Japandroids – Interview By Carl Stanley
Congratulations on your second album Celebration Rock,Â what have your reactions been like to those of the magazines, reviewers and more importantly the fans? Has there been a difference between UK/Europe and US reviews?
Our fans seemed to have more or less embraced Celebration Rock as an impressive (and worthy) follow-up to Post-Nothing, and in knowing that, I feel an overwhelming sense of both pride and relief, as we worked long and hard to ensure that Celebration Rock was the best album we were capable of producing with the means we had. Any and all critical praise is simply icing on the cake.
In general, Celebration Rock has received a warmer reception at home in North America. While the response in UK/Europe has been far from negative, there has been higher variability within the spectrum of praise/ridicule, particularly in the UK. As far as I know, the most negative review Celebration Rock has received to date is from the UK’s flagship music publication NME, who described Japandroids as indistinguishable from No Age and Celebration Rock as ‘curiously sour’ and ‘one note’. This comes as little surprise though, as Japandroids’ sound is undeniably ‘American’, and therefore aligns only peripherally with the modern UK sound NME is so dedicated to championing.
You’re on tour in Europe right now, for a start how’s this part of the tour going? Do you like Europe and have the European crowds been getting into the gigs? I imagine the band has already quite a lot of support in the UK and Europe.
The tour is going well. Right now we are somewhere in northern Germany, on our way to catch a ferry to Denmark. Despite the rain and lack of sleep, spirits are high!
We like touring in Europe, though for us, it is unquestionably a ‘tough nut to crack’. Japandroids’ rise to prominence in Europe has been much slower and more gradual than other parts of the world, due in part to our inability to tour here more regularly. On our current European tour, we are playing many counties/cities for only the first or second time. With visits that infrequent, it can be hard to build the same kind of momentum we have in North America.
Unlike Canada or the United States, European audiences are so highly variable that I couldn’t possibly comment on them as a whole. In some countries/cities, the response is riotous, while in others there is barely a response at all. That is just the nature of touring though, and I’m confident that the more we’re able to come back, the bigger and better shows we’ve have.
Are you guys mixing it up with songs fromÂ PostÂ Nothing with the new stuff like ‘Fires Highway’ or do you just change set lists when you feel like a change to whatever youÂ fancyÂ at the time? Also how are the new songs going down live?
Right now we’re playing all of Celebration Rock, and almost all of Post-Nothing every night. We vary the setlist here and there, but yes, we’re playing old and new songs back to back, etc. As for the new songs themselves, they are more or less going down very well. In fact, in many cities, it is totally obvious that many in attendance have never listened to anything other than Celebration Rock, and it’s the songs from Post-Nothing that don’t seem to go down as well.
How about the UK crowdsÂ specifically; how did you find the show atÂ LeicesterÂ for the ‘UK Summer Sundae Festival’ and the crowds in Belfast? in fact you’re coming back here in October aren’t you?
In general, I think the crowds in the UK are spoiled as they have access to more bands and more shows on a constant and continuous basis (relative to the crowds in many of the other countries of Europe). Because the UK is such a massive music market, nearly every touring band plays there regularly, meaning UK crowds don’t ‘appreciate’ bands/shows in the same way as other parts Europe. This is of course a generalization, and certainly doesn’t imply that UK crowds as a whole are jaded. Nevertheless, the crowds in the UK rarely display the same level of fervour as crowds in say Eastern or Southern Europe, where touring bands tend to visit less frequently.
And yes, we are coming back in October!
10-26 London, England â Heaven
10-27 Manchester, England â Sound Control
10-29 Sheffield, England — The Harley
10-30 Birmingham, England — Hare & Hounds
So do you see Celebration Rock as a progression in any way to your first album ‘Post Nothing’? Though you probably had more money to record this album a lot of the same over all sound and vibe comes at you like the 1st album, like you know you’ve found your formula and what works for Japandroids.
I see Celebration Rock as a progression in almost every way possible, and both Dave and myself (as well as our recording engineer Jesse Gander) felt confident that we could accomplish this without altering the manner by which we have always recorded. Technically speaking, the process for recording Celebration Rock was almost identical to that of our previous records: same studio, same engineer, same equipment, same techniques, etc. To me, the progression lies in the songwriting, the captured performances, and the mixing/production of the album, all of which are simply reflections of our shared knowledge and experience since recording Post-Nothing. And, for the record, while we did have more money to spend on recording Celebration Rock, it is still peanuts relative to our contemporaries.
Was it hard in picking the singles? ‘The House That Heaven Built’ is the tune that actually first got me listening to you guys and think its great for listeners to find as their first Japandroids song. What do you think?
Not particularly. While everyone who felt compelled to throw in their two cents had a favourite song on the record, there was a near unanimous consensus that ‘The House That Heaven Built’ should be the first single. It was deemed the song most likely to lure listeners to the album.
‘Fires Highway’ is also a stand out tune off the album but which songs was the album based around, was there a main song or sound the album was founded on? And were there any newÂ influencesÂ than before on the new album?
If there was one song that you could argue the sound of the record was based upon, it would have to be ‘Younger Us’, as that song was written and recorded before the others, and was our ‘starting point’.
There were so many new influences on Celebration Rock that I wouldn’t even know where to begin. Two of the most obvious ones (to me) would be the novel Under The Volcano by Malcolm Lowry, which inspired me to try and use more descriptive and poetic language in my lyrics, and the album High Violet by The National, which inspired me to write the song ‘Continuous Thunder’.
In terms of direction, where do you see the band going and where would you like to go? I could quite easily picture you playing big mainstream gigs over here in the UK andÂ especiallyÂ with the latest album and its anthemic feel. Could you picture that too?
I have no idea where the band is going to go and I like it that way. Whatever direction that may be, I can assure you that it will never result in mainstream popularity in the UK. While I agree that the album has an anthemic feel, I consider our sound to be ‘too American’ to ever be that popular in the UK.
…and lastly, you’re on tour till a few days before Dec 25th (UKÂ Christmas time) but up to now what’s been the best moments on tour, and why?
The best moment thus far was in Munster, Germany when a nice young lady gave me a Rites Of Spring t-shirt as a gift on the very same day that I ran out of clean shirts!
Â Watch ‘The House That Heaven Built’ video:Â
Â Watch Japandroids interviewed at Primavera Sound for Pitchfork TV:Â
Japandroids head out on European tour in October, calling at the following dates:
10/12 — Madrid, Spain — El Sol â¨10/13 — Barcelona, Spain — Sala Apolo â¨10/15 — Winterthur, Switzerland — Salzhaus â¨10/16 — St. Gallen, Switzerland — Grabenhalle â¨10/18 — Rome, Italy — Lanificio 159 â¨10/19 — Bologna, Italy — Covo â¨10/20 — Padova, Italy — Loop â¨10/24 — Athens, Greece — AN Club â¨10/26 — London, UK — Heaven â¨10/27 — Manchester, UK — Sound Control â¨10/29 — Sheffield, UK — The Harley â¨10/30 — Birmingham, UK — Hare & Hounds â¨11/1 — Paris, France — Pitchfork Music Festival
All words by Carl Stanley