Interview: Japandroids Return with 'Near to the Wild Heart of Life' - Beat Magazine

Interview: Japandroids Return with ‘Near to the Wild Heart of Life’

The wait is officially over! Canada’s finest – Japandroids – are returning with their third full length album Near To The Wild Heart Of Life. The follow up to Post Nothing and Celebration Rock is due out 27th January 2017 via Anti- and having been lucky enough to give the record a spin a few times we can confirm that it’s 8 brand new tracks filled with romance, triumph and no holding back.

Here’s the tracklisting:

01 Near To The Wild Heart Of Life
02 North East South West
03 True Love And A Free Life Of Free Will
04 I’m Sorry (For Not Finding You Sooner)
05 Arc Of bar
06 Midnight To Morning
07 No Known Drink Or Drug
08 In A Body Like A Grave

Japandroids (aka Brian King and David Prowse) fell off the map in 2014 / 2015, “disappearing into the ether” to focus on writing their third record after what seems like an insane, nonstop stretch touring their first two albums. They headed to Vancouver, Toronto, New Orleans, and Mexico City to regenerate their passion for playing and are returning with a collection of tracks that we’re dubbing the bands very own Born to Run moment.

We sat down with Japandroids to get all the gossip on Near To The Wild Heart Of Life.

Why are you waiting so long to put this effing album out?
D: Part of that is because we’re not dropping it digital only, so we got to wait until the records are actually physically made and the artwork’s done. Maybe if we’d really rushed it we could’ve got it out for Christmas day or something, but it got to this point where it was going to be so late in the year we decided to put it out in January,

How does it feel to see articles online getting buzzed about your return, pleading for you to come save the day? People seem to really want this album!
B: It feels great. Especially since we disappeared for a few years while we were working on this record. In 2016 the nature of modern music and the internet, it’s really easy to disappear for a month and then get lost, for people to forget about you and move on. There’s so much new music for people to listen to constantly that it’s really easy to see how people could have found new rock bands to like. The fact that they’re still holding onto our band and our music during that time and nothing has filled whatever void that left for them, it just adds to the excitement of getting the new record out.

How would you say the new record is different to the the last one, Celebration Rock?
B: Up until this record, the goal was to try and make a really great live record but in the studio. So you’re really just using the studio more of a tool to capture what you’re trying to do every night when you’re playing a show, this raw energy and excitement that a great rock show can give you. It’s very simple in a way, those records are guitar and then it’s drums and singer over top and we’re purposefully playing in a way that we would live. It’s kind of like trying to capture lightning in a bottle. That’s what Celebration Rock is, they’re not live in the sense that we didn’t just go in there and perform them but that you’re trying to capture in the vocals, the intensity that you play, the way that you mix it, the simplicity of the actual songs and recordings is designed to capture that. Like the best time you ever played it.

This time we decided that we were gonna purposely do something different in that we were going to use the studio how it was meant to be used in terms of creating a record. In some ways on the first two records we were trying to recreate that really great live feel and with Celebration Rock we feel like we nailed it. So your only two options are to keep repeating that because you know it works and you know people like it or you can try something else. We threw out all of the rules that led us to make our previous records and started with a new formula. This time there’s no rules, it doesn’t need to sound live or like a show, any where the song or the recording process takes us we can follow. To some extent it’s almost like making your first record all over again because even though it’s the third album, we’re using the studio in a way that most bands would use it on their very first record.

D: It’s not strictly about the way that we recorded it either, we were very much interested in writing different kinds of songs and the studio informed that. There’s way more paying with dynamics, having softer parts of songs and louder parts of songs and exploring having more overdubs and layers to make certain sections of the songs sound bigger than others and feel like it’s growing. This album is a much more diverse array of moods and feelings. In the past, for the most part, it’s been full blast, everything as loud as possible right out the gates.

This time there’s no rules

But you’re still keeping it contained to eight songs.
D: Well, some things never change!

B: It’s not like we invented the eight song album but it’s certainly something people have come to know when they get a record from us. It’s sort of a calling card.

There’s always been a Springsteen reference in your sound but this new record really does have a Born to Run spirit running through it. Is that a deliberate thing?
B: It’s certainly not deliberate in the sense that we don’t sit down before we start working on something and be like ‘let’s be like this’. We were definitely listening to a lot of Springsteen in the past but I don’t feel like we were even listening to that kind of music when we’re making this album. It’s just part of the bands DNA in a way. It’s not stylistically a certain type of song or a certain type of lyrics or a certain type of message, it’s more like the spirit that we like and we’ve always tried to put into the music. I think we could make a really different sounding album and you’d still sense that.

I would say the Japandroids sound is a triumphant sound but the new album also has a lot of romance in it lyrically, for example the track ‘I’m Sorry (For Not Finding You Sooner)’.
B: As someone who wrote most of the lyrics, that time 2014/2015 that was just a really romantic time for me and not just in terms of relationships but just life itself. We were working on this record in a lot of different cities. It’s definitely not always romantic but there’s a romantic element to the way we wrote this record because we had the privilege to be able to travel and work on it in different environments. Both 2014 and 2105 were romantic years both personally and professionally. When I think back to the years that we wrote the first two records, the word romantic does not come to mind, even if there’s a sense of romance to some of the songs, it doesn’t strike me as a particularly romantic period of at least my life. This one certainly does and that’s a really powerful feeling to put into a song. That goes back to that Springsteen feeling, Born to Run is a very romantic sounding record and that’s not necessarily because of Springsteen writing love songs, it’s a feeling, it’s a romance to the themes and the way he sings them that’s very evocative of these wild romantic images. That’s a record that was written in New Jersey in the 70s and it can still provoke a romantic feeling for us who grew up on the West Coast 20 or 30 years after it came out.

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Do you have a favourite lyric on the new record?
B: That’s like choosing between your children. I will say that generally speaking I worked a lot harder on the lyrics on this record than ever before.

Admittedly there too many to pick from. I would like some “I used to be good but now I’m bad” tour merch though.
B: That’s one of those lines that when you first write it, it’s so simple somebody must have said this already. When you do a little research and then you think maybe this could really be ours, that’s just a lot of luck.

You did a lot of touring for the last records. Did you need a break from each other after it all?
D: We definitely needed a break and part of that was needing a break from each other. It’s just a very intense way to live. We were both pretty burnt out and we didn’t take much of a break between Post Nothing and Celebration Rock, we basically finished touring Post Nothing and started working on Celebration Rock and even did a tour right in the middle of recording Celebration Rock. In order to make the kind of record we wanted to make we needed to take some time off to decompress and then feel inspired. We just both needed a break from the band.

B: It’s pretty hard to write a great record if you’re not excited about doing it. There was never a point where we didn’t want to play in the band or we weren’t excited that we get to do this for a living. It’s more like, if you take six months off and you come back to it you start to really miss it.

It’s kind of like trying to capture lightning in a bottle

When you’re writing do you have a veto system if one of you thinks an idea is shit?
B: I think we have an open enough relationship where either one of us could say that but there’s also kind of a respect enough to at least try something. A lot of ideas that ended up on this record are stuff that maybe when they first got suggested they didn’t make sense in the context of what it would become. It took some trial and error. There’s also a band instinct where it’s like, it’s pretty rare that one of us is really into something and the other is like ‘this is total shit’. It doesn’t work like that. The same conversely when stuff is just ok. I think 95% of the time our band instinct is aligned.

D: We can both sense when something is missing and when it clicks. That’s part of the beauty of having so much time to do this record, we got to explore some ideas and make lots of mistakes privately [laughs] and then figure out a way to make songs work before we got to share it with the world.

B: there’s lots of ideas on this new record that in the past would have been insane ideas, like that’s not what we do or we don’t know how to do that. We had enough time to fuck around and see some of those crazy ideas through.

The Japandroids sound is very American and you’re Canadian. Where does that come from? It doesn’t necessarily have a Canadian sound – whatever that would be!
B: It’s hard to pinpoint what the Canadian sound is. The country’s not big enough, there aren’t enough people for it to… especially being neighbours with the States. There are countless American sounds. If you think about Neil Young, he’s Canadian but he’s incorporating quintessential American sounds into his music, like blues and country and American rock’n’roll. I think we’re similar to that in the sense that we’ve spent a lot of time in America, we started writing this record in New Orleans and most of our favourite bands are Americans. It’s impossible for that not to seep into the music.

Was it a no brainer to work with Jesse Gander again?
D: We did actually record one song [‘True Love And A Free Life Of Free Will’] with a different engineer, Damian Taylor. We had a weird process. When we decided to record the album and we had everything written, it was a pretty obvious decision to work with Jesse again and then the session we did with Damian, that was an artifact of a session we just did for fun. Damian was this guy we knew and came from a very different world so we were just interested in checking out his studio. I don’t think either of us thought that anything was going to come from that, it was more like let’s give this a shot because it might be an interesting experiment for us, but we actually really liked the way that one song turned out and ended up keeping it for the record.

Recording with Jesse makes a lot of sense because he knows our band so well and he gets great performances out of us. He’s a very good coach for vocals and he can really get great vocal takes from us. We ended up mixing with Peter Katis, so that was like the best of both worlds, you have this safe space to record everything and get everything down with someone you worked with for a long time but then we got to bring those songs to Peter and see what he could do with them, someone who had a totally different perspective, whose records we really love but who doesn’t have any prior association… he’s not invested in the songs, he gets them from us fresh to take them wherever.

B: He was able to hear things in the songs that we couldn’t and have a vision. It’s the first time we’ve ever handed over, to an extent, so much responsibility in the sound and the final product of one of our albums to someone that we didn’t really know, but it turned out really great.

@Japandroids