This photo & all others on the page © Katie Clare
18th February 2013
WWW Shibuya, Japan
Ideally we’d have sent a robot along to interview Japandroids so we could come up with some witty title marrying the fact that we were interviewing Japandroids in JAPAN by a DROID. Sadly we had no robots to hand though so we sent Katie Clare along instead. And a great job she made of it too.
Navigating the many stone and concrete stairs in the near darkness of WWW Shibuya, I find Japandroids in one of the city’s more uniquely shaped dressing rooms. The tiny triangular space is brightly lit and I’m slightly blinded as I exchange greetings with the band from East Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Last year Japandroids, with the album Celebration Rock, gifted us an amplified punk rock soundtrack to our summer. After a sensational & well received set in the mountains of Neaba for Fuji Rock in 2012, which was their first show in Japan, it was always a matter of when, not if, they’d return & now here we are on a damp cold Monday night in February and we’re ready to celebrate.
David: It’s our first club show (in Japan). We got here two, three days ago and we’ve been staying in Shibuya. We visited Asakusa in the old town and went to Sensoji Temple, so we were surrounded by all these old buildings & yet when you look past them there is Sky Tree towering over everything – it’s a really interesting juxtaposition.
LTW: Essentially Japandroids are on the road till September?
David: Pretty much till September.
LTW: What’s going to keep you going?
Brian: Alcohol. No. Really no matter how tired you get, it’s still very exciting – even 400 shows in …
Davis: Must be more now.
Brian: Yes probably, even after that many shows it is still very exciting to get on stage and play for people. That’s what keeps me going. We have a hell of a lot more great shows than bad ones and every great show gives you a boost. Also I have a strong addiction playing for people. Nobody’s forcing us or telling us we have to do it we enjoy it …….. “and the chicks are great!”
LTW: (Shamefully missing the Almost Famous quote) The dynamic must be friendlier with it being the two of you rather than a larger band, does it mean any conflicts are easier to resolve?
Brian: Yes, we can’t put anything to a vote.
David: Definitely, for better or worse as the song goes, and it is going very well.
LTW: Celebration Rock was released last year and since it is 2013 I guess people are already asking … (All in unison now) … “When’s the new album coming out?” With such a full touring schedule, do you plan working on it over the next 7 months?
Brian: I think you can work on an album while touring, but for us it would not come out well. We can either put our energy into performing live, which for us, putting on the kind of shows and with the schedule of shows that we have, requires almost all of our energy. There are a lot of shows and a lot of travelling. It’s not the same mental process to play a club like this as it is playing a huge festival with 10,000 people watching you, and it’s not the same mental process to play Japan as it is to play the States or say Germany. Every crowd, every venue, every show requires a different preparation to put on the best possible show we can put on and generally with our schedule it requires all of your thought – all of the time. There is very little time where we could, on tour, totally let go of all the responsibilities and actually try to work on something that needs all your creative and expressive powers. In the same way when we were home and were working on this record (Celebration Rock) we were not playing any shows – we spent the whole time working on the record. That’s because the moment you book a show your mental process begins to change to preparing mentally and physically for performing to the standard you expect and your fans expect from you. When you become known as a live band, when your live performance is something that people talk about and pay money to see it is a lot different to bands for which a live performance is nothing special. There are a lot of band who are not really known as live performing bands so they don’t need to think about it, but we are and we do.
LTW: How does that mental process manifest itself?
Brian: It depends. This stage tonight is a relatively normal stage size for us, however in a couple of weeks we’ll play some big festivals where the stage is four or five times the size and still it’s just the two of us, it’s a really different beast. There will be a lot of time thinking and looking at the stage and where people will be and figure out how to maximise the time to make it exciting and memorable.
LTW: Festivals are what you’ve just come from after doing Laneway in Singapore & festivals in New Zealand and Australia…
David: …It was great, very unique. We’d never done anything like that before our first touring festival. The first show in Singapore felt like the first day of school, some people kind of knew each other, might have met, or were aware of each other’s music; you’re all trying to figure out what everyone is like. Then after the last show in Perth there was an after show party for the bands and people who’d worked on the show, all hanging out drinking till 5 in the morning – we closed the bar down, everyone had bonded, it was all lots of fun. This tour has been pretty strange for us in general; very different from every one we’ve done before. We were flying and not driving, we were in different countries every three days or so. Laneway was a weird combination of holiday and tour, it was a lot of fun.
Brian: It really was great.
LTW: And next month the U.K.
Brian: Yes. Last time we were in Birmingham was so cool. We had a great show there & we always have a good time in London. Actually that Birmingham show was my birthday and the last show of the tour.
David: And the show in Manchester.
Brian: Yes Manchester that was an awesome show. England can sometimes be a tough place for North American bands to crack, but you know, slowly but surely city by city we are building up interest.
David: We are really looking forward to that tour, we haven’t done a lot of support tours before but we both have a pretty good feeling about this one. Sometimes it hasn’t gone as well for us because the match with the bands has not been so good. People will for the most part be paying to see Gaslight Anthem and not us, but this time, I think the opportunity for people to be into our music even if they are casual fans or not even aware of Japandroids is very good. It will be exciting and we are excited about playing the larger venues too.
Brian: We actually spend a fair amount of time in the UK.
David: We’ve been there so much, we have friends there and in some ways it is a bit like coming home especially compared to other places we play. We’ll play London, Glasgow, sadly not Cardiff this time but also Bristol and Leeds. Hey, I like that I can have a beer out in public, lots of good beer in the UK; you can’t do that in Canada.
LTW: I think it’s restricted somewhat nowadays.
Brian: Arresting us would probably be good press, give us an edge ‘Canadians Finally Gone Wild’. I think the guy who makes those videos is quite rich!
LTW: What’s your number one Canadian thing you love or can’t live without?
David: Bloody Caesar’s! You can’t get them outside of Canada very hard to find, vodka, Clamato: clam broth mixed with tomato, tabasco, Worcestershire sauce and a celery salt rim which is a big thing and really what makes the drink – delicious. We’ve had to resort to me making Bloody Caesar’s for us on tour …
Brian: That was in the UK.
David: It was in the UK. So that is what I miss the most and my family and friends of course but Bloody Caesar’s are right up there; they are like a family member.
Brian: Hockey, if I have a really good internet connection I could watch some games. But at least I have Google so I can check who won.
Sport being a subject I have zero knowledge off and hockey being one of the sports I know even less about it’s best to keep the embarrassing misunderstanding of what Canucks are and what a puck is between the three of us and the three walls of the Shibuya dressing room.
Japandroids will be touring the UK as support for The Gaslight Anthem starting March 21st at the Bristol Academy and continuing as follows:
22th Bristol Academy,
23th Leeds Academy,
24th Glasgow Academy,
25th Glasgow Academy,
27th Manchester Academy,
28th Manchester Academy,
29 – London Troxy,
30th London Troxy.
Some dates are sold out please check venue websites and the usual ticket agencies for the most up to date information.
All words & photo’s by Katie Clare. More writing by Katie on Louder Than War can be found here.