Cover Story: Django Django on the Making of ‘Marble Skies’

Django Django are back with their latest album, the first since Born Under Saturn in 2015. Marble Skies dropped last month, and we’re already calling it one of 2018’s best.

Django Django, a four-piece band helmed by producer David Maclean, consistently surprises and stuns with exquisite sonic layers and songs that keep us on our toes—where each note takes us to a place we didn’t quite anticipate. And that’s just how they work. And they don’t even plan out where their songs will lead the listener, which, in my opinion, is the most magical part. From rhythmic “Default” to the upbeat roller coaster ride of their newest single, “Tic Tac Toe,” the band is not one to stop innovating—and I’m perfectly fine with that.

Though this is not their first album—in fact, it’s their third studio record—they’re making a return to techniques they used on their self-titled debut. Believe it or not, that very album was recorded with a DIY approach in mind, and this album evokes a trip back in time—while also looking toward the future of their music. I spoke with Maclean regarding the new album, musical influences, and more.

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Marble Skies was actually given its name in my hometown of Chicago. Can you tell me about this?

We were in Chicago playing at Lollapalooza a couple of years ago and after we came offstage, I was chatting to people when I looked up and noticed that the sky looked like this amazing giant sheet of marble! I remember that marble skies popped into my head, and I kept a mental note of it to use for something. It kept popping up in my mind when we were making this record and just seemed like the right title somehow.

Tell me about Marble Skies—what has the process been like to create this album?

It started when I was taking some time out and the band were jamming with Anna Prior from Metronomy on drums. They were sending jam sessions from London, and I was editing them in Scotland. Then when I came back, we got together and fleshed them out. It was a bit less forced than the last LP, but we brought some technical skills to our little studio setup that we learned from the first two LPs.

What is the theme of the album, overall?

No theme, really. We wanted it to be more like an LP than just a body of work, so we worked harder on the way it flows than we did in the first two.

I read that the album was also a return to DIY for you. Were you trying to connect with the process you used to create your debut album, or what was the reasoning for that?

Yeah, it’s totally DIY, but the first two were really as well. It’s just that for the last one, we went to a big studio for a while, which looking back was a bit odd because we know how we like to work and it’s not really suited to us to go in a big live room.

Although we learned that we can get results from that, we were just a bit unfamiliar with the process. It’s all a learning curve and we’re still finding our groove and expanding while focusing in on what works for us.

There are so many influences on this album—electronica, calypso rhythms, and more. What was your biggest inspiration this time around?

No one inspiration. We just mess about and see where the songs want to go. We have no rules in this band, so anything goes. I listen to all sorts [of music] and some things just filter in more than others. We’re not fussed about being pinned to a style.

What did you want to convey to the listener through sound?

Nothing really, but we wanted the album to be a little journey—maybe a journey through our heads and our record collections and our lives as music lovers as well as musicians.

A lot of the song titles on this album have a real ethereal quality, otherworldly. Did you intend for this to come through, or how did the naming process work?

I read a lot of weird books about esoteric ideas. Little snippets of info from those books as well as films and art somehow bubble up in the titles and themes. It’s kind of subliminal, though. We don’t really talk about it!

What was your inspiration behind the music video for “Tic Tac Toe,” as well as the song?

The video was directed by my brother, John Maclean. You’d have to ask him!

You’re going on tour [shortly]. What is the toughest and most thrilling part about getting your sound to transfer as you intend it to during live shows?

It’s all tough! We have to reverse-engineer the songs because as they stand on the LP, we have never played them through start to finish. We work in a modular way, looping and adding as we go. We take things apart and cut and shut, like making a big collage from scraps of paper, so the live versions are really just interpretations of the LP tracks. That’s fun because they come out differently. They improve usually, so the fans at shows are really getting the best versions of the songs. But it’s also a huge amount of work getting them ready. The thrilling part is when we’ve played them a few times and fine-tuned them and they eventually lock. That’s when it feels like all the work has paid off.

Django Django – Marble Skies

Photos by Fiona Garden

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