Revived and ready to go

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.


Your guide to the Polaris shortlist, in a heartbeat

Photo courtesy of Polaris

Feist – Metals (2011; Arts and Crafts)

If you were expecting a continuation of The Reminder, think again. Subdued, stripped down, yet still sophisticated, this record is completely worth the four year wait. Feist will be finishing her year-long tour this October in South America.

Trial track: “Comfort Me”


Grimes – Visions (2012; Arbutus)

Grimes sounds confident and assured on her third record, recorded entirely in her bedroom here in Montreal. Now based out of L.A., look for her performing at Club Soda on Sept. 20.

Trial track: “Genesis”





Drake – Take Care (2011; Young Money)

On his second album, Drake slowed down the production – and it paid off. The L.A. Times and New York Times both named it the best album of 2011, while The Globe and Mail included it on their top ten list. This is a strong contender for the prize.

Trial track: “Take Care”




Japandroids – Celebration Rock (2012; Polyvinyl Record Co.)

The Vancouver-based punk/noise rock duo made a second record remarkably similar to their first, 2009’s Post-Nothing, in the best way possible. This album leaves a bigger crater than the first, and it even features a Gun Club cover.

Trial track: “For the Love of Ivy”





YAMANTAKA//SONIC TITAN – YT/ST (2011; Psychic Handshake)

Debut album from Toronto/Montreal based genre-defying duo. Performance art? Music? Noh-wave? What you need to know: they’ve teamed up with fellow shortlister Fucked Up for a 7” available soon, and they have a new album available digitally now.

Trial track: “Queens”





Cadence Weapon – Hope In Dirt City (2012; Upper Class Recordings)

Rollie Pemberton, dubbed ‘Canada’s most creative rapper’ by the National Post, is on a roll. Hope In Dirt City is his third album to claim a Polaris Prize nod, his second to make the shortlist, and his most commercial effort. The music video for “Conditioning” was filmed entirely in Montreal.

Trial track: “Conditioning”





Cold Specks – I Predict a Graceful Expulsion (2012; Mute/EMI Records)

At 23 years old, Aly Spx (better known as her stage name Cold Specks) is the youngest artist to make this year’s shortlist. Her debut album, I Predict a Graceful Expulsion, fills the gothic void in contemporary Canadian indie rock.

Trial track: “Hector”





Kathleen Edwards – Voyageur (2012; MapleMusic Recordings)

Kathleen Edward’s fourth album, Voyageur, is her second to make the shortlist. The single “Change the Sheets” was co-produced by her current grammy-award-winning boyfriend, Justin Vernon, of Bon Iver fame.

Trial track: “Change the Sheets”




Fucked Up – David Comes to Life (2011; Matador)

Fucked Up already have one Polaris Prize up on their mantelpiece; the hard rockers won in 2009 for The Chemistry of Common Life. The band calls their most recent release a ‘rock opera’ and love story set in the 1970s and 1980s.

Trial track: “The Other Shoe”




Handsome Furs – Sound Kapital (2011; Sub Pop)

Montreal’s resident indie rock husband-wife duo, Handsome Furs, announced their breakup as a band just one year after the release of their third album, Sound Kapital. Dan Boeckner and Alexei Perry wrote the album solely on piano, inspired by 1980s Eastern European electronica.

Trial track: “Serve the People”



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