You need Japandroids in your life.
If you haven’t already heard, they are a Canadian duo consisting of Geology academic/ drum maestro Dave Prowse and heartthrob/string slayer Brian King. They’ve been playing together since the mid noughties, and despite a few bumps along the way have just released second album Celebration Rock to huge critical acclaim. After recording their first effort Post-Nothing, the boys were on the verge of breaking up, but just when nobody seemed to want to know their luck changed.
And thank heck it did, because this latest effort is an absolute dazzler. A proud testament to fun and youth, it’s a collection of songs worthy of a band who want nothing more than to kick ass and drink beer. Their brand of garage rock is post-adolescent; there’s nothing awkward or hormonal in what they sing about, yet these are songs that make you feel like you’re hanging with your best mate in the middle of summer while he chugs a cold one before opening up to you about the pains of not being able to get that snog from the girl he fancies in Science class. They do all this without ever even mentioning the beer. Or the girl.
On the day we meet, the guys are preparing for their show at Bristol’s The Cooler. A show we will later attend, only to be surrounded by men with beards and glasses, none of whom have cute chicks with them. It is, to say the least, a disappointment that the crowd are virtually static until the band play Wet Hair and the incredible latest single The House that Heaven Built, but even then the air is one of deep musical appreciation rather than the moshing, sweating, wet t-shirt competition that Crack can wholeheartedly say we’d dreamt of. Nevertheless, the two dudes power through, addressing the crowd in the politest of tones before launching into the most distorted pop ‘n’ roll you could ever care for. They do it well; so well, in fact, that one Crack contributor can be spotted dancing alone, spilling beer all over his own white t-shirt just to try and realise the aforementioned dream.
Back in the afternoon, this is the middle of the ‘droids UK tour (incorporating two ultra hip festival dates on the continent) and the sun is being so aggressive they could be forgiven for mistaking the city for a slightly more pleasant version of the hell scene from Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey – a movie which should, in a pure and perfect world, have been soundtracked solely by the band. We’re welcomed by Dave hanging half out of the venue’s top floor window, before coming downstairs to meet us with a slightly formal but completely endearing handshake. If Crack has learned anything from its short time on this earth, it’s that all Canadians are endlessly delightful in one way or another. After being led upstairs in search of Brian, either hiding or taking a leak, we end up sweating it out in the world’s hottest dressing room. Unfortunately Dave couldn’t join us to shoot the shit as he had to head off to write a book about sedimentary patterns in East Asian rock formations, or something …
Hi Brian! Hows the tour going so far?
It’s going alright. It’s fun because we haven’t been in the UK for a long time.
Why did you choose a rapper like Cadence Weapon as support for the tour?
We didn’t really know him before the tour, but we just really like his music. It’s really cool music to hear on the same night as our band; it’s easy for us to play with other noisy garage rock bands, it’s not like we don’t like that music or play with other bands that are great.
You played in Amsterdam just last night, right?
We have two shows on the tour not in the UK; one in Amsterdam and one at the end in Barcelona. It was a long drive from Brighton one night to Amsterdam the next night. The show itself was kind of whatever, we didn’t have a soundcheck and we had travelled all day from Brighton then had to wait a long time before we went on. When it was finally time to get on it was like ‘throw your stuff onstage and go for it!’ But it was OK, and being in Amsterdam was fun. It’s a cool city, we always have a good time over there. The crowd were really into it. Bands often evaluate shows on how they play; from the audience’s perspective it can be a great show and the band come off thinking “we fucked up!” It’s a bit of a cliche band thing to think about, but all in all it was a really fun experience.
Is it fair to say that for the latest record you’ve come together a bit more as a unit?
There’s very little difference between how we recorded this and how we’ve recorded everything we’ve ever done. It’s all the same studio, the same engineer – a friend of ours Jesse – on the same gear, using the same method. It’s all the same kind of thing. If you listen to No Singles, which is a compilation of our early stuff, then you listen to Post-Nothing, and then you listen to Celebration Rock after that, you’re very obviously hearing the band getting better at what we do without really changing the formula too much. What you’re hearing – like you said, more together – that’s just come from playing two or three hundred shows between recording Post- Nothing and this one. You’re hearing a band that’s not only better at playing together, but better at playing their instruments, and you’re hearing a recording engineer with two years extra recording experience, so he’s better at not only recording, but at recording Japandroids. And you’ve played so many shows that you know what you like to play, what you don’t like to play, what works best for you and what doesn’t. You have that extra confidence. So it’s just a very natural, organic evolution.
We understand you’re pretty much completely self produced?
More or less. We always record with our friend Jesse Gander in Vancouver. He’s an engineer for all intents and purposes, he plays a big part, in that it’s the three of us in a room try’na figure it out. A producer has a connotation with it, like a guy in a room deciding how it’s gonna go, how it’s gonna sound. It’s more like three dudes arguing! We’ve been winging it since the start and I think if it’s getting better it’s only through an extreme amount of trial and error, not through any actual knowledge!
There’s a Gun Club cover on the album, why did you choose that band and why [[For The Love Of Ivy]] in particular?
There’s a couple of reasons. The first one was the way I wanted the album to be sequenced. I wanted to start and build to a peak in the middle. Imagine if you have side A and side B. The whole of side A, the intensity is building and building until it reaches its peak. Then you flip it over and it starts at that peak and then it kind of descends back. It’s a more old school, traditional way of deciding how to sequence a record. The problem with that was that there was nothing we could write that had that ‘peak of the record’ feeling. Every band has limitations, not every band can write any kind of song, and so there is a certain intensity where even the most intense thing we could write or come up with didn’t quite have the same spark I wanted. So at that point, we started talking about covers. We know a lot of covers, we like to play them, it’s fun. This was one we chose because, number one, we can’t write songs like that. It’s probably the most intense the set gets, and it’s the perfect song for that part of the record. But also, so many of my favourite bands I learned through other bands covering them. Every time we cover a band we think a lot about what we’re exposing our fans to. There’s no point covering a band that everyone who listens to our band already knows. Like how I discovered The Jesus And Mary Chain because the Pixies covered them on their record Trompe De Monde.
You’re signed to Polyvinyl now, a label which houses a lot of really influential artists. How did that come about?
When our first record hit the internet it was at the time we were still planning on putting the record out ourselves. Things really took off faster than we could keep up with and it was really overwhelming. All of a sudden there were lots of labels that loved the record and wanted to put it out. It was a very strange black and white; one day no one gave a shit and the next day you’re talking to multiple labels wanting to put it out. We don’t even have any experience working with labels, and the reason we ended up deciding to work with Polyvinyl was because we were so used to doing it ourselves. We were reluctant to give up having our hands in everything. I still wanted to do all the album artwork and do all the merch and write the bios and I just wanted to still play the same role I had before anyone else was really involved in the band. But I did want their help. We were getting overwhelmed and we did need help, and they were the ones who seemed the most into us being involved. Some labels might not want the guys in the band dictating how they want to release the record, but they were really into it and now I speak to somebody from Polyvinyl every day and we do things together as opposed to them doing stuff on our behalf. It’s a real symbiotic relationship!
Right now there seems to be a flux of bands like No Age, Wavves and Abe Vigoda who are essentially reinventing garage rock in their own mould. How do you feel Japandroids fit into that?
We like those bands, and I think there’s another ten or fifteen bands you could fit into the same category and they come from all over the place. I think it’s because all these bands are people that are kind of the same age. A generation that was young when Nirvana came out and so people talk about this like a 90s revival; noisy guitars, distortion. I think that’s totally normal and natural. You will discover music as you get older, but you never get away from the first thing you heard when you were you were younger that made you think “Oh, that’s for me! That’s what I like!” So like, in five years everybody will be playing in boy bands because they will have been that age in the late nineties! You should be thankful that it’s this right now.
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Celebration Rock is out now on Polyvinyl Records Co.
Words: Billy Black