Coachella 2013 artist spotlight: Japandroids
A Canadian duo perfects escapist rock on its sophomore LP.
Photograph: Andy Mueller
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When mapping out their new album, Celebration Rock, the two members of Japandroids set a simple yet daunting goal. “We wanted every song to be good enough that we could play it every night for a couple hundred shows,” says drummer David Prowse, pausing between burger bites at Williamsburg’s DuMont. “If it wasn’t something we felt was that awesome, it just didn’t make the cut,” adds guitarist-vocalist Brian King.
Pretty straightforward, no? What band doesn’t want to cram its record full of durable gems? Still, few end up with an album as stupendously rousing as Celebration Rock. The eight-song, 35-minute LP—a follow-up to Post-Nothing, the beloved 2009 full-length debut that put this Vancouver duo on the indie-rock map—plays like a parade of future classic-rock staples: a series of breathless odes to friendship, vice and the open road. A song like “Adrenaline Nightshift” (which starts with King testifying, “Hitchhiked to hell and back / Riding the wind”) suggests how Springsteen might have sounded had he been born late enough to internalize both the grit of Hüsker Dü and the hookiness of the Foo Fighters, among a thousand other lessons gleaned from the past 30 years of melodic-rockcraft.
Asked what bands turned him on to the glory of the anthem, Prowse—like King, currently 29—reaches for a universal example. “I don’t want to get into comparisons between us and Nirvana, because we’re bound to fail,” says the drummer. “But there’s a certain similarity in that we’re basically writing pop songs; we’re just making them louder and thrashier. Every song has a pretty gigantic hook.” Unlike their forebears, though, Prowse and King relish their hits as much as their fans do. “We wanted to have a whole record that would create that same atmosphere in the crowd that we get when we play songs like ‘Young Hearts Spark Fire,’ ” Prowse says, citing Post-Nothing’s yearning standout. “It’s an amazing feeling when you play songs that have really resonated with people. They’re not just standing there with their hands in their pockets; they’re singing along and you’re experiencing this moment together.”
That universality is key for King, who takes an admirably unprejudiced view of the music that shaped him. “I came from a small town where, to some extent, everyone liked the same things,” says the frontman. “When I was growing up, everyone liked Metallica, GNR and AC/DC, but everyone also liked what came after that. This ‘grunge killed hair metal’ shit, that’s, like, faux music journalism, people that wrote about it after it happened. Where I grew up, it wasn’t weird to have Guns N’ Roses and Nirvana next to each other in your CD booklet.” Today’s equivalent listener might reserve iPod space for Celebration Rock.
King offers a succinct explanation for Japandroids’ uncanny immediacy. “The easy way to [achieve that] is to not write introspective songs,” he says. “[Celebration Rock] is escapist music. You want to do for other people what Born to Run did for you; everyone has a moment where they need that kind of record.” If there was any doubt as to whether Celebration Rock is, in fact, that kind of record, the pointedly unambiguous title ought to dispel it. “A question we’ve gotten a hundred times in the past week is, ‘Why’d you call your album Celebration Rock?’ ” says King. “And you try not to be rude, but at the heart of it, I just want to say, ‘It’s so obvious why I called it that! It’s celebratory rock & roll music.’ ”—Hank Shteamer
Japandroids play Coachella Friday April 12 and Friday April 19.
Follow Hank Shteamer on Twitter: @DarkForcesSwing
This article originally appeared in Time Out New York on June 21, 2012.
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