‘I’d like more people to appreciate the freedom of hobbyism’ | Djun’s Charles Cassar

Charles Cassar, bassist and lead songwriter for eclectic musical outfit Djun speaks to MaltaToday ahead of the launch of their debut album, delving into why it’s important to craft good music in the face of even the saddest of realities

Cover art for Djun’s debut album Il-Hlas by Julinu
Cover art for Djun’s debut album Il-Hlas by Julinu

Djun appears to have been quietly carving a niche for itself in what is a fairly active independent music scene on the island. How would you characterise the band’s approach, both in terms of your intrinsic sound, and your place within this same scene?

In terms of how we’ve worked on this first album, everything is built around two core concepts. First, the theme of the album, which is endings and finitude. Secondly, our idea that we wanted to approach the core theme with a pop touch. We want to make music that is thematically challenging, but which has hooks, choruses and the trappings of good pop music. Because life is short, and sad, but there’s no reason we shouldn’t have good tunes.  With respect to the local indie scene, we’re quite simply happy to be part of something that has given this country a lot of beautiful music, in spite of various practical limitations.

How would you say this new album builds on your previous work?

Our debut album is the result of a couple of years’ worth of writing, iteration, endless arguing, realising that beloved ideas are actually rubbish, fiddling around with effects pedals, more arguing, and fantastic insight from some of our collaborators. It doesn’t expand on our previous work as much as crystallise it. We’re quite pleased with the end result and we’re very keen to share it.

Charles Cassar
Charles Cassar

What do you make of the local music scene? What would you change about it?

Perversely, I’d like to see fewer people aim for some chimeric notion of professionalism, and more people embrace hobbyism, and appreciate the freedom that comes with that. This is a small market, and having to earn a living from it will often necessitate compromises. I find it very telling that most of the truly interesting music coming out of the local pop music scene has been made by committed amateurs, rather than professionals. I don’t mean to encourage sloppiness, people should still strive to ‘be good’, but I think it would be healthy for more people to accept that being a musician in Malta is a low stakes game, so why not take a risk and challenge your audiences?

What’s next for you?

We’ve been fairly low-key over the last couple of years, honing our sound, building our repertoire and generally getting good. But now we’re ready to be a lot more active. So expect a crowdfunding campaign, a fancy launch and a number of follow-up gigs. Eventually we’ll settle back into a song-writing process; we have a lot of material waiting to be brought to life, some of it very different from the material on our debut album.

Djun’s debut album Il-Ħlas will launch on June 29 and 30 at Malta Society of Arts, Republic Street at 8.30pm and 7.30pm