See Japandroids Tonight, Because The Band Might Break Up Tomorrow: An Interview With Guitarist Brian King
Vancouver duo Japandroids brings its forever-young punk rave-ups to The Firebird this evening for its first show in St. Louis since dropping the beyond awesome full length Celebration Rock earlier this year. We spoke to singer and guitarist Brian King about the band's rising notoriety, its fascination with breaking up, and a rare time signature known as "Japandroids time."
Ryan Wasoba: Whenever Celebration Rock came out, there were quite a few "think piece" type articles about it, which seemed strange since the album is so straightforward.
Brian King:: We do so many interviews where I'm boggled by the questions because I find it so plain and obvious that this is how we feel and this is what we played. Someone asked why we named our record Celebration Rock. And it's like, I don't know if you've listened to the record but it's really celebratory rock and roll music. It's like, "What's the story?" and there is no story. It's rock music and it's a celebration and that's all that is. I find that, for lack of a better term it's sort of a heart on sleeve record. There's nothing to read into it. We've been very direct about the way we feel.
How has touring changed sinceCelebration Rock?
Well, we have been in a band for quite a long time. So I see where the band is right now is a slow and steady climb through seven or eight years now. There's this step one, step two thing that's easy for outsiders to see, but we feel like it's been a continuous incline. We actually have three records worth of music and there's no question that the crowds are bigger, that the band is more exposed, and things are going better than they were on the first record.
It's been month by month climbing this ladder, making it up as you go along. This tour, we're playing rooms for more people than we ever did before. We're having to learn how to fill a giant stage. Last night we played in L.A., and it was much bigger than what we usually play. Someone like Arcade Fire, they have 12 people, so it's easier for them to fill the stage. It's still just the two of us up there. We are trying to just play as many shows as we can. I don't mean this in a negative way, but we're milking the record for everything it's worth as far as getting out on tour.
Japandroids seems like a band who uses records mostly as fuel for touring.
I think as time goes on that attitude is starting to change. The shows and performing live, that's what we love to do, but the record is what's important. It takes a while to understand that people might feel the way about your record as we do about the records we love. A lot of the records I love, I have no connection to the band live or their live performance. These bands were long gone by the time I heard them, so the record is everything.
For a while the records were what we did to play more shows, and we tried to play more shows and do less records. But as time goes the tables are starting to turn because the record is everything. If we quit tomorrow, it's the record that would hopefully hang around. It's taken a long time to fully appreciate that for your own band.
The record stays what it is forever, but shows are more volatile. You can't play the best show of all time every single night.
We try to. It's not always possible, and that gives me an appreciation for bands I used to see even if it wasn't always the way you want them to be. Bands are often very tired. It's grueling and you can't always be your best, which is frustrating because we try every night to play hard and work very hard and try to make the show better. I fought for ten minutes with the lighting guy last night because I knew it would be better for the audience if a light was tilted a certain way.
In a personal way, the bands we listened to seemed like these larger than life characters. They weren't real, they were almost actors or something. They were our kind of celebrities, these mythical kind of people. I don't think of ourselves that way. And sometimes people approach us that way and look at us like the way we looked at those bands and they're nervous to talk to us. It's a weird thing that you never get used to. We consider ourselves to be regular people that happen to play in a band.
Do you think the mystifying of your favorite bands had to do with never seeing them play?
I think it does. It's also just the passage of time. Japandroids could stop playing shows tomorrow and 10 years could go by. That passage of time creates a different mythology. For all we know some guy who saw us last night and thought were were just okay, 10 years later if we broke up he could be like, "I saw them years ago on their last tour ever." It's so common. When The Replacements were a band, they were not well known. People didn't come to their shows and that's why they broke up. They never found the success they were looking for, but now they're such an important band in the rock canon and bands like us wouldn't exist without them. But there's such a difference between people who saw them now and people who didn't. Time will tell.