Django Django: ‘Writing songs became a nice escape’

With an album release just around the corner but little prospect of live shows to launch it, Jimmy Dixon, Leeds-born bassist with Django Django, is in the midst of honing some acoustic versions of its tracks as we speak.

Django Django
Django Django

“We had a few socially distanced shows booked for the album coming out but that’s all been out on hold or cancelled,” he says. In these strange of times, these remote recording sessions offer an alternative means of promoting the quartet’s fourth album, Glowing in the Dark.

Work actually began on this album in spring 2019. “We’ve probably had the album finished for about a year,” Dixon says. “I think we had a few dates pencilled in the diary to put the record out and it kept on being put back. We announced it for February (2021) and now this new lockdown’s kicked in, but I think after sitting on the album for a year we’re all just ready to put it out now and move on and try to get some new music made in the next few months.”

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Hope is a major theme on the new record. “Most of those tracks were written from 2018 onwards and I think the world has become a really confusing, quite volatile place,” Dixon says. “It’s really easy to get bogged down in things that have been happening over the past few years around the world. I think writing songs became a nice escape from it. The lyrics are really about trying to be positive and focusing on the foundations of the things that everyone shares, the things that people have in common with one another.

“We were just trying for our own sake as much as anyone else’s to write about positive things. It gets difficult when you turn on the news and it’s just a barrage of negative stories. It’s nice to focus on something a bit more positive.”

The sci-fi video for the single Free From Gravity suggests a literal sense of alienation. “It was one of Dave (Maclean)’s ideas,” explains Dixon. “We usually shy away from film-like narrative videos, it’s usually much more abstract, but I think it suited the song – this idea of someone or something that’s alienated from its surroundings, it’s just finding a way to get out of that and break free. I think it’s a really nice ending to have him being really playful and trampoline to leave his alienation and try and find what it is that he’s after.”

Political events inevitably intruded on this record too. “I think it’s almost impossible not to try to address them,” Dixon says. “There’s a song on the record called Headrush whose lyrics are an attempt to address a leader or a kind of figurehead, someone who has fascistic tendencies. There are certainly a few tracks that address politics directly but again, we ended up trying to write positive lyrics.”

The actress and singer Charlotte Gainsbourg features on the song Waking Up. The hook-up came about via their shared record label, Because. “We’d pretty much finished the track with me and Vinny (Neff) on vocals but we felt it needed a female vocal on there just to direct it away from where it felt like it was going,” says Dixon. “When we approached Emmanuel (de Buretel) who runs the label to ask Charlotte if she’d be interested in singing on it, we really didn’t think that she’d have the time or whether she’d even be into the track, but she came back pretty quickly and we went over to Paris and met Charlotte and a few people from the label in a recording studio and went over the lyrics for a day and a half.

“That happened at the start of (2020) but we’ve still not managed to meet her properly. We’re recording an acoustic version of the track at the moment and she’s supposed to be recording her parts for that. It would be great to meet her properly and play the song live.”

If on their last album, Marble Skies, it felt like Django Django had a lot of ideas that they were trying to shoehorn into each song, on Glowing in the Dark, the approach is more carefully distilled. Dixon says: “I think we’ve certainly relaxed into making records. After the first album one of the things that we were aware of that we didn’t want to carry through into this record was throwing everything at a track.

“The way that we worked on the second and third album was that we’d throw everything we could at a track and then start stripping things out and trying to refine it, but I think at times it’s meant that tracks have become quite bloated and laden. One thing that we were really conscious of going into this album was to try to be a bit more playful with the songs and not get too bogged down with details. In terms of the way we’ve been writing that’s probably the biggest conscious decision that we made.”

Glowing in the Dark is out on Friday February 12.