by Darcy Penner
“There were just certain moments during the set when we’d play that would be this huge avalanche of positive energy from the audience,” explains Brian King, guitarist and co-vocalist of Japandroids.
“The part of whatever song that caused the people to have that reaction, that’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to have a whole album that was like that—a whole set that was like that.”
Released June 5th on Polyvinyl Record Co., Japandroid’s second album, Celebration Rock, is thirty-five minutes of bombastic drums, huge guitars, and shouted chorus hooks that are proving to step up what was already a high-energy, explosive live set.
The Vancouver pair’s history tends to dominate press narratives since the band was so close to ending in 2008. Therefore, keeping it short and detail-free: Japandroids formed in 2006 as a duo comprised of Brian King and Dave Prowse. They released two EPs, All Lies and Lullaby Death Jams in 2007 and 2008, respectively (these would be combined for the release No Singles, in 2010).
While recording their first full length, the pair mutually agreed to disband, deciding to finish with a couple of shows. One of these shows landed them a vinyl-deal with Unfamiliar Records, the album was picked up by internet critics, and in August of 2009 their debut full-length, Post-Nothing, was released internationally by Polyvinyl Record Co.
Post-Nothing supported the band’s high intensity show for two years, after which they hunkered down to write the follow up, Celebration Rock—an album praised by critics across the globe (Metacritic.com has it at 83/100), short-listed for the 2012 Polaris Music Prize (Post-Nothing was long-listed in 2009), and peaking at 37 on the US Billboard 200. The anthem-filled album and its creators are back in the environment they prefer, jet setting across the globe on a four-month international tour.
Talking over the phone while getting ready for a show in Dallas, King explains to me how at points while writing Celebration Rock, the possibility of abandoning the album arose. “I mean, I’m glad we did not, but there were certain moments that I thought [our] ambitions were greater than our talents or abilities. There [are] so many different elements in play working on your second record than working on your first record,” King recalls.
“You have all kinds of outside pressures weighing down on you that never existed before, and for us, we just kind of lived that whole sort of [second album] cliché that you hear about.”
Fortunately for one-time young-twenties beer guzzlers who refuse to let their youth die, King and Prowse’s writing process was put on hold to go back on tour. “After we got back from that we decided ‘We really needed to make a change in the way that we approach what we’re doing. Otherwise, we’re never going to get this done, or if we do, it’s not going to be up to the standards that we want,’” King says. “That was when we decided to move to Nashville to finish the record up… which really changed everything.”
“Putting all that stuff in the car and driving all the way to Nashville and setting up in a living room of a house and getting to explore a new city that you [have] never really spent any time in – I mean, that part of it just made it feel a little bit more like you’re back on tour. You’re back on the adventure and all of a sudden all of the clout surrounding writing the record was gone. Then songs started to come really fast and really easy.”
The relationship between Japandroid’s writing process and touring is what gives them so much of their impact live: not only are the songs heavily influenced by the pair’s experience on the road and understanding of what parts are the most fun to play live, one could read from King that the main reason the songs exist is to tour.
“I know a lot of bands who would be perfectly content in just writing songs and recording them, and never having to tour,” King says. “Those are the kind of bands, you know, [they] write an album, record an album, and then figure out how to play it live later. We’re just sort of the opposite of those kinds of bands. We love to tour, we love to play shows, and that’s what our band is centered around. So it’s only kind of a logical extension from that that our records are associated around that as well.”
December sees the band making their way through North America to get them home for Christmas, ending four days after their December 17th show in Winnipeg after four months on the road.
“We started this tour kind of in the place that we ended the Post-Nothing tour, which was a great place. And we’ve just only managed to kind of build it from there, and the shows have been getting bigger and better over the course of the year—the crowds have been getting more and more into it,” King says.
In the New Year Japandroids will be touring Asia and Australia, but are not revealing any details beyond that, because they don’t have any. While they have fulfilled their Polyvinyl contract, the duo have been very public about their short-term planning. “It’s not just a line when we say stuff like that,” King tells. “We really do have very short-term conversations about things and don’t make a lot of plans.”
Catch Japandroids at The Pyramid on December 17th, 2012. Mac Demarco is opening, and you may want to consider wearing a rain jacket for the beer and sweat.