If you like this band, you should also check out our piece on My Tiger My Timing, another Arthur Russell-fixated band that like making interesting, sparse pop music.