Japandroids Journey Forward with ‘Celebration Rock’

:: Bluebird Theater :: November 18 ::

By Joe Kovack

While the name Japandroids may conjure up images of a Japanese samurai robot, built by a secret governing entity to tackle the forces of evil, it’s actually much less campy than that. Japandroids instead are a hard-hitting rock duo from Vancouver, Canada, with a second lease on life and a promising road ahead.

Their story is one written straight from the book of rock. Meeting through a mutual friend at the University of Victoria in the early 2000s, Dave Prowse and Brian King became friends through music. King played guitar, but not religiously, and Prowse didn’t buy his first drum kit until 2002. Entranced by the lure of the stage and creating high-energy music, the duo embarked on their journey with no expectations, but a heck of a lot of hope. “It was all very exciting for us, even when we were setting up our own shows and even when we’d be playing for nobody,” Prowse said from a hotel room in Athens, Greece, during a recent interview with The Marquee. “We definitely learned a lot from those early years. And I think it has shaped the way we’ve approached the band ever since. We’ve been really hands-on with every aspect from day one and we still are.

Listening to their music, you can hear the genuine love for what they do and it shows in their live setting, too, every time they take the stage — a two-piece band with just drums and guitar and shared vocals that creates a frenzy way larger than its size.

It’s unpretentious, stripped-down rock and while it’s familiar in many arenas, the band’s humble approach to their sound makes it that much more real.  “I don’t think we have any illusions that we’re the most unique band in the world and that nobody’s done what we have before,” said Prowse. “There are countless other two-piece bands that sound similar to us with high energy, punk-influenced rock music. Even when we tried we were never really good at copying bands [laughs]. So somewhat consciously and unconsciously, we  managed to make music that’s part of something bigger but also has its own little place.”

But even with a DIY attitude and intense love of playing live, a lack of momentum can derail the most ferociously driven endeavors. After years of busting their asses with little progress, in 2008 it seemed the wheels were spinning in place and it was time for something new. The band finished their remaining scheduled concerts, and just as they were ready to put the brakes on, a show review from one of their concerts sent a jolt like a defibrillator right into the heart of the band, bringing them back from near death. “It was very common for bands to not last that long in Vancouver,” Prowse said. “Then all of a sudden we played this Pop Montreal Showcase and people were writing about us and there’s a record label that wants to put our record out and we’re like, ‘Holy jeez, this is awesome,’ and things just started snowballing, and they keep on rolling along, wonderfully enough,” he said.

The reviews would keep coming and soon the internet would propel the band into the musical consciousness. They had already released Post Nothing (2009) and a collection of EP’s, but it was time to record something for the newfound fan base that seemed to be growing daily. But recording was never their strength. “Playing live is the environment that we’re both most excited about and the most comfortable in, and recording is still something we’re figuring out how to do,” Prowse said. “To be honest, it’s really stressful and it’s just not fun for us. Making Celebration Rock was by far the most stressful thing for the band in quite some time. Because, you know, there are a lot of people who care about you and your music now. It’s hard to be creative when you are thinking about all those things rather than just writing the songs you like.”

With the help of engineer/producer Jesse Gander, the band pushed through their unease and forged a record pure with heart, grit and energy. “It was really helpful to have someone we knew, felt comfortable with and trusted. He could do so much to make what’s normally a pretty uncomfortable environment for us as comfortable as it could get,” Prowse said.

The resulting Celebration Rock recapitulates the band itself. At eight songs and only 35 minutes, what it lacks in size it makes up for in musical might. King’s vocals and melodies have grown and their overall cohesiveness shines throughout. From a band that was nearly dead in the water, Japandroids have emerged like the unstoppable robots that their name implies with anthematic, fist-pumping, bare-bones rock and roll.


:: Japandroids ::

:: Bluebird Theater :: November 18 ::


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