It must be official Japandroids policy that the gloomier the lyrical themes get, the louder they’ll shout into the darkness. It’s an ethos they express most clearly in “The Nights of Wine and Roses,” the opening track from their new album, Celebration Rock. As the band existentially wonders what’s in store for “the wine and roses of our souls,” they resolve not to “cry for those nights to arrive,” rather to “yell like hell to the heavens.” Thus begins eight straight tracks of the most effervescent dose of clamor to come out of Canada since Post-Nothing, the Japandroids first LP.
In the sudden and surprising wake of that first album’s success in 2009, David Prowse (drums and vocals) and Brian King (guitars and vocals) had to actually put the broken-up, two-man band back together so they could capitalize on their popularity. In 2011, re-entering the studio after a grueling but rewarding string of more than 200 live shows in 20 countries, the band was determined to channel the feeling of a fired-up crowd singing along. The resulting record, Celebration Rock, is aptly titled. It features at least one round of whoa-oh-ohs or oh-oh-yeahs on five of its eight tracks and actually manages to raise the stakes on what were already some pretty damn anthemic tendencies.
The album comes out Tuesday, and the band has already returned to their usual, backbreaking tour schedule, but I was able to catch up with David Prowse via email just last week.
Is the title Celebration Rock a way to name your own genre or to once again get ahead of journalists whose kneejerk response is to label your sound somehow?
David Prowse: The album title was Brian’s idea. I was skeptical at first, but I do think it really sums up what the band is about.
The emotions on the album are really raw and really do feel a lot like the live Japandroids experience. How do you capture that feeling in the studio setting?
DP: It’s difficult, to be honest. I really dislike being in the studio. To me, it really isn’t conducive to getting great musical performances, especially with a band like us that is reliant on playing our music passionately and with a lot of energy. There’s no way to recreate the feeling of playing in a packed room full of people, but we tried to work ourselves into a frenzy as best we could. It was stressful some times because it took a lot of effort to get takes that felt good enough to put on the record.
It’s very restrained of you to only release eight songs. Were you trying to leave your audience wanting more?
DP: Honestly, it just takes us a long time to have songs we’re happy with. We wanted every song to be as strong as the next and that just took us a long time. Going into this new record, we knew that we could potentially be playing these songs many, many times over the next few years, so we really made an effort to have songs that we could be proud of. We thought eight songs was enough for an album, especially if the eight songs were all very strong.
Have you got some B-sides locked down that’ll come out later, or were those just the first eight songs you wrote for the record?
DP: We have a lot of bits and pieces of songs and some earlier versions, but that’s about it. We didn’t go into the studio and record 20 songs then pare it down to eight. That editing happened well before we got into the studio.
One gets the impression that you’re pretty concerned about getting old or at least about losing your youthful exuberance. Any particular reason that’s on your minds so much?
DP: We’re both 29.
Enough said. The artwork for the albums and singles have a great deal of graphical consistency. Is that a label concern or something you’ve worked on?
DP: Brian does all the artwork for our band. We both like when bands have a certain aesthetic and all of their records seem like they should go together. It’s a cool thing when you get to see it all in front of you.
When I saw you play a couple of years ago, Brian had a Polaroid taped to his guitar. It looks like a Christmas celebration. What’s the photo?
DP: Brian has a few different photos of his family that he takes with him on the road and puts on his guitar. I guess it’s his way of having a reminder of home when he’s halfway around the world.
Have you been tempted to add more personnel to the band? Maybe bring in some guests for the tour or on the next record?
DP: Maybe some day, but right now that idea doesn’t interest either of us. It would be hard to bring someone in, considering how long it's been just the two of us.