Interview

Japandroids

Japandroids

By Courtney Sanders

Monday 14th January, 2013 1:05PM

Two-piece punk band released their critically acclaimed sophomore album Celebration Rock last year and spent the rest of 2012 doing what they do best: playing live, all the time. UTR caught up with one-half of the band, David Prowse, to discuss the problems they faced writing their Post Nothing follow-up, the pleasures of performing live and why they don't know if they'll write a third album.

Hey Dave, what are you guys up to at the moment?

We have a day off in Winnepeg in Canada. We just played two nights in Minneapolis last night and the night before, and we’re playing again tomorrow so we're having a day of rest today.

How long has this tour being going for?

It’s been really fun but it’s been going on for a long time – just over four months straight. We left in August and we’re home in Vancouver in a week just in time for Christmas. It’s been fantastic but our bodies are slowly wearing down to the point where we’re pretty useless except for the time when we’re on-stage.

Yeah sure. Having read a lot about you guys it seems that playing live is the main reason Japandroids exists. That’s different to a lot of bands who find the touring process quite draining and do it as something that is supplementary to writing and recording music.

Yeah getting to play on a stage in front of people who know your songs and are singing along is pretty much the greatest experience in the world. So the fact that we get to do that on a nightly basis and get to travel all over the place doing it is pretty magical. I know there are a lot of bands who don’t really like to tour like we do and I don't know, maybe it’s just not for everybody. Certainly you do get tired at times but I really can’t think of anything I’d rather do than be on stage playing to a bunch of people.

It must be a pretty amazing experience for sure.
I know your album Celebration Rock came out a while ago now but I’d really like to talk to you about writing and recording it because it sounds like it was a bit of a tumultuous process?

Yeah it was! Before the success of Post Nothing we weren’t sure if we were going to continue as a band. We’d kind of made decisions to slow down and move onto other things because it just didn’t really seem like anything special was going to happen with our band. Then, when we least expected it something great happened and since that time we’ve basically viewed the band on a very short-term basis.
Things started happening and people started writing to us and we got offers to play in different cities and we thought "let’s just see where this goes" and we were both really excited to tour so we couldn’t really say no. We started saying yes to everything and all of a sudden we’d been on the road for about a year and a half and travelled all over the place and a year-and-a-half had gone by.
That’s when we first started talking about making another record, because the touring thing happened so quickly – one tour piled on top of another tour, on top of another tour. We hadn’t discussed making another record until we got home from all of that and I think we both felt like we had some songs we wanted to see through and we knew we had to make another record before we could start touring again obviously.
For the last few years everything has been decided on a very short term basis – we just decided to make another record and we didn’t really think much beyond that. We thought that we’d make another one and then see if we could tour on that for a while. And then we ended up slugging away for the better part of 2011 working on Celebration Rock. It took a really long time to make it.
I don’t think Brian or I have any illusions that we’re musical geniuses and can just crank out hit songs over a cup of coffee in the morning, it’s something that we have to work out. We love making music and we love playing for people but I don’t think that we have any illusions that we were born to do this so it’s something we have to work at and it takes a lot of time and it’s kind of boring, but we just spent a lot of time working away at songs, improving them bit by bit and figuring out ways to make them better.
That process took us a long time for Celebration Rock: there were a lot of false starts. We tried different song structures, change them around and slowly banging our heads against a wall until we got to a point where we thought they sounded good. There were a lot of moments where it didn’t feel like we were getting anywhere: six months into making a record we felt like we were just starting to make a record. It didn’t come together until the very end.

Considering that touring is the thing you enjoy most about the band, being stuck in a studio for a year must have been pretty tough?

Yeah it was definitely a huge adjustment. A year-and-a-half of touring wears you out - there’s no way around that. You’re not sleeping as much as you should, you’re smoking too many cigarettes you’re drinking too much and you’re just putting your body through a physical toll because the shows are physically demanding and you’re doing that night after night after night.
We were looking forward to having some down time and having some time at home again because after spending that much time away you just feel disconnected from everyone. You've existed in this bubble and haven’t really kept in touch with your friends and the people who you love.
So it was great being home but once we were home for a month we were antsy already to get back out there.
One of the things we did while working on this record was to do a tour of North America to try out some of the new songs, and then after that we spent a month in Nashville just to get away from home for a while which was really helpful for finishing this record. It was really important that we did that: we drove to Nashville and took all our gear with us, set it up in this living room of this house and just played music every day and it was awesome.

I guess also the album thematically speaks a little bit to what you’ve just said: feeling isolated and needing to get away. Is that a fair statement?

Yeah, I mean you write what you know, right? I didn’t write the lyrics so I can’t really take ownership of them but I think the record is very much about being in a weird place. I think the lyrics are definitely a reflection of what we’ve been doing for the last two years of our lives. If you were going to summarise where we were at lyrically at the time we wrote Post Nothing, the lyrics of Celebration Rock are what has happened since then. The big thing that's happened since Post Nothing is that we've been moving around, all the time.

And how would you compare the album to Post Nothing?

If you go back to the compilation of our first two EPs and then you go from that to Post Nothing, and from Post Nothing to Celebration Rock there’s a pretty clear trajectory in my mind. I think the big thing that is different is that we’re getting better at songwriting and we’re becoming more focused with the type of song we want to write and the type of song we want to play.
The earlier stuff is more scattered because it’s us trying to figure out how to play and what kind of band we want to be, whereas Post Nothing is one step further along, where we have clearer identity of who we are and what we want to do. Celebration Rock is just the album that goes even further.
As I said I don’t think either of us pretends to be a musical genius but we take what we do very seriously, and I think there’s a clear progression and if you play a couple hundred shows you’re bound to get a little better at what you do. To me that’s the trajectory – we’re just getting a bit better at what we do as we go along.
I think another huge difference when you look at the whole spectrum of what we’ve done is we’re becoming a lot less ashamed of our voices. The lyrics aren’t as muddied up with distortion, they’re not as low in the mix and they’re a bit more prominent and there are just more lyrics and more vocal melodies.

Before you mentioned that you’re starting to figure out the true identity of the band. That identity seems pretty tied up in this nostalgic idea of the rock ‘n roll lifestyle: being on the road and all of that?

I think we can relate to that on a deeper level now that we’ve lived that life for a while and done the touring thing, but I think in our own way we’re just ripping off all the bands we really love. We’re taking different bits and pieces and trying to add our own thing to it.
When you listen to our band you can see a lot of different elements. There are a lot of bands who you can see a very specific influence, you listen to one band and you can tell that they LOVE Joy Division. I think with us it’s a little less clear-cut. We obviously really love a lot of “indie rock” bands from the last couple of decades as well as a bunch of punk bands from that era and we also love a lot of classic rock and a lot of really anthemic rock 'n roll music from earlier decades, and then we just go about piecing that all together. I think we feel really firmly rooted within a whole mix of bands from the past and we’re just trying to bring them all together - A slightly new take on something that’s been done hundreds of times before.

You guys are from Canada: is there a scene that you came out of? Is where you're from influential to your sound in any way?

Yeah (coughs)...excuse me, I think my body’s breaking down. Anyways, so Brian (King) and I met at the University of Victoria and in that town at that time we went and saw a lot of bands together, discovered a lot of music together - as you do at college. It was definitely a bonding experience for sure, but the reason I started playing drums was because I saw local bands in Victoria who were part of the music scene there – Atlas Stragetic and Frog Eyes for example - walking down the street as normal people. I became aware that making music wasn’t something that was reserved for famous people. You’d see these people on the bus or out on the street, and they were regular people like you and me, they weren’t people who you only saw on a TV screen or heard on the radio or saw on stage, they were real live people that were making great music – fantastic music.
So seeing that and realising that music was something that anybody could make if you worked at it was really important to me and that’s why I started playing drums. And I didn’t start playing drums until I was twenty years old which is real late for a “professional” musician, but getting to see those bands and realising that music was something that anybody could make was pivotal. I didn’t even necessarily think I was going to make money from music at the time, I just wanted to do it and it was accessible.

Do Japandroids have any plans to make another album?

To be completely honest we haven’t even talked about it. Right now we’re just worrying more about touring – not worried about it, looking forward to more touring. We’re doing a lot of touring all over the world next year we’re really excited. Beyond that we haven’t discussed it. To others it doesn’t make sense that I can say that we don’t know if we’re going to make another record but it’s just one of those things: we love doing this but we always want to be sure that we’re doing things because we want to be doing them, so we’re really looking forward to all the touring we’re going to do and we’ll see what happens after that.

Awesome, thanks David. Good luck with recovering and we'll see you in New Zealand soon.

Thanks! When we play New Zealand you can let me know if we’re well rested enough.


related gigs
Laneway Festival 2013
Mon 28th Jan, Silo Park, Auckland


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