Janelle Borg May 19, 2019
Discussing Djun’s elegy for Time with Charles Cassar
Djun is a recently-formed, impressive musical ensemble merging the talents of some of Malta’s finest musicians. It’s safe to say that their latest single ‘Il-Bir’ got everyone excited about this collective’s future releases. Trackage Scheme talked to one of the band members, Charles Cassar, ahead of their upcoming album launch.
Hi Charles! So, Djun is a pretty recent project. How did you all come together, and what’s the aim of this supergroup?
Djun started off in 2017. I had started meeting up with my old friend Mark “Zizza” Abela, of Brodu fame, to co-write Maltese language songs. The initial song ideas were a very mixed bunch. Soon enough, the song ideas started to coalesce around the theme of the passage of time, because we are thirty-something and have to deal with premature (hopefully) mid-life crises. We enlisted Justin Galea on vocals, Paul Torpiano on keyboards and Ryen Refalo on guitars. Towards the beginning of 2018, Zizza amicably parted ways to concentrate on Brodu, and the very talented Michael Vella Zarb joined the band on drums. And that’s how the band’s current line-up came to be. It’s flattering that you describe the band as a “supergroup” – we’re really just friends who have been around the local music scene for a while and want to create beautiful, Maltese language pop/alt-rock music. We think we’ve developed a sound and style and that is unique on the island, and can’t wait for everyone else to listen to these songs!
How would you say that your individual musical careers influenced this project?
‘Careers’ is a big word and I’m all for people in our scene keeping their feet on the ground. We all have day jobs and that’s unlikely to change unless the Maltese language alt-rock scene suddenly becomes a multi-million dollar business (highly unlikely). That said, of course, each members’ background and formative experiences contribute to the band’s sound. I listened to a ton of Sufjan Stevens, Fleet Foxes, War on Drugs and Radiohead when writing the songs on the album, and some of that surely seeps through. Ryen has a fantastic “pop” ear which is a surprisingly rare gift. Paul is a brilliant all-rounder who is good at everything, Michael is a fantastic drummer and creative brain. And Justin is a musical omnivore who is always pushing the sound of the band in unusual and unexpected directions. It’s a good group of people and we gel well together, even though we argue a lot, about everything all the time.
Djun – Il-Bir [Vidjo Uffiċjali]
Djun huma Justin Galea, Charles Cassar, Paul Torpiano, Ryen Refalo u Michael Vella Zarb'Il-bir' hija produzzjoni ta' Djun u David Vella (Temple Studios)Vidjo: VideocafeDisinn artistiku: Julinu© DjunGħal offerti u prenotazzjoni tal-Vinyl, digital download u biljetti tat-tnedija żur:http://www.zaar.com.mt/projects/djun/Proġett megħjun mil-Malta Arts Fund – Kunsill Malti għall-ArtiLirika:Darba tfajt ġebla fil-birBiex nara kemm hu fondNara kemm hu fondIl-qiegħQatt ma smajt it-tokk tal-qiegħMinnflok telgħu il-wirdienTelgħu il-wirdienMil-birAaah x2Darba dħalt id-dar billejlSmajt it-tokki ta l-arloġġIt-tokki tal-arloġġFis-skietMeta mort biex nixgħel sibtIlli ma kienx hemm kurrentMa kienx hemm kurrentTad-dawlWens, fittixt, fejnek, AaahWens, fittixt, fejnek, AaahAaah (vuċijiet)Darba tfajt gebla fil-birBiex nara kemm hu fondNara kemm hu fondIl-qiegħMinflok smajt leħen mill-birIsejjaħli ninżel hdejhIsejjaħli ninżel hdejhFid-dlamWens, fittixt, fejnek, AaahWens, fittixt, fejnek, MissierAaah (vuċijiet)
Publiée par Djun sur Mercredi 8 mai 2019
What concepts and themes are explored in Djun’s songs?
The over-arching theme of the album is the passage of time, which we approach from different angles; the sadness of dilapidated buildings, relationships that grow distant, quasi-spiritual ruminations. Our friend Julian Mallia designed gorgeous vinyl cover art representing the phases of the moon with a sort of monochrome pencil look. I feel that that imagery really captures the essence of what we’re trying to say: that the passage of time is natural, inexorable and sad, but also emotionally resonant and beautiful. Sublimating these ideas into an album is our (or at least) my way of coping with my thirties. It’s cheaper than buying a sports car annd with better depreciation over time.
What can you reveal about the album you’re about to release, and what can we expect from the album launch event?
Our first single ‘Il-Bir’ is very representative of the sound of the band. Melancholy without being gloomy, listenable and pop but not quite an earworm. Everything is polished to high heaven because we are sound and tone geeks who want everything to be perfect. We want the launch to be intimate and beautiful; the venue can take around 140 people per night, which will hopefully allow the music to shine. There may be a couple of surprise guests as well. Expect gorgeous male vocal harmonies, Moog sounds, effects-drenched guitars, and Justin doing the Macarena. One of those things may or may not happen.