Japandroids' David Prowse on Celebration Rock, songwriting struggles

Categories: Q&A
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Literally and figuratively bookended with fireworks, Japandroids' Celebration Rock is the most widely acclaimed rock record in recent months. Vancouver's Brian King and David Prowse's 35-minute album ferociously confronts the pressures of post-adolescence in the same vein as the band's previous output -- the All Lies and Lullaby Death Jams EPs, respectively released in 2007 and '08, and 2009's Post-Nothing LP. Yet it's unmistakably an improvement over even the band's best early work.

But as seamless as Celebration Rock might sound, it didn't come easily. Recently, King and Prowse faced agonizing writer's block and a near-breakup, forcing them to deal for the first time with the darker side of being in a band. Gimme Noise spoke with Prowse about those difficulties, as well as the joys of recording covers, touring, and more.
How do you tell when things are getting out of balance, and do you foresee your conflicts?

I should start by saying that being in a band is a very unnatural social situation. You're in a band with a group of people all day, every day, at the hotel together, or playing together, or getting food together. We kinda had a crash course in how to be a band when we really started touring. When you're touring, it goes from being something you're really passionate about but is more or less a hobby, to it being something you're in 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Eventually, you learn how to know yourself and you learn how to realize when other people need space. You have to learn how to not drive everyone else insane. [Laughs.] Some bands don't learn that, which can be why bands break up.

From McLusky's "To Hell With Good Intentions" to the Gun Club's "For the Love of Ivy," you guys have done a handful of covers over the past few years. What do you see in a song that makes you want to cover it, and has that way of evaluating changed over the years?

[Covering songs] is something we really like to do. But we haven't done a whole pile of 'em -- we're pretty selective -- and we're limited because we're a two-piece band. We try to pick songs we think we can do justice to, and we really love to pick songs by bands our fans might not know, so we can get our fans into those bands. That's partially why we picked the Gun Club and McLusky songs.

In an interview a few years back, Brian talked about his feeling that a record works best when its songs were written in a relatively concentrated time frame. But Celebration Rock came out nearly three years after Post-Nothing. Did you guys scrap a lot of songs in the lead-up to the new album?

Not in the traditional sense. A lot of bands record, say, 25 songs for an album, but only choose 12 or so. We went into the studio with eight, and eight made the album. But there was a pretty heavy editing process leading up to the recording of the album. A lot of bits and pieces of songs hadn't found a home yet, and a lot of stuff mutated and became new songs. "Evil's Sway" and "Adrenaline Nightshift" are a couple of examples of that.

Much can be done with just guitar and drums, but the way you guys do it is relatively monochromatic, musically speaking, albeit in the best way possible. Are you foreseeing any need to add other textures to your sound, and if so what do you think you would add?


For now, we're not. There's a lot of two-piece bands that end up having extra members, and while we don't have anything against adding, per se, right now we don't want to put anything on a record that we can't recreate live. But that's not to say it won't happen at some point.
 
On this tour you have some shows with Edmonton rapper Cadence Weapon. How do you think his set complements Japandroids'?

Brian and I have been listening to him for a long time; we've always liked his records. [Playing with Cadence] is different for some fans, because he's a rapper and we're a rock band. Everybody's a little standoffish and confused when he first comes out, but Rollie [Pemberton, aka Cadence Weapon] is such a good performer and he gets people really into it. One thing I didn't think about at first was the way he works an audience. Getting fans to be part of the show is a big thing for us, and that's kinda what happens at a hip-hop show, too. He does call-and-response stuff, and he does work the crowd like we do. Playing with him has been going very well.

Japandroids. With Cadence Weapon. 18+, $15, 8 p.m. Tuesday, July 3, 701 First Ave. N, Minneapolis; 612.332.1775.

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