Via: Postmedia News

Published: December 18, 2012
CALGARY – Fireworks. There’s no better way to end the year.

Especially when the past 12 months are something worth celebrating, something you want to send out with a bang while blowing the door open on another year that promises even better things to come.

Like 2012 for Japandroids.

“We’ve certainly had a very good year, yes, I agree,” says drummer David Prowse, one-half of the Vancouver duo.

It’s all thanks to their sophomore release Celebration Rock, which also, quite aptly, begins and ends its brief, combustible brilliance with the sound of sky rockets lighting up the night. Sandwiched in between is 35 minutes of timeless, breakneck, gritty but anthemic rock ‘n’ roll that recalls everyone from The Hold Steady and The White Stripes to early alt forebears the Lemonheads, The Replacements and Husker Du.

And as the calendar gets set for one final flip, the success of that record and the plaudits and honours it’s wrapping things up with and propelling into ’13 on — from a Polaris Prize shortlisting to Top 10 album of the year placement in both Rolling Stone and Spin, and band of the year designation in the latter, as well — is something that’s impossible to not notice and get caught up in.

Well, as an observer, anyway.

“Obviously it’s very flattering but to be completely honest, just because we’ve been on tour for the last while, I think we’re existing a little bit in the bubble,” says Prowse, who hits Calgary’s Republik this Thursday with fellow Japandroid, guitarist-singer Brian King. “A lot of that stuff takes a while to sink in, you know. But certainly it’s very flattering and very exciting.”

Making it all the more so, is the fact that Prowse considers the year that went into recording the album — pretty much the entirety of 2011, in fits and starts — is one that he terms “rough.” As effortless as it may sound, it was a long, drawn-out and difficult process, albeit one that was of the pair’s own doing.

He says they were both incredibly conscious of the spotlight that was on them, thanks to their 2009 debut Post-Nothing, which, itself, came after a few years together in which they toured, broke up and then finally cemented themselves as an ongoing entity.

The reception afforded that initial record, while giving them momentum and encouraging them forward, also weighed them down as they attempted to follow it up.

“We were hoping to not lose fans with this record,” Prowse says. “I think we thought we could make a strong record but we felt like so many people had a strong emotional connection to Post-Nothing and really loved it. We didn’t know if we could match that. Just because there are so many bands that I love where one record hits me in a very specific time in my life and that record means so much. And the next record can be really good but it just won’t have the same effect on me.

“Being music fans we were both very aware of how arbitrary popularity can be at times and how much of it relies on timing and stuff.”

He continues. “I think Brian and I both feel that we’re more artisans than artists. I don’t think I was born to play drums and I don’t think Brian feels like he was born to play guitar and write songs. We love making music, but it’s not necessarily something that comes as easy to us as some of the artists that we idolize.

“So making a record that you’re really proud of is something that takes a lot of work and takes a lot of time,” he says and laughs.

“It took a year to make an eight-song record and one of those songs is a cover — that shows you how much time it takes.”

That cover — a smoking version of For the Love of Ivy from psychobilly punk act The Gun Club’s classic 1981 debut Fire of Love — is as great an indicator of where Japandroids are coming from, musically, as it is a window into what makes them tick as musicians and people.

It’s long been the closer of their live show and is the centrepiece of the record because they view it as something they aspire to but don’t think they could ever attain, which is less about them being modest as it is a statement on seeing themselves as artisans.

“The big thing is picking songs that we don’t think we could ever write. So the only way to have a song like For the Love of Ivy is to do a cover of (it). That’s why it’s on the record,” he says, taking the conversation to The Gun Club’s late, inimitable frontman. “Jeffrey Lee Pierce was born to be in a band. It’s so obvious. You can’t really imagine that guy doing anything else — he’s just an artist through and through.”

Prowse says he loves the fact that many of their audience members, many who were born around the time Pierce was shuffling off this mortal coil, think it’s an original and loves when they discover it’s not, and then go back to the source.

Which also underscores the fact that above all else, he and King are still huge music fans and, as a result, can still connect and want to still connect with their fans.

Of course, that makes Japandroids ascent into indie rock’s upper echelon’s something of a Catch-22, meaning that those same people they were attempting not to disappoint with Celebration Rock have now been seen their ranks swell thanks to new fans who’ve necessitated larger venues, which makes it that much harder to connect with those original fans.

Prowse says there’s nothing like the energy of a massive audience, such as the ones they’ve played in front of during outdoor festival appearances, but he also thinks the duo are a little more at home in the smaller clubs they’ve been playing in over in Europe. And as for the mid-size venues they’re currently gracing in North America, while he says it is something of a thrill to be playing storied halls such as the Fillmore in San Francisco, it’s taken a little getting used to not being able to see every face in the room give immediate feedback on new Japandroids tunes.

“They’re all rooms that are a little bit out of our comfort zone and are just a little bigger and you’re a little farther from the audience,” he says. “I think we were concerned about that and we weren’t sure how it was going to go, and it’s still a bit of a learning process for us to figure out exactly where we feel comfortable and where we think the music is best reflected. But it’s been really fun. It’s been really exciting for us to play these bigger rooms and rooms that have quite a bit of history to them as well. . . .

“I’m not sure how I’d feel about going any bigger than rooms like that.”

And as for their own history, the past year in particular, Prowse, while still firmly ensconced in that bubble, say it, too, has been an exciting one. But when asked to pick one particular highlight from the many is at a loss to narrow it down to one.

“It’s honestly been an endless series of highlights,” he says. “It’s a very, very inspiring and exciting time to be in this band.”

One, more than most, deserving fireworks to celebrate its close and signal what’s to come.

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