“Growing up at the other end of the bridge from Dundee, I always felt kind of half-Dundonian,” reminisces David Maclean, drummer and electronic programmer with art-pop group Django Django, speaking from his home in London in the build-up to the release of their fourth album Glowing in the Dark.
“I knew Dundee like the back of my hand, way more than I know most of Fife – I still don’t really know Dunfermline or Kirkcaldy at all.”
A son of Tayport
The son of artist Marian Leven and brother of John Maclean – who had his own musical fame with the Beta Band and more recently directed Michael Fassbender in the film Slow West – Maclean studied at Edinburgh College of Art, where he met his Django Django bandmates Tommy Grace, Vincent Neff and Jimmy Dixon.
Two Scotsmen, a Northern Irishman and a Yorkshireman, they didn’t form the band until they had all moved to London.
“When I think about moving home, I think about moving somewhere in Dundee, looking over the water to Fife, or vice versa,” continues Maclean, whose band’s self-titled debut album was nominated for the 2012 Mercury Music Prize.
“I’m biased, because I grew up with my bedroom overlooking the Tay, but it’s just such a wonderful view. I always knew when I was young that I’d come back to that area.”
He loves the V&A, but has fond childhood memories of the Olympia swimming pool, as well as nostalgia for lost Dundee landmarks like the Seagate Gallery, and record shops including Chalmers & Joy and 23rd Precinct; he took drumming lessons at Stage 2000.
“Dundee was like going to the big city,” he says now. “Like going to New York or something, because I didn’t know any different.”
Maclean was already making plans to move back to Tayside before the pandemic hit, and is now even more determined, because “London when everything’s shut is… not great.”
Despite their recording studio being in London, however, this will have no impact on Django Django; Grace has already moved back to Glasgow, while their last album, 2018’s Marble Skies, was made with Maclean living in Fife while he was between houses.
“The rest of the band had Anna Prior from (the band) Metronomy in doing the drumming, and I was in Tayport editing it – sampling parts and chopping others up,” he says.
“For this album we were all there, and it was much more of a live group effort. I think it’s just a bit more focused and considered, maybe like going back to the first album.
“A song like Asking For More is probably one of Vinnie’s best song-writing achievements, for example. Then there’s a track called The Ark, which is me mucking around with a 303 and playing drums over it – it was the kind of music I was making before the band, where I didn’t have song structures, it was more about a groove.”
Stand-out song Spirals
Another stand-out of Glowing In the Dark is the single Spirals, which revisits the sense of analogue funk blended with a club-influenced electronic groove that made their earliest signature track Default so irresistible, while Waking Up features Charlotte Gainsbourg on vocals.
“I wasn’t there when the others wrote that song,” says Maclean.
“They’d demoed it and it was a lot slower, almost like a country song, and I just started to imagine Charlotte singing on it. I said ‘why don’t we ask her to do it?’, and luckily, because she’s on the same label, it was easy to reach out to her. She was into it and really liked the song, so Vinnie went over to Paris and bashed it out in a day.”
While Maclean hasn’t met Gainsbourg yet, the plan is to make a video for the song with her.
As with the album tour, however, many things are on hold; in fact, Maclean vividly remembers receiving the mixes for this album at the beginning of last year, then opening the news and reading about Wuhan.
Since then, the Djangos have created a mountain of ideas for new music, as well as recording two songs produced by David’s brother John (who is, he says, otherwise busy with film scripts and home-schooling).
“This is maybe a chance for us to do an album that’s different, that’s a hundred percent acoustic or a hundred percent electronic or a hundred percent instrumental,” he says.
“Something that doesn’t have the pressure on it to be the next album that you tour and play festivals with. It’s an opportunity to do something weirder.”
*Django Django’s fourth album Glowing in the Dark is out now on Because Music. www.djangodjango.co.uk