PHONING IT IN WITH JAPANDROIDS
Canadian two-piece Japandroids are touring Australia this July, off the back of their new album “Near To The Wild Heart Of Life”. Prior to the release of this record, the band had spent three full years completely removed from public life, giving no interviews and disappearing from social media. Now they are back and as busy as ever. I caught up with drummer David Prowse at his home in Vancouver to discuss returning to public life, playing new songs, challenging yourself creatively and the weather in Australia.
Jackson: So how does it feel to be “back”, so to speak, after your three year break from touring?
Dave: Three Years is a very long time, obviously. So there’s a little bit of fear that, you know, your time has come and gone for you. I mean it feels great that, you know, there’s been a good response and it’s been fun coming back and playing all these different places over the world we haven’t been to in a while, having great crowds there and people are stoked on the new record. Life’s pretty good, man.
Jackson: Did you spend a lot of that time [away from public life] working on the new record? The record itself marks a step forward, perhaps a step in a different direction, from the last one. It feels like you’re working with a broader range of songs on this record.
Dave: Definitely. We take a while to write, you know. And we did with Celebration Rock. But the thing about recording Celebration Rock or Post-Nothing, compared to this record, is once the songs were written, it was about documenting it pretty much as is. Whereas with this record there was a lot more experimenting in the studio. It was a much more involved process with mixing because we just tracked so much more on every song. So yeah that part definitely took a lot longer than previous records, for sure.
Part of it was just a break, we toured forever and then took a much deserved break at the end of the tour cycle for Celebration Rock. Then writing took quite a while and in the studio, you know, we spent at least twice as much time making this record than we did with [Celebration Rock]. I think, like you said, you can kind of hear there’s just a wider variety of sounds and moods from song to song. A lot more attention to dynamics, a lot less of that feeling of having to record the songs the way you play them live. Instead we went pretty far in the other direction, where we tried to not concern ourselves with how to recreate the songs live and just follow whatever idea we had, for how to enhance the songs in the studio. It’s a bit of a rabbit hole, you know. Like, you can do that forever. Or you can do it for as long as you have money to pay for recording time [laughs]
Jackson: [laughs] yeah, for sure.
Dave: But we definitely took our sweet time recording and mixing this record. I think that was a really liberating experience, having more time to just sort of mess around in the studio. Some of those songs, like I’m Sorry (For Not Finding You Sooner), that song was basically written in the studio. Arc Of Bar was a song that took on a life of it’s own in the studio as we kept building and building on it.
It would have been a very different record if we were just in a hurry and needed to get something out there to get back on the road. That wasn’t really appealing to us. It was a lot more interesting to see where we could go in the studio. You know, really try to take some sort of step, maybe not forward but take multiple steps outward from what we’d done in the past.
Jackson: I think it’s necessary, especially if you’re on your third record. You want to start seeing what else you can do and how you can challenge yourself in that environment.
Dave: Exactly! I think some people would have probably been real happy if we just made another Celebration Rock. That just wasn’t a very appealing concept to us. It was more interesting to see what we were capable of, if we pushed ourselves to make something that was still Japandroids but with a different spin on what we’d done before.
Jackson: So this tour that you’re doing in Australia is the fifth time time you’ve visited us since the band broke internationally?
Dave: I think it’s the fourth? We did Laneway, we did another tour of clubs on Celebration Rock, then we did a sort of half-tour of Australia late last year, where we didn’t make it to quite a few cities. We did Sydney & Melbourne and played a couple festivals. That was round three in australia and this is round four.
Jackson: And how have you found it here, since you first came with Laneway?
Dave: I mean Laneway was one of the most magical experiences I’ve ever had as a touring musician. First of all it’s, like, February. Which means it’s the grimmest weather back home or in Europe.
Jackson: And the weather would have been beautiful here.
Dave: Yeah, we just got to hang out in summertime Australia. Second of all, it’s just a fantastically curated festival. I mean the bands we were playing with. That year was such a stacked line-up, really awesome bands (Chet Faker, El-P, Nicolas Jaar, Perfume Genuis, Shlohmo, The Rubens, The Men, Twerps). You get to tour with all these bands that you really love and admire. It was kind of an amazing, like, weird rock and roll summer camp. So that was a fantastic experience. And a great introduction to touring Australia. Then, getting to come back and play proper shows where everybody is actually there to see you is always a lot of fun. The one downside of festivals is it’s hard to gauge how much people know your band or whether people are just strolling by and checking it out because they’re at the festival. But when we came back and did that club tour it was awesome, the response was great. And the shows we just did were kind of the best of both. We got to play Meredith Festival and another whose name escapes me at the moment [Fairgrounds Music Festival]. And then we played these super sweaty, smaller shows in Sydney & Melbourne in these little punk spaces which was really rad.
Jackson: I had some friends who were at those shows. I heard they went off, man.
Dave: Red Rattler and The Tote? Man, those shows were so much fun. So much fun, man. And I’m excited about this run. The best thing about it is that we finally get to play to people that have had a chance to hear the new record. That was the only downside of that tour we did in december. We were leaning heavily on the new record which, at the time, were a bunch of songs that nobody had heard yet. It was a little bit of a weird vibe, because you’re introducing music to people. There’s this atmosphere at Japandroids shows that’s very much about people being involved in the show, singing along and having the feeling that everybody’s part of the show. It’s not about everybody just standing and watching us play in silence. People are totally engaged in the show and singing along. So it’ll be cool to see that aspect come alive a bit more with these new jams now. After working on this record for a million years you want to get the payoff of seeing people react and respond to it in this inspiring way.
Jackson: That must be such a good feeling, you must really be looking forward to coming back.
Dave: It’s the best feeling in the world. Getting to play songs and people singing along, it’s incredible.
Jackson: Where are you headed after Australia?
Dave: So after Australia we’ll play a couple of shows in New Zealand and then we go home for a little bit. Then we’re doing another run in Europe, playing some of the summer festivals like Reading & Leeds and End Of The Road. Then we’re doing a big North American Tour in the fall in like October, November. After that, we’re gonna take a little breather.
Jackson: It sounds like it’ll be well earned at that point. Finally man, can you tell me what you’re listening to at the moment?
Dave: What am I into at the moment? Well, I’m going to see Kendrick Lamar right after I get back from this tour and that’s going to be incredible. I’ve loved everything he’s ever done and I think his new record is just as amazing as his previous ones.
Dave: Yeah man, he’s just so far ahead of every artist, regardless of genre. He’s the guy who’s killing it on every level right now. I’m really digging the Sleaford Mods record [English Tapas]. We got a chance to see them, we played this festival called Primavera in Spain & Portugal and we shared a stage with them and the whole after party thing… yeah. They’re a really unique band, maybe band’s not the right word, but they have a very unique sound and I really really enjoy that new record. I really love this band Priests. They’re an American band from Washington DC and they’ve put out a really great record called Nothing Feels Natural. They’re super rad. I’ll give you a local guy too, there’s this artist Andrew Lee who has a thing called Holy Hum. He’s about to put out a record that he’s been working on for a really long time. It’s a combination of like, Bon Iver’s new material, modern sounds mixed with singer songwriter stuff, and then this great post punk vibe. He’s releasing it in Canada, hopefully it gets out to the world. I think it’s great.
Jackson: Thanks for your time Dave. My band [Foam] is supporting you here in Perth, I’ll catch up with you then.
Dave: Oh that’s rad! For sure man, see you then.
Interview conducted by Jackson Hawdon