Being a member of Japandroids is a workout. The band’s sophomore album Celebration Rock was released in June 2012, prompting the duo (Brian King, guitarist/vocals and David Prowse, drummer/vocals) to perform 200 shows in the span of a year and a half. However, the mental and physical toll that can take on a person is not often accounted for.
“Our shows are pretty physically demanding,” Prowse says. “We’re playing for an hour and half, thrashing your body around quite a bit and screaming your lungs out. The shows take a physical toll and there isn’t really enough time to properly recover once you’re really rolling.”
King and Prowse perform on stage as a sonic unit, with adoring fans backing them with chants to their sing-along hooks. Along the road beer, tequila and chain smoking became as common as soundcheck, interviews and traveling. Japandroids began to grow accustomed to the daily grind on the road.
“The response that we get from our crowds really gives you a lift every night,” Prowse says. “But as soon as you’d get off the stage you felt like you were going to collapse into kind of a heap.”
Japandroids would not perform again for three years following the tour. After the hiatus, the band returns with its third effort, Near To The Wild Heart Of Life.
“There’s definite sense of ‘OK, we’re not a local Vancouver band anymore, we’re far from that. And we have this opportunity to write an album that could be quite important to a large group of people,’” Prowse says of their return. “I think that’s something that we thought about but to a large extent, we make our records for ourselves. There was a sense of, ‘if we want to swing for the fences, this is our chance.’”
King moved across the country from his native home in Vancouver to Toronto in early 2014. Prowse chose to stay in Vancouver, being fully supportive of his bandmate’s move—although there were logistical concerns to be dealt with.
The two rented a house in New Orleans that allowed them to practice anytime they wanted—all while exploring the city’s culture at night. Playing together intensely everyday for three to four weeks while having a break to evaluate the results was a positive format. It allowed the pair to write individual parts separately, as opposed to forcing lyrics and instrumentals at the same time.
Near To The Wild Heart Of Life begins with the self-titled lead single that employs the trademark Japandroids sound. In between, the album branches off into new territory while bringing you back to a familiar vibe with album closer, “In A Body Like A Grave.”
As King has grown increasingly confident as a lyricist, his vocals come across more clearly, as opposed to their debut Post-Nothing, where vocals were buried in the mix. After moving to a cleaner sound with Celebration Rock they continue to progress on Near To The Wild Heart Of Life.
“In the past, we were a little bit shy to let those melodies shine through,” Prowse says. “I’m bashing away on the drums and Brian’s guitar is really over-driven, and our vocals are drenched in distortion to kind of hide how poppy it is. I think as time goes on we’re a little less gun-shy about being more up front about the kind of songs we’re writing.”
The new record is an eight-track adventure that includes an increasing appetite for experimentation. Songs like “I’m Sorry (For Not Finding You Sooner)” and “Arc Of Bar” see the duo pushing the envelope of what a Japandroids song can be.
“Arc Of Bar” is the song we’re most proud of off this record,” Prowse says. “When I listen back to the finished mix of that song I was just like, ‘where the hell did this come from?’ It just felt like such a departure, and you know that was really exciting to be making music with somebody for ten years and still finding ways for us to surprise ourselves.”