The polyrhythmic whimsy of Django Django’s 2012 self-titled debut is understandably prone to heavy-handed descriptors, “neo-psychedelia” being the most common and absurd. Drummer/producer David Maclean understands the wordy labeling, but doesn’t necessarily agree with it.
“If your record collection is Aphrodite’s Child sitting next to KRS-One sitting next to Daft Punk, you’re gonna have things seeping in from all those places,” he said prior to Django’s sold-out gig Saturday at First Ave. “And that’s going to be hard for anyone to pin down.”
Maclean and singer/guitarist Vincent Neff met at Edinburgh College of Art in their native Scotland, but the band’s two creative leaders didn’t begin crawling toward a collection of songs until relocating to the arty London neighborhood of Dalston in 2009. It’s an origin story that mirrors the Wesleyan University beginnings of MGMT as much as the debut can at times sonically, but Neff and Maclean’s posture as art school kids didn’t inform their output as much as their relocation did.
“Edinburgh’s kind of a well-to-do, ancient city. It’s a beautiful city, but it’s sometimes a bit thin on culture outside of art and literature,” Maclean said. “We felt a little bit held back there, and when you move to London, you’ve got a million music scenes going on. You’ve got black culture that gives birth to things like jungle and grime and garage.”
More unlike MGMT is that Django Django’s debut didn’t blossom from a record contract. Rather, it was born out of DIY bedroom recordings by Neff and Maclean — a process that explains the large gap between their initial “Love’s Dart” single in 2009 and the proper album that dropped in January of last year. That bare-bones approach led to one of the most satisfying undercurrents of the record: Beneath the veil of Maclean’s kid-in-a-candy-shop production is a spattering of simple blues songs. Standout track “Firewater” is held up by an endless John Lee Hooker-ish bass line; “Skies Over Cairo” is straight 12-bar blues.
“There’s probably at least 20 songs that sound like ‘Firewater.’ From Canned Heat to ‘Spirit in the Sky,’ it’s a very classic groove,” Maclean said, adding that Django’s process is less blues revivalism, more experimentation. “You start to learn that songs are simple things.”
Reappropriation is something Maclean is wholly conscious of. And since that is such a visible aspect of their music, it’s important that the two core members not take their songwriting too seriously.
“It starts with a couple of beers. [The songs] usually start out like comedy stories or limericks and dirty rhymes,” Maclean said. “We work backwards to clean them up and make them less daft. It’s not like one person pouring his heart out.”
They also aren’t preoccupied with more imposing realities, like keeping a tour profitable. When asked about toting their elaborate stage setup to North America, Maclean admitted that Django, which performs as a four-piece, will lose money. While such a move may seem reckless, he seemed more interested in a tour that cultivates an exchange of ideas. Choosing Minneapolis’ Night Moves as an opening act lines up with that sensibility.
“I think it’s mutually beneficial, because you’ve got an up-and-coming act and we’re an up-and-coming act,” Maclean said. “We could have brought a U.K. act with us, but it’s better to bring a band from the country you’re playing in. It helps both parties.”
First listens can represent Django Django as an act superficially striving toward buzz-band esotericism. But after speaking with Maclean, it’s not hard to believe that his fascinations as a music lover and musician are extremely pure. And if anyone listens closely enough, they can hear that purity on record, too.
When: 9 p.m. Sat.
Where: First Avenue.
Tickets: Sold out.