Japandroids sound refreshed on their latest record
It had been five years since Canadian duo Japandroids graced the world with a new record, and fans of the heartland revival band were more than eager. After fusing classic rock bombast and punk urgency on their 2012 record, Celebration Rock, the band aimed for an even bigger, crisper sound on their latest album.
“We were pretty silent on social media,” said Japandroids drummer Brian King. “People are like, ‘Now that your hiatus is over, are you excited to be back?’ and it’s like, what hiatus? We played 250 shows and then wrote and recorded a new album.”
Following that short break, the band released 2017’s Near to the Wild Heart of Life, a record that feels more polished, yet somehow contains the gratifying immediacy of their last album. Compromising that rawness may register as a cheap trade-off to some, but the record is just as successful in retaining the fast-paced, youthful energy of the band’s early work.
The Concordian spoke to King about his writing process with bandmate David Prowse, and how they found inspiration to release their first bit of material in five years.
Over the phone, King said the process as a whole was very overwhelming. “When you’ve spent the last four years working on an album, you’ve just got to go at your own pace,” he said. “But once it’s finished and out of your hands, you try to make the most of it.”
Though daunting, this process wasn’t a new undertaking for Japandroids. “We went very quickly from being a local band to an internationally touring one,” King said. “With each album, it just gets a little bigger each time.”
To a lot of people, it seemed like the Vancouver legends had vanished into thin air. And in indie rock, that can either make or break a career. “We weren’t on social media updating a lot of the time. David was busy with his girlfriend, and I had met mine. We’ve actually been very busy in that time,” King said. “We released the last record in 2012 and toured all throughout that year. We toured almost all of the next year. When we got home at the end of it, we were just totally burnt out, both physically and mentally. It came to the point that, despite how much we love playing in the band, we just needed a break.”
According to King, the band hadn’t taken a serious break in five years. The initial recording sessions for the new album started after the band’s last tour. They took about six months off to detox before writing and putting new ideas to work.
“It’s hard to lead a normal life when you’re in a band. After six months off, we both really started to miss it, and that’s when we started writing again,” King said. “We probably spent about one year writing and then recorded the whole thing by the end of 2015.”
Working with producer Peter Katis on the new record was a good move for the band, as he is well-known for his work with groups like The National and Interpol. Mixing the record turned out to be a long and arduous process, but the end result undoubtedly sounds more polished. And apparently, it’s more polished by design. According to King, when the band started about 10 years ago, they aimed to replicate the raw and untutored sound of garage rock bands emerging from Vancouver at the time. “That’s the kind of band vibe we were going for,” he said. “That’s the kind of record we wanted to make.”
The band achieved that vision on their sophomore record, Celebration Rock. “Of course, we could have just continued doing the same thing, which I know a lot of our fans would have liked,” King said. “We really like that record, but it didn’t interest us artistically anymore.”
With that in mind, it’s clear the band made a conscious effort to execute something different. The transition from self-recording to making a real studio album wasn’t a matter of trying to sound more professional. Those aspects became an afterthought. But considering how much better they sound in the studio, expect nothing but improvements from here. “It’s uncharted territory for us,” King said.