Japandroids are a maximal band, squeezing the most out of one guitar and a set of drums. While new album Celebration Rock may not sound particularly en vogue, that’s okay when it’s all about the fun and the loudness. We asked Brian King about capturing the sizzling energy of their live performance in a studio; he told us what record people will enjoy at parties in 2032.
Right before they embarked on an epic four-month-long tour, featuring 81 shows in 24 different countries, promoting Celebration Rock, David Zilber met up with them at there hometown Vancouver. He took some wonderful photos as they wandered around the city’s harbour. If you look closely, you can almost hear the silence. Like the calm before the storm.
Interview by Willem Sjoerd van Vliet, Photos shot in Vancouver, Canada, by David Zilber.
Japandroids toured exhaustively after the released of your debut album Post Nothing. What lessons did you take from that?
Back then we were just a typical young and arrogant band, we thought we could do everything and we learned some of our lessons the hard way. It gets to a point that your body won’t go any more. So no matter how bad you want to play, your body just won’t do what you want it to do any more. Now we’re touring a lot smarter, no more tours where we play 50 shows in 50 nights.
When you were at that low point, did you ever think of a second album?
We kind of avoided talking about a second album because there was sort of a sense that when we stopped touring it would be over. That was kinda the way we were operating the whole time when we were touring on Post Nothing. I think we both realised that we really enjoyed touring and playing shows together and we didn’t necessarily want to stop. That’s when we said, Well, there’s one way to continue; we could make another record.’
I was driving on the ringroad around Amsterdam while listening to Celebration Rock and somehow I couldn’t slow down. The vibrant sound made me drive even faster, almost as if I was at a live performance. Is that live sound difficult to capture in a studio?
That’s the biggest problem we always have when we’re recording. We want a record that reflects our live performance when it’s really energetic and wild and chaotic. It’s hard in 2012 to make a record that really sounds like that, because it’s not en vogue to have that live rock ’n’ roll sound. And it’s also hard for us to figure out how we actually make that sound in the studio, because we didn’t record our album in a big fancy studio with a producer where we can say: ‘Well, we really like the sound of Fun House by the Stooges, we wanna have something like that.’ No, it’s just us and our friend Jesse Gander in a small studio, with just the basics.
You mentioned Japandroids not being en vogue. This issue is about the acts and arts that defy their expiration date. What timeless bands are you influenced by?
We like to listen to bands like The Rolling Stones, The Stooges, The Gun Club, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and The Replacements. Those are the first records you can put on if you have people over at your house and everyone is just gonna like it. That music never really goes out of style.
And what about a modern bands that will stand the test of time?
The first band that comes to mind is War On Drugs. That band is taking really classic American rock ’n’ roll, like the Stones, Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, CCR, but have, like, a very modern take on it. They sound like the grandchildren of those bands. The main elements of the songs are intact but they put a new spin on the sound. I think in 20 years, you can be at a party and you could put the War On Drugs record on and it would be the same as if you’re playing a Neil Young record right now. Everyone is gonna enjoy that.
You’re about to fly to Japan; it was inevitable that Japandroids had to play there. What are your expectations?
I’ve never been there, neither has Dave. I’ve been told Japan is like being on a different planet, a totally different way of approaching life and lifestyle. Have you ever been there before?
No, unfortunately not. But I do know that their subway system is a real treat. For example, every station has its own unique melody that plays when you’re due to arrive. It’s like and then one stop later .
Oh wow, that’s funny. Now I’m curious.
That alone is worth the trip, I think. Thanks for your time and konnichiwa from Amsterdam!
Japandroids play the 19th of September at ROTOWN, Rotterdam. The show is free for Subbacultcha! members. Other live dates: 16/09 Incubate, Tilburg, 18/09 Paradiso, Amsterdam