The House That Heaven Built: Japandroids

“I think every show we play is a celebration..."

“It all happens so fast,” sighs Brian King.

We’re discussing the way his band Japandroids shot to prominence three years ago; an ascendance with which the affable guitarist is still coming to terms.

“You can’t really think about it until you go home, and you have some time to put some distance between the band and just being a normal person at home.”

Drummer Dave Prowse continues: “We’d been grinding away at a local band for quite some time, and become quite frustrated with it.”

“We made a decision to play a few more shows, prep [debut album] ‘Post-Nothing’ ourselves, then call it a day – then we started getting interest from a label.”

So we nearly lost you. Jeez. There must have been some doubts in your mind about keeping the band going, huh?

Dave smiles. “It was a no-brainer.”

Damn right.

***

So here we are, six years after Japandroids first formed and three years since they came within touching distance of splitting up. The two years they spent touring ‘Post-Nothing’ seem to have sparked new life into the Vancouver duo, and sure enough they’ve just released a new album called ‘Celebration Rock’. It’s one of the most upbeat rock’n’roll records you’ll hear in 2012 – eight tracks of moshpit-slaying euphoria that practically embody the trails of spilled beer and late-night singalongs they’ll inspire throughout the world’s indie cognoscienti. Basically, it’s great. But weren’t they worried about following up one of 2009’s justifiable hype releases?

“We’re pretty conscious of all the second album stigma – the sophomore slump and all those clichés,” Brian explains. “The record wasn’t done until we felt it was tangibly better than our first.”

“We felt the same way about ‘Post-Nothing’ – we weren’t gonna record til we felt the songs were better than the songs we’d done earlier.”

“Whether or not that lineage continues indefinitely, I dunno. What band got better and better until their last record, and then broke up?”

It’s a fair question (for the record, Brian suggests At The Drive-In, much to Dave’s approval), but a bigger debate than time will allow us right now. Let’s move things along. When you got back together, did you ever imagine that you’d end up touring the UK for the fourth time, with a second LP ready to drop?

Brian: “We probably would’ve thought about it last year, had we not had to make a record.” But every conscious thought is dominated by this daunting task, so you never have time to reflect on the last few years, and what could’ve been. It’s a never-ending… umm… ha, I’m trying not to say ‘clusterfuck’.”

Dave: “HAHAHAHAHA!”

You sound more confident, in terms of production, songwriting, lyrics… everything.

“Yeh, I think part of that was a by product of having more time in the studio,” ponders Dave. “We recorded in the same studio with the same basic instrumentation, same engineer…”

Brian nods, adding: “I think it’s also that when we made that first record we were just a local band. We’d only played, like, fifty shows around town. So if you’ve played a couple hundred shows, I think it’s just inherent that all that touring, all that experience… you’re gonna get something that’s better.”

The songs also feel a lot more… well, complete. Especially in comparison to Post-Nothing’s repetitive riffs and minimal lyrics.

Brian: “I think the new one is more like how songs are traditionally written and executed.”

He shrugs. “It’s just taken us a long time to figure out how to do that.”

***

It was worth the wait, in any case. From chest-swelling opener ‘The Nights Of Wine And Roses’ to the understated drama of ‘Continuous Thunder’, Celebration Rock is an utterly relentless album. In lead single ‘The House That Heaven Built’, we might just have been presented with Japandroids’ best song so far; a pick-yourself-up anthem built around too-dumb-to-be-stupid riffery and a rousing “tell them all to go to hell” refrain. Thrilling stuff. So come on guys, what are we celebrating?

“I think every show we play is a celebration,” offers Dave. “There’s a very celebratory nature to the music we make and the way that we play it, so it was a fitting album title.”

With complete sincerity, Brian counters: “We’re kind of channelling the celebratory elements of being alive via rock’n’roll music.”

Do you guys party much on tour?

Brian gestures towards the trolley-tray bearing their somewhat un-decadent rider. “I dunno, are we partying? You’re here. You’re seeing what it’s like backstage with a band on tour!”

“You can’t really see all the cocaine…” jokes Dave.

Well, for all I know, you’ve just walked straight out of the bathroom.

The drummer laughs again, explaining: “I think we like to drink. And we definitely feed off a really rowdy crowd. If a crowd is really into the music, and singing along and having a good time, it gives you ten times more energy to play.”

“We are,” Brian announces matter-of-factly, “only ever as good as the crowd we play for.”

It must be interesting maintaining that party spirit when there’s just two of you in the band. Do you have to be close to be a duo?

Brian: “I think you have to have a certain understanding. Obviously this is the only duo I’ve ever played in; this is all we know. But there’s something greater than either one of you individually, that can only occur when you get together. I wouldn’t call it friendship necessarily – if you weren’t friends in the first place you never would’ve started a band.”

Do you ever fight?

Dave: “Playing in a touring band is a pretty unnatural thing for a human being to do, you know? It’s not very natural to be in close quarters with people 24 hours a day for years on end. So yeh, there’s times when we’re not getting along as well as other times.”

How do you deal with that?

Brian: “It’s very black or white. Either you can handle it or you can’t. At this point, I think we can handle it. Right now we’re doing six shows in a row, so we’re in a van all day. And then we’re at soundcheck. And then we’re doing interviews. And then we gotta play the show. And then we’re gonna load out. And then we’re going to our hotel. There is no time for space.”

Dave: “You’ve gotta learn how to deal with that person.”

Fair enough. Time’s cracking on, so we’re gonna have to wrap this up – what do you want to achieve with ‘Celebration Rock’?

Brian grins and raises an eyebrow. “Fame and fortune? No, I’m just kidding. That’s a good answer though.”

“I think this is the first record where we’ve had to think a bit more about that, you know?” Dave continues. “I think we were aware of how this record will be heard by a lot of people, so we were just really conscious of making something we were both really proud of.”

Which they’ve done. And it’s gonna blow hearts and minds everywhere.

There’s another no-brainer for you.

Words by Will Fitzpatrick

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‘Celebration Rock’ is out now.

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