On their self-titled debut LP, neo-psychedelic quartet Django Django draw from a funky, quirky variety of musical influences. “We listen to surf and rockabilly to acid house to folk,” singer-guitarist Vincent Neff says. “We don’t really see the boundaries between those things. We like them all, so it’s difficult for us to do one kind of music.” What the group came up with is a dense, nuanced, sometimes otherworldly pastiche of all their influences. These sounds worked so well together, in fact, that when the album came out in January in the band’s native Britain, it struck a chord with critics, leading them to a Mercury Prize nomination. They’ll learn whether or not they won that on November 1, but until then, they’re celebrating the recent U.S. release of the album. To help us as we parse its contents, we sat down with Neff to find out what some of the album’s less obvious influences.
1. John Carpenter Soundtracks
“When we had the intro song on the album, we thought of it almost like the beginning of a movie, like when they show a landscape,” Neff says. “We thought about it a lot like that in terms of the album.” One of Django Django’s favorite soundtrack artists happens to be movie director John Carpenter, who has scored his own films, including Halloween and Assault on Precinct 13. “I quite like Escape From New York,” Neff says. “That’s probably the best.”
2. Moody movies like Django and Holy Mountain
Although it would be easy to assume that the group chose its name as a tribute to famed Gypsy jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt, Neff says that is not the case. Their name also didn’t have anything to do with their next influence, a string of spaghetti westerns that began with a 1966 film titled Django, though Neff says they’ve had an unconscious effect on the band. “We like that kind of dusty, moody [vibe]” Neff says. “It has a soundtrack where you’re not quite sure if it’s friend or foe. We also like Holy Mountain and psychedelic movies.”
3. Performance art
Many of Django Django’s members attended art school: Neff studied architecture at Edinburgh College of Art, where bandmates David Maclean and Tommy Grace also went, while Jimmy Dixon went to the Glasgow School of Art. Because of their art roots, they like collaborating with other visual artists for their concerts. For a recent string of London and Paris dates, they worked with Kim Coleman, an Edinburgh-raised installation and performance artist who lives in London. “She made these venetian blinds with these antique light bulbs behind them,” Neff says. “They would open and close and create these light effects.” For another set of shows, they collaborated with Haroon Mirza, who created a system with radio signals that would turn lights on and off. “He’s attached a sensor to the cymbal and it would trigger a light system,” Neff says. “We did a show with him where we were in a sculpture, and he was the composer of the lights and the background ambient noise.” Check out what that looked like below.
4. Bands Like Kraftwerk and Devo Who Have Uniform Looks
Those who managed to catch Django Django on their recent U.S. tour saw that they all tend to wear similar shirts when they’re onstage. Neff says that is a nod, somewhat, to bands like Kraftwerk and Devo who cultivated unique looks. “The first time we did it, we wanted something that would visually tie us together without making us look too wacky,” he says. “We put bleach on the T-shirts in a shape, but then during the gig the bleach fumes started blinding us all.” He laughs, then continues. “We figure people want to see something a bit different, like if you went and saw Kraftwerk or Devo. It’s just a thing that makes you not look like you’re at a pub on a Friday night.”
If you follow Django Django on Facebook or Twitter, you’ll see that quite often they post albums of the day. Many are by artists you might expect — Pink Floyd for the psychedelic qualities, Tom Tom Club for their rhythms, Tame Impala because they’re their peers — but one genre the band seems to love is rap. That influence came through a little on the song “Default.” “The lyrics were kind of a nod to KRS-One and Eric B. and Rakim,” Neff says. “The song’s constant putdowns, like they rappers do about other rappers, were a tongue-in-cheek nod to KRS-One and Rakim. It was just fun.”
Stream Django Django’s “Default”: