By Christine Leonard
CALGARY – One of the preeminent Canadian rock acts to emerge in the past decade, Vancouver’s Japandroids made a mission of taking the world by storm, when the band started up in 2006. By 2013 the duo, consisting of drummer/vocalist David Prowse and guitarist/vocalist Brian King, had racked up an impressive 500 live shows in some 44 different countries. Although they seemed to be riding high on the success of their ear-catching debut album Post-Nothing (2009) and its jubilant follow-up, Celebration Rock (2012), Japandroids was losing steam and becoming increasingly disenchanted with their non-stop schedule.
“We covered a lot of ground and it was a blur at times. Our jam space is full of random memorabilia and sometimes I look at the tour posters of the shows we’ve played and it boggles my mind,” says Prowse. “The big thing that came from touring ourselves into the ground, was that it took quite a bit longer to get back into the studio and make another record. Running ourselves ragged took quite the toll on us mentally and physically and emotionally. Now we’re trying to do things in more of a measured way. We can pace ourselves and do a lot more than if we’re just going full-tilt and then have to slam the brakes on again when we’ve been on the road for months and our voices are shot and our bodies are broken.”
Unfortunately, damage control has taken center-stage for Japandroids with the unfolding of recent events.
“Timing is a funny thing,” Prowse explains.
“Things have been good overall, but things are a bit strange at this exact moment. Brian is in Mexico City and there was a really big earthquake there, so things are kind of weird and fucked up. I can’t think of a better way to say it. He’s okay, but the city’s in pretty rough shape. Brian is in love with a really wonderful lady who lives down there, he’s down there a lot. I’ve talked to him briefly and it is obviously a pretty scary moment for them, but in the grand scheme of things they’re lucky.”
Experiences like this one are exactly why Japandroids value having the flexibility to work when and how they want to. The pair effectively hit the pause button on their careers four years ago in the wake of whirlwind tours and media engagements. With the wires having fallen silent, Prowse and King were able to gather their senses and compose new material at their leisure. Working remotely and meeting in Vancouver or New Orleans to collaborate in person, they incrementally built-up the foundations of their third studio release, Near to the Wild Heart of Life (2017). And though Japandroids’ latest effort may have lifted its name from the prose of (the heeded yet unhappy author), James Joyce, the lyrical content, according to King’s design, is pure cross-continental poetry in motion.
“Celebration Rock has a lot of movement to it and songs about being on the road and travelling, whereas this new record, Near to the Wild Heart of Life, is about feeling rooted to these various places we call home,” Prowse explains.
And as for their return to form after a three-year layaway?
Don’t call it a hiatus, call it a social media cleanse.
“I don’t think either of us thought it would take so long for the album to be finished! But I’m glad we didn’t post photos or vague statements that we were working on a new album, because people would be like ‘Whatever happened to those guys? Did they break-up? Are they dead?’ It took some time to decompress and then Brian moved away, which slowed things down, but also lead to a better album. I really enjoyed being able to reflect and then jump back into it. Being able to take that time apart was really good for us personally and for the band, so it was all worth it the end.”
JAPANDROIDS perform October 13 at the MacEwan Ballroom (Calgary), October 14 at Union Hall (Edmonton), October 16 at O’Brians Event Centre (Saskatoon) and October 17 at Garrick Centre (Winnipeg).Garrick Centre, Japandroids, MacEwan Ballroom, O'Brian's Event Centre, Union Hall