Exclusive interview: DJANGO DJANGO’s Tommy Grace talks new music, new tours, and second-album angst

The first time I heard Django Django was early in 2012 when I was hitchhiking on a UK radio stream.

“Default” stuttered into my consciousness with a sense of immediacy. Wow earworm! So guitar! Much jangly! Over the next two years, I became a Django acolyte: seeing them as part of my travels – at Field Day in London (where they’ll play once again this year on June 6), watching Björk perform with keyboardist Tommy Grace at Pukkelpop in Belgium, hanging out with them at soundcheck at Primavera Sound in Barcelona and dancing like a loon with them at an Opera House gig in Toronto. Over the past year they’ve been recording a new album – thank all the gods – and released a new single “First Light” just recently. So I tracked down my Björk-watching partner Tommy Grace to see what’s what in the Django camp. This is what’s what:

So, new single, new year, how the HELL are you Tommy? Whatcha doing right now and what’s in your pockets?

I’m peachy, thanks. In my pocket I have a battered wallet, mobile phone (not Apple), an outrageously uncomfortable bunch of keys, a usb stick in the shape of a bottle of whisky and a baby’s dummy.

Innit kind of weird to release a new single without any details of when the album is out or the plan for it? WHEN IS THE ALBUM OUT? I AM SHOUTING MY QUESTION BECAUSE I AM EXCITED!

I think there’s a plan. The album is finished, track listing finally decided, artwork all wrapped up.

In addition to being toe-tapping and sunshiney, first single “First Light” is interesting in that it’s a lot more synth-heavy (your domain, whee!) and has a slight psychedelic/Beach Boys vibe, too. Is this indicative of the rest of the album’s sound?

It’s another mixed bag. It was definitely tipping into a more electronic sound as it was developing so we wrote a couple of live, garage-y sounding jams as ballast.

Dave said somewhere that the album’s gotten out from the bedroom and has more of a “live” feel. Yes? In what way?

It is in that we literally got out of Dave’s bedroom – it wasn’t healthy for anyone that environment – and rinsed a lot of cash renting a lovely live-in studio out in the sticks with lots of amazing vintage equipment and amazing catering. Afterwards, we brought all the recordings back to London and messed about with them some more (akin to the first album process).

Django Django

A lot of bands faff and fuss over their second album, and either take an exceptionally long time with it, or throw the baby out with the bathwater and try something almost entirely different. On a scale of none to angst, what was the attitude going into, and in, recording and writing this?

It was worrying at first. We got together and looked at all our initial demos and realised they were all terrible, so started afresh, really. I guess we thought after we finished touring the first album that we had a decent start to the follow up, but actually we were deluding ourselves.

From then on it was just serious graft. Me, Jim and Vin in a more collaborative way writing demos before taking them to Dave to tinker with, rip apart, or chuck back for us to re-write. That went on for 4 or 5 months and once we had finally had a decent bunch of demos did we take ‘em to Angelic (our live-in studio).

You toured incessantly since the debut, and it was on stage where the insane percussive and propulsive joy of the band really comes through. Anything you’ll do differently this year coming? Like, say, get to more cities in Canada, like Vancouver? ☺

I’d love to go to Vancouver! In my head, it is this wonderful autumnal idyll – a city with overlooking mountains and waterfalls. I think it comes from reading too much Doug Coupland as a kid. Or that Jonathan Richman song (“I love the country but I also love the city too” [Ed’s Note: close! The song is “City Vs Country.]

The live thing going to be much more of the same. but beefier and bigger. We might even recruit a fifth Django, and I’m hoping to take ‘round a piano but I’ve not told our techs yet.

BSR and Tommy Grace

Ouch, let me get back to you on that… I’ve been awful retrospective recently. I got an iPod (yep, they still make them) which is really great ‘cause I never had one back in the day and its got all this old stuff I haven’t listened to much lately. Talking Heads’ first demos that sound incredible. Still feeling a lot for The Feelies first record. And DJ premier productions.

Jimmy’s gotten engaged, Dave’s started his own label – what have you been up to during the time off?

I married, bought a house, had a kid. The big three. Creatively Dave and I also did a score for the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of The White Devil, a modern dress adaptation of a sixteenth-century revenge tragedy set in Italy which was very exciting. We hope to release it later in the year.

Finally – imagine Django Django has reached Lady Gaga-like heights and you can put anything on your backstage rider. What things would you ask for?

A lake backstage to dip in post-gig!

I’ll see you in London for Field Day, yes? We saw Björk together, wanna meet up for Patti Smith or come for a dance with me at Caribou?

Yep, see you there! Gonna be a big gig for us, hard to top our last time there which was phenomenal, one of my favourites eva. Sure I’m up for Caribou! In fact, you can put that down on my list as my recent listening recommendation (real left field choice, sorry). And what about Bjork s new record! That’s something to get excited about. Think we’re sharing a stage with her for an upcoming gig. Can’t wait to see what she’s been up to.\m/

Check out “First Light”, the new single from Django Django. Now available on white label 12″. Go see them on tour – you’ll dance your ass off. New dates will be added here.

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