It’s been ten years since Django Django first made a significant impact on Australian crowds, riding the waves of success their self-titled debut brought them around the world.
The years that have followed have seen the quartet’s music continue to diversify in style, orchestration and ambition; three subsequent albums of vibrant, kaleidoscopic ideas have ensured Django Django’s ongoing popularity and in 2023, the group laid down their most engaging and fun collection of sounds to date.
The band’s fifth studio album, Off Planet, was released in four parts — the final chapter landing in June. 21 tracks of beautifully eccentric and stirring music holds a mirror up to the intense period of creativity Django Django embraced across extended periods of lockdown. The music itself is rich and textured, but it’s definitely not the type of album that can be consumed (and appreciated) in one sitting.
And that’s always been the charm of a band like Django Django.
Calling them ‘art rock’ almost feels like a cop out – their music and approach has, as producer/drummer David Maclean explains, feels more like a group of “four geeky alchemists, rather than a band.”
From his house in London, Maclean is settled in on the couch as we pull the layers back on a project like Off Planet – a solid entry into the wider Django Django catalogue, and a great indicator of the band’s evolution of core sound. As Maclean remembers, whittling the tracklist down to its final 21 was hard in itself.
“This album was quite a good way of clearing the backlog of music we did over lockdowns. We were just hidden away making music; it felt good to get it out, let people hear it,” he says.
“We had about 80 tracks sitting on a SoundCloud page, where the band can log in and listen to stuff, take it away and work on different things. We had too much stuff to release in an album and also, we didn’t want to face the challenge of turning in an album. You can’t really put out an album with so much meat, you have to condense it; we’ve done that four times, and this time we thought, ‘Let’s not make an album, let’s just chuck everything we’ve done together like a sketchbook.’”
Off Planet, which features choice collaborations with artists like Jack Peñate (“No Time”), Bernardo (“Who You Know”), and Isabelle Woodhouse (“Lunar Vibrations”), bounces between sonic beds with ease. Pop and blues elements mix with frenetic electronics and rhythms unheard of any previous Django Django release. Yet through it all, the unique voice and captivating elements of the band’s presence on a record, is never lost.
Heading into this album, the listener knows who’s playground they’re in; at the album’s most eccentric, there’s still that comforting energy that Django Django know what they’re doing, making them the perfect guides for our musical journey.
Five albums in, Maclean acknowledges that Django Django are still discovering the scope of their artistry, and how far they can see themselves pushing things.
“In terms of the output, I don’t think we’ve really scratched the surface. We’re still playing catch up to what we started,” he says.
“We’ve probably got about five albums planned, we’re going to switch it up now. We made four albums where the first one was fluke; we made it in the bedroom, we thought it was garbage, but everybody else thought it was good. The second, third, and fourth albums, they were us trying to remember what we did, how we did it, and why we did it. This one, it was more like, ‘Well here’s a bunch of stuff we did!’
I feel like the next three are going to be our proper, grown up albums. Albums that bands make when they go in the studio and know what they’re doing. That might be the next three. I’d love to just be like Paul McCartney, being in my ‘80s and making music at home… I don’t really see a time to stop doing it.”
With 16 years of experience behind them as a group, the band has the comfort of a well-honed performance and creative dynamic, but as Maclean says, they haven’t made things easy for themselves.
Citing groups like Devo and OutKast, Maclean speaks of musicians who have been able to create works ahead of their time, as being in some ways inspirational. In a similar way to Django Django’s music, the careers of those artists who very much marched to the beat of their own drum, yielded music that can be revisited in years to follow, with a multitude of different perspectives and levels of understanding.
“There are bands like Arctic Monkeys – I see their trajectory, they go off in different directions, but it stills sounds like Arctic Monkeys,” Maclean explains.
“Sometimes I’m quite jealous of that because people know what they sound like, and they then become fans of them! With us, in the morning we’ll be making industrial techno and then by the evening, we’re making psychedelic folk music. It’s a challenge, really, doing this band; trying to rein it in and know what it is we’re doing.”
It’s not to say that Django Django are in a flux loop of struggle, not at all. With the release of an album like Off Planet, the group has produced some of their most concise material to date – even at the album’s most experimental, the band shows that the music is fun at its core. And for a live audience, that has to be key.
Having spent the European and British summer on the festival circuit, Django Django have been building up their performance chops with this album, prime preparation time leading up to their Australian return this October.
A run of East Coast live dates complements the band’s upcoming appearances at NSW’s Wanderer Festival, a festival trip Maclean is keen to get underway with. The band’s relationship with the festival circuit in Australia has brought them many good memories, stretching back to their debut on the Falls Festival tour of 2012/2013.
Their return for the Wanderer Festival in September brings Django Django out to the picturesque NSW coast, on an eclectic lineup that boasts Sampa The Great, Kevin Morby, Thelma Plum, Spiderbait and more.
For Django Django, starting their tour with a festival like this offers a moment of reintroduction for many, and also for those seeing the group for the first time, it’s the perfect realm to experience them in – a tried and tested festival favourite, Django Django are coming back to Australia strong.
Says Maclean of how the dynamic of Django Django has changed with the release of Off Planet, he says that their technique has been refined and it’s fed into a heightened live experience. One the crowds have been feeding off of, as they’ve continued to grow.
“We’ve gotten better at our instruments and playing live, having been a bit battle-hardened by playing big stages at festivals in Britain,” he says.
“We’ve always been jostling between never quite headlining, but getting up there and playing to bigger and bigger crowds. We feel like we’ve had to up the live set to keep up with other bands who are up there, whether they’re Hot Chip or Caribou; other bands that are on the bill, who we see after we play and go, “Right, okay. That was amazing!”
“We dig our own hole in that regard, a little bit, because we don’t make easy records to play live. We make life difficult for ourselves,” Maclean laughs.
“If anything, we’ve just gotten better at the instruments, so with some of the songs from the first album, we’ll play them live now and they’re just really easy to play. It’s taken a while, but we’re there.”
Django Django 2023 Australian Tour
Tickets available via secretsounds.com
September 29th-October 1st
Wanderer Festival, Pambula Beach, NSW
Factory Theatre, Sydney, NSW
The Triffid, Brisbane, QLD
Corner Hotel, Melbourne, VIC