We speak to the singer and guitarist of Django Django ahead of their performance at FIB, about milk-bottle mic-stands, dressing-up and finding reason… without too much reasoning.
Vincent Neff, the lead singer and guitarist of Django Django, is stuck in airport security with a phone battery that’s close to death. But rather than express any form of irritation regarding the situation, he apologises profusely, asks if we can start again in half an hour and runs away to find a charger. His adaptable attitude and cheerful nature seem entirely appropriate: here’s a man who made an astoundingly well-received debut with his buddies in a bedroom. They used milk bottles as mic-stands, phone-books for drums and a de-tuned, borrowed guitar as a bass.
Thirty-odd minutes later we are mid-conversation; Neff mulling over the band’s dressing-up habit in his melodic, Scottish lilt.
I usually ban my boyfriend from the room when I am conducting interviews; dismissing him to the kitchen so that I can chatter away without distraction. However, as he has his own deadlines to hit I allow him to stay at his desk, provided he keeps his headphones on and doesn’t look at me. Contrary to my instructions, I can tell that he is listening in from the stifled giggles and cocked head. After a lengthy, easy-flowing conversation I make my goodbyes (and Neff apologises for the slight delay in our conversation for the third time) and hang up. In a beat my boyfriend turns to me and enthuses “what a nice chap!”. Like his band’s music, you just can’t help but warm to Vincent Neff. Django Django, it seems, have a new fan.
Every time I hear your music described, the description is different. How would you describe your music?
I suppose it’s sort of a melting pot of all of our lives listening to different music. We all love different music – lots of different music – and I think that when we write music, in a sense, we don’t see it in any category. We just draw upon what we like. And that can be anything from folk music to space disco to you know… just anything really. And then it kind of condenses down into something. It’s a bit difficult to describe. We like a wide range of music, so we draw upon a lot of that.
make it lo-fi.
We aimed to
make it hi-fi,
coming out kind
of demo quality"
And would you limit your major influences to music, or would you say you are influenced by other things too, visual arts for example?
I think we are, yeah. Certainly three members of the band are artists and I went to art school as well. I think it’s a big component of what we do. Firstly, just in terms of the kind of process of the way we work; coming from an art school background, that kind of ability to make do with a small palette of materials and try and make the most of what you can out of it. Being at art school and not having much money but having to make models and paintings and stuff, you would have to think a bit harder about how you work and try and keep materials in a way. Also, we often used our friends (or the guys in the band) to do a lot of the videos and artwork - sleeves and posters, that kind of thing. So yeah, it all sort of ties together.
Talking about making do with the facilities you have, your album was home recorded and I understand you used some pretty un-orthodox recording techniques. Can you tell us a bit more about the process?
Yeah, it was recorded in Dave’s flat. Basically I think we had one guitar, which was Dave’s girlfriend’s. We would use it as the guitar and bass; we would tune strings down to make it sound – you know – a lower tone. And then I think he had a snare and a tom drum. We had no kick drum; we had no drum kit essentially so a lot of it had to be done digitally. But we thought that kind of lent itself, having this naïve element. Live guitar, a digital drum and a live recorded milk bottle being hit, or tapping out a beat on a telephone book. Different textures would work together; or be slightly interesting anyway. But often figuring out how to record a part would take days. Invariably it would be something like a milk bottle with a microphone taped to it, aimed towards an amp. We just sort of played with things and hit things around the room. Like a deodorant can or a telephone book. In some cases, going out and finding things. There are lots of good African and Caribbean markets around the corner from where we live; we’d find strange little drums or what looked like hardened vegetables hollowed out. It was kind of just playful in a sense. We tried to work hard on the songs, getting them quite strong, the best we could do; but then when it came to all the additional percussion we just went with it and didn’t really think about it too much.
Is that lo-fi, playful quality something you can imagine continuing on future releases? Or will you take advantage of the opportunity to work in studios?
We never aimed to make it lo-fi. We aimed to make it hi-fi, although it probably was coming out kind of demo quality. I think the way the album turned out, in many ways, was what we had always hoped for, in terms of quality of sounds. It just happened in the mixing and mastering process, we managed to get to that point. I don’t think we want to change things too drastically. We’ve got something that hopefully works for us and we are just going to see. We might get an engineer to assist with the actual nuts and bolts of recording, but as for an actual “producer” I don’t think we would do that.
Your drummer, David Maclean, takes a lead in terms of production. But in regards to the song-writing how does it work? Is it a collaborative process?
Well, I think the majority of the song-writing is done by me, with a couple of exceptions. “WOR” and “Zumm Zumm”, for example, are more of a jam and “Skies Over Cairo” began with Tommy. But I suppose I take a lot of the riffs and melodies to the band – or Dave – and then once we see what we’ve got Tommy will come in with a break and Dave will cut it up and kind of layer it all. It’s been a bit two-pronged: a number of tracks have come from live jams whilst other ones are probably more from me and Dave.
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