By Laura Studarus; photo by Marc Lemoine on June 4, 2012
“I’ve been telling people I got in a fight defending a lady’s honor,” explains Japandroids’ guitarist-vocalist Brian King, moments into our conversation when the subject of a fresh, nasty gash along his nose is brought up. On a look from his bandmate, drummer-vocalist David Prowse, King breaks into a sheepish grin—admitting the cut stemmed from an inebriated run-in with a knife the day before, when he attempted to cut a glut of show wristbands off his arm. “It didn’t occur to me how bad it was. I said to Dave right afterwards, as I was leaning over the sink, ‘Dave, I think I might have done a bad thing!’”
“He was remarkably calm,” adds Prowse, his words marked with a light Canadian lilt. “I’m there to care for his facial knife wounds.”
The pair’s breezy rapport extends far beyond first aid administering. Performing together since 2006, the Vancouver-based duo’s scrappy garage rock has found its way off the stage and onto a handful of EPs and albums—most recently the pair’s new sophomore effort, Celebration Rock.
Anchored by the squealing guitars and lo-fi fuzz of lead single, “Younger Us,” the album’s upbeat, frenetic tone belies its extended gestation period. “It was a weird process,” says King of the Celebration sessions, which took over a year to complete. “Yeah, it took us a year, but it was a year where we did a few days here, and then we’d be gone for a month, and then we’d do a few days there.”
Their time in the studio was aided by engineer Jesse Gander—who King and Prowse count as an unofficial third member. Not only did Gander’s position at their favorite studio assure the band flexible recording hours, but King and Prowse found they felt comfortable “acting the fool” in front of their longtime friend, who has helmed all previous Japandroids releases. “Jesse would set up a big mic in the middle of the room and we’d just listen to it in headphones and scream out the parts,” says King of their attempts to recreate the exuberance of their live shows. “We don’t like other people lurking around when we’re in there doing that. It’s a lot of trial and error. It’s a lot of trying to have a sound that you feel is your sound and your way of doing things.”
In addition to seven original tunes, their time in the studio also yielded a cover of The Gun Club’s “For the Love of Ivy.” For Japandroids—whose catalogue is dotted with covers, including songs by Big Black and Nick Cave—paying homage to one of their favorite bands felt natural.
“Bands always recognize that there’s some band greater than them that can do something they’re not capable of doing,” says Prowse.
So what does The Gun Club think? Ardent music fans, both Prowse and King perk up at the thought of their heroes hearing the Japandroids version. “I wheeled and dealed to get [Gun Club frontman] Kid Congo Powers’ address,” King admits. “So I’m going to send him a copy when it’s done. Hopefully he’ll think it’s alright.”
While the crash, boom, bang of Celebration Rock (and Japandroid’s previous garage-friendly tunes) isn’t exactly traditional fodder for a parent-approved mixtape, King notes that the album has already gotten a seal of approval from the band’s biggest fan—King’s mother.
“She comes to all our shows,” King says. “Mom hides in the back, buying drinks for our friends.”
“‘Art Czars’ is her cell phone ringtone,” he adds, referencing the band’s debut seven-inch single.
“I did not know that!” exclaims Prowse, impressed.
“Sometimes when I’m at her house, her phone rings and I hear the weird ringtone version of the song coming out of an iPhone speaker,” King laughs. “It’s like, ‘Oooh!’”
It isn’t just King and Prowse’s families hanging on their every note—a fact that, despite receiving compliments for an album they’ve yet to release, both find hard to believe. “When we were putting out Post-Nothing, we were hoping to tour across Canada and maybe play some shows down the West Coast of the States or something like that,” says King. “We didn’t have super grandiose ambitions to be a band that gets to tour all over the world.”
Even with a densely packed summer of touring ahead of them and memorable gigs at Pitchfork Festival and Siren Music Festival in their rear-view, both members still count their hometown gigs as among their favorites. “I think we’ve always defined ourselves as a live band,” says King. “When we play at home and our parents are there, all our friends are there as well. So it’s a communal get-together, using the Japandroids show as an excuse.”
So if you spot Mrs. King hiding in the back of one of their gigs, be sure to flag her down for a drink. F
I’ve loved everything Dan Boeckner’s been involved with ever since. I got to meet him and I nerded out about how much this album meant to me. It got a bit awkward.
THE DREAM SYNDICATE
The Complete Live At Raji’s
I stumbled into a vintage store once with a Dream Syndicate T-shirt on the wall, the only one I’d ever seen. The owner said it was not for sale. I offered him $100 and he reiterated: it was not for sale. Now I wonder: If I owned it, would I actually wear it or would I also simply hang it on my wall to stare at?
What more can be said about the Constantines that has not already been said by me?
This article is from FILTER Issue 48