The band’s latest record “Celebration Rock” is all firecrackers and fuzz.
The pop and fizzle of fireworks are among the first sounds heard on Canadian rock duo Japandroids’ latest Celebration Rock, an invitation to their collection of loose, frenzied rock ‘n’ roll anthems. At its core, it’s gritty, house party music, the kind of stuff that might earn noise complaints from the neighbors as 30 or 40 people crowd into a backyard to pay homage to drums and guitar. “We both like pop songs,” drummer David Prowse says. “We dress up pop songs in a lot of fuzz and play them as loud as we can.” On Sunday night, Japandroids will take the stage at One Eyed Jacks.
There’s a fast-paced recklessness to Japandroids’ noisy, grunge rock, but Prowse and guitarist Brian King are perfectionists in their way. “We’re really slow at writing songs,” he says. “Because there’s only two of us, we want a lot of interaction between drums and guitar. Figuring out all of the little quirks in a song takes time.” On Celebration Rock, the results vary from the bluesy and dynamic “For the Love of Ivy” to the vocally driven “The House That Heaven Built,” always grounded by the distorted drone of King’s guitar and Prowse’s steady, emphatic drumbeats.
The duo draws its influence from “the Nirvanas of the world,” Prowse says. “We grew up in the '90s, so obviously those bands that were popular had a huge impression on us. And then Brian, since he was five years old, has been a gigantic Guns N' Roses fan.” Elements of classic rock and early punk are found easily in the band’s sound, but where stage presence is concerned, Prowse says he took lessons from bands in the Victoria, British Columbia music scene. “Those bands showed me that you can be a ‘normal’ person and make really great music,” he says. “They were people that I would see on the bus, people I’d see around town, but then I’d see them get on a stage and put on this incredible show.”
For three years after Japandroids' formation in 2006, Prowse and King operated as a purely D.I.Y. band as they booked their own shows, designed their show’s posters, and self-released all recordings. “I think if there had been a record label that had come knocking on our door a month after we’d become a band, we probably would’ve said ‘Sure,’” Prowse says. “But it wasn’t like that. If we wanted to play shows, we had to book our own shows. It was necessity.” The pair later signed to Polyvinyl Record Co. in 2009 and proceeded to tour extensively with their first full-length record Post-Nothing.
Because Japandroids spends a great deal of time on the road (150 shows a year, Prowse estimates), the duo knew exactly what kind of second album they wanted to make. For one, they weren’t afraid of their own voices this time around, and the eight songs on Celebration Rock feature more prominent vocal tracks than Post-Nothing did. “When we first formed, we envisioned having a Yeah Yeah Yeahs set-up: a guitarist, a drummer, and someone who’s just singing,” Prowse says. “We gave up on the idea of a singer and decided to do it ourselves because we wanted to play shows, which is why there’s just piles and piles of distortion on our vocals in our earlier recordings. That’s shame. That’s mostly shame.”
On the new release, Prowse points out that the songs were written for audiences to sing along to, and it makes live shows all the rowdier. “Last night, we played a 17-song set,” Prowse says. “That’s pretty long for us.” When the crowd at San Francisco’s The Fillmore refused to let up with their chants of “We want more, we want more,” Prowse and King came back for an encore. “I think we’ve done two encores in the history of the band, and the second one was last night,” Prowse says. “We’d trashed all of our gear by the end of it. The drum kit was falling over, Brian’s collapsed in a heap, and we’re slowly stumbling off of the stage.”
It was a pretty memorable show, he says. “There are certain times where you can look out into the audience and see that people are having as good a time as you are,” Prowse says. “That’s a special thing.” Japandroids might exhaust a crowd with their loud, anthemic rock, but Prowse and King thrive in this environment. It’s necessary with the kind of tour schedule the two take on. “For this tour, we left home in the first week of August and we’re not getting home until three days before Christmas,” Prowse says. “You get tired, but for me, you get onto a stage and it gives you wings.”