Django Django break down their dreamlike new album Glowing In The Dark

The arrival of Django Django’s new album Glowing In The Dark couldn’t have come at a more fitting time.

As the world is still reeling from the devastating impact of 2020, the fourth LP from the revered, genre-twisting indie heroes is the perfect vessel for much-needed escapism.

From launch with huge album opener Spirals, we’re rocketed into an eclectic, hypersonic universe with different soundscapes to embrace with every turn. The uptempo, guitar-driven stomper Right the Wrongs is Django Django at their frenetic best, while Waking Up, featuring Charlotte Gainsbourg, is a dreamy slice of melodic pop.

There’s even absorbing folk in the enchanting The World Will Turn. But perhaps where all their influences align is in the wondrous, space age floating gem that’s Free From Gravity; a track about escaping “everything that’s weighing you down” in the world.

Lyrically, Glowing In The Dark sees them focus wider issues of global instability but also those problems we face every day. The album was pretty much done before the pandemic hit in early 2020, Django Django’s Dave Maclean told Daily Star Online. Is Glowing In The Dark a spooky foretelling of what was about to come?

“Even before Covid there was a general sense of unease of the world being a bit unstable”, he said.

“The politics in America was already very divisive, and in London you’re aware of the climate campaign of Extinction Rebellion. Those things are sort of there, maybe that’s why it’s still quite relevant when you listen to it now.

“Everyone in their daily lives are dealing with micro and the macro problems, aren’t they? What’s going on in your relationships to turning on the news and dealing with the worldwide issues. Each song lives in its own bubble in that way.”

Strap yourselves in, Glowing In The Dark is a journey you need to be on.

Daily Star Online’s Rory McKeown caught up with Dave to chat about its creation, its themes, working on material in lockdown, and what Django Django's next project could sound like.

Hi Dave. How’ve the past 12 months been for Django Django? Have you embraced it or dealt with any challenges?

“I think like everybody it’s been kind of a rollercoaster of getting a lot done work-wise and then hitting a brick wall and having no motivation for a while. It’s hard to stay regulated because you never quite know what’s around the corner, if everything’s going to lift if we’re going to be able to tour or whatnot, or another year of lockdown. It’s trying to stay positive and use the time well to be productive. It’s been ups and downs.”

You’re about to release your new record Glowing In The Dark. What was its writing and recording process like? When did you get the process underway?

“When lockdown started we’d pretty much done the majority of it. I remember we handed it in and were more or less finished with it as the news was breaking about the virus being here from Wuhan. That was lucky in a way. We all went our separate ways and have made a lot of new music since. It feels like it’s been around in our world for a while.

“Every album we’ve had, we’ve done one every three years. You tour it for a year and a half and then you start writing and recording it. It’s one, big long process. We haven’t really taken any gaps since we started in 2009. It’s been one rolling thing.”

What are the themes behind it? What mindset did you go into writing this record compared to your previous releases? What were your main inspirations for Glowing In The Dark? What were you immersing yourselves in at the time?

“Even before Covid there was a general sense of unease of the world being a bit unstable. The politics in America was already very divisive, and in London you’re aware of the climate campaign of Extinction Rebellion. Those things are sort of there, maybe that’s why it’s still quite relevant when you listen to it now.

“Everyone in their daily life are dealing with micro and the macro problems, aren’t they? What’s going on in your relationships to turning on the news and dealing with the worldwide issues. Each song lives in its own bubble in that way.”

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You said it was wrapped up before the virus hit, does it seem strange looking back on it that you were writing about stuff that is relevant now?

“A little bit, yeah! It’s a bit spooky, some of it. It’s not as if the world was all roses before this. There were things going on everywhere. London’s always got something going on. There’s a theme of escapism for us because we’re in the middle of a city and sometimes that can be overwhelming in itself. There’s these themes that keep coming back for us.

“It would be a different album if we made it at the start of the lockdown. It would probably be a lot weirder or darker, and we wouldn’t have to worry about playing it live. It might completely different sounding.”

Have you found that the stuff that you have been creating in lockdown as been weirder?

“I think so. That’s where your brain is. You’re locked away and you’re not really playing together as a band. It’s maybe a bit more soundtracky – a soundtrack to a dystopian nightmare or something! I make quite a lot of dance music in my own time. Even if that’s darker edged, it’s got to be danceable. The rollercoaster depends on your mood and if you’re feeling particularly optimistic at the time or not.”

What’s it like being more separate now and doing things on your own?

“It has its pros and cons. For me I get more space in the studio to listen to records and sample them, or do a DJ mix, or really get my head into working on a drum track or something. Things that if people are here you can’t really because you’re usually recording vocals or something else. The downside is you are working on your own, which is boring. As band you want to be in the same room, thrashing out ideas and playing together. It’s tricky.”

Have you had any opportunity to get the band together at all?

“Not really. We’re doing remote stuff at the moment. We’re doing a Rough Trade Live remote acoustic session and mixing that. It’s quite funny because we all did our parts separately and I have to put them together. It’s a different vibe than jamming in the studio, it’s a bit disjointed.”

I suppose it’s all about embracing these new challenges that are coming with remote working in a band.

“You’ve got to! It’s either that or do nothing.”

Sonically you continue to push boundaries. From the huge opener of Spirals, launches us into this hypersonic journey, the melodic, cascading acoustic-driven sound of Waking Up, and the space age funk of Free From Gravity Do you aim for that eclectic approach with each record? How do you approach how the album’s going to sound stylistically?

“I would say it’s the opposite where I try to rein it in. Being in the studio with records, and as you say, there’s space age funk and electro, there’s folk, there’s straight up techno records, it’s all getting listened to on the job all the time. If anything I try to keep a lid on it and focus in on a sound. You’re at the mercy of whatever’s wanting to come out. You turn on a computer and something comes out and you go with it. That’s the best thing. It’s learning not to worry about that. We’re never going to be a band that sets up a drum kit and an amp and the album will sound like that.”

How much do you enjoy the evolution of a record?

“I love it. Especially the start where you get a kick out of maybe sampling a drum loop and playing a bass synth over the top, and all of a sudden you have the bones of a song. It’s a bit like alchemy or something. It’s like ‘this is weird but I’m going with it’.

"Later on when you try and fine tune it that’s when it becomes a bit of a headache because you have to bash it into shape and get the lyrics right. It becomes more like a day job thing but we wouldn’t be doing it if we didn’t get a buzz out of creating it.”

You mentioned you were immersing yourselves in influences and records. Did anything jump out for you during this process?

“I listened to a lot of library records, records that were made in the 70s and 80s specifically for film and TV use. There’s weird, weird stuff in that world that you can dive into.

“I listen to more dance music than the others.”

You worked with Charlotte Gainsbourg on the track Waking Up. What was that experience like? How did the collaboration happen?

“It was a similar situation to Self Esteem on the last album. There was a song that needed another dimension and other vocalist. I always felt that song had a bit of a Fleetwood Mac vibe. I wanted that duet sound. Her name was said at the start. We pitched it to the label and she liked it. It helped she’s on the same record label as us. She was just into it.

"We’re about to shoot a music video for it. For us, we just like collaborating and bringing people in to keep things fresh.”

Your track Spirals was given a huge remix by MGMT. How impressed are you with the outcome?

“I loved it. I guessed they were really into their electronic and disco. It’s an expansive 12” edit that’s quite long and that’s my thing. I was massively into it. You never know what you’re going to get with remixes. That’s one that definitely worked well. They have a huge fanbase so it was mad to see all their fans jumping on it and commenting. They’re still a big band in America.

“I saw recently they have a track on Now That’s What I Called Dad Rock. I don’t know if that was an internet joke or not but if MGMT are dad rock I must be old! I still think of them still as quite a new band.”

Have you got anyone else lined up?

“We had the Hot Chip one for Glowing In The Dark, which was a great one for us because we’re big fans of them. There are always names being banded around. There’s a big long list of people we’d love to have remixes from. Sometimes they ask for way too much money or whatever, so it’s just about making it work. We’ll see what’s to come on the next couple of singles, to see if we can get any big names on there.”

What did you learn from your self-titled debut, Born Under Saturn, and Marble Skies that you took into this record, and what have you learned from this most recent process? How do you think you’ve evolved as a band?

“From a producer point of view, the first one I didn’t have a clue what we were doing. The computer was barely working and we just plugged the guitar in the back of this computer not knowing what mixing desks or sound cards were. It was so DIY when I look back on it. From that to now, learning how to do everything. From miking up drums to mixing and how compression works. All the things we probably should have known from the start if we were going to be self produced.

“We just picked things up as we went along. I think the studio has expanded and is more professional. It’s come a long way.

"You want to hold on to what people like in the first place, the raw DIY aesthetic. It’s not like we’re going into big studios trying to make a polished, big sounding album. It’s keeping that DIY ethos alive. Using tape delays and analogue gear. It’s learning each time how to make it a little bit better.”

Are you already looking ahead to your next album? You mentioned about the stuff you’ve created in lockdown. Are you always thinking one step ahead?

“You have it at the back of your mind and that starts to form more and more. You’re daydreaming about it until it’s solidified in your mind a bit. There's a couple of avenues we want to go down – either making a more folk sounding, less electronic album, or a completely electronic album with nothing but electronics. Splitting off in two directions. All our albums have electronic dance tracks and there’s a rustley folk track. They’re eclectic.

"I’d like to make a couple of albums that are really honed in on a style and sound a little bit more. I could really get my teeth into that and have some boundaries. It’s nice to give yourself some rules sometimes. I guess it’s the same if you’re making art or whatever. If you’re a painter and you’re deciding your palette. It’s that kind of thing that helps.”

How eager are you to get back out on the road?

“Massively. It’s good to get out and play to people. You try not to think about it at this stage because the rug’s been pulled quite a few times. We’ve tried to plan tours and it’s been cancelled. At this stage I’m a bit hesitant to get my hopes up. Although it seems we’re in the thick of it now, even if it’s two or three years from now before it’s properly back to normal, you’ll soon forget how bleak lockdown. It’s a blip and things are going to get back but it’s just how long that takes. We’re trying to stay optimistic.”

I think the album will be great live. You can really hear how it will translate on stage.

“I think it will be fun and there are a few tracks that will be fun for festivals. That’s what people are massively needing at the moment, to get some music festivals.”

What’s next for Django Django?

“If we’re not getting to tour this album we’d quite like to crack on with the next one and put another album out. It’s all to play for at the moment. There’s a lot of stuff finished that didn’t get on this album, so maybe it’s getting out the hard drive and saying ‘we could pick that out’. Or we knuckle down and make an electronic album. We’re in the studio every day so I’d say between now and summer I’d say something would have taken shape.”

Django Django’s Glowing In The Dark is out now via Because Music

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