Though they share a moniker with some other important Djangos (see: Reinhardt and Freeman a/k/a Unchained), the UK’s Django Django carved their own letters into the pop culture lexicon in 2012. They had a sort of unimpeachably successful year: their eponymous debut was appropriately lauded by the music press on both sides of the pond and nominated for The Mercury Prize, a distinction shared by bands like Pulp, Amy Winehouse, and Radiohead. That record touched on a lot a genres: jungle, electro-psych, even West African; yet tracks like “Default” and “Hail Bob” are also obstinately pop songs.
Vocalist and guitarist Vincent Neff, who we spoke with as he walked the windy streets of London, has a thick accent and a cheery, if gruff, demeanor. He says they didn’t really have any expectations with the first record, and he’s approaching their follow up the same way. “We’ve always done stuff that’s considered experimental, but still use melodies,” he says. He adds that he didn’t really think about writing pop songs because they hadn’t become popular yet, which is, of course, one way to think about pop music. Another way to approach Django Django is that they’re continuing a legacy of artistic experimentation: Django’s drummer and producer David Maclean, one of the main architects of their sound, is the younger brother of the Beta Band’s John Maclean.
Django Django have been pretty explicit about the fact that their name doesn’t reference visionary jazz guitarist Reinhardt, but when asked about the other Django currently in the news, the one covered in blood, Neff seems to light up. Though he hasn’t caught Quentin Tarantino’s slave revenge flick yet, he says he plans on it in the next couple days, and there is actually a connection between their name and the film. They were interested in Jamaican reggae and dancehall artists like Dillinger, who were often obsessed with and named themselves after American gangster and western flicks. The band was aware of the original Spaghetti Western Django, starring Franco Nero, who actually makes a cameo in the Tarantino film, when they chose their own name. Somehow, much like Django Django’s own sound, the seemingly disparate forces of ’70s Jamaican reggae, obscure cinema, and Scottish alt rock combined to form something new.
Neff says they heard about the Quentin Tarantino film while waiting to release their first record. “It was a bit strange, looking up to see what people said about a gig and seeing [that],” he says. “We took forever to get [our first record] out, luckily he just took a little bit longer.”
The lack of Google-ability doesn’t seem to be hurting the band much, if at all. They are about to embark on their first “proper” US tour, as they mainly only hit the coasts until this point. Neff says the thing they’re going to miss most about home is, of course, the pubs. “There’s just nothing like it anywhere in the world,” he says. He’s also slightly worried about portion sizes in flyover states. “You order a soup and some bread and you end up with with a cauldron and a loaf,” he says with a laugh, quick to add he’s not talking shit about America.
Django Django perform tonight at Music Hall of Williamsburg