Japandroids

Canada’s biggest indie successes of 2012 are coming to their namesake continent, and giving Seamus Butler’s fandom some new notches

 

How do you find new music? Any music lover can remember the first meeting between their favourite song/band/genre. Maybe a friend slid you a large vinyl disc, or you heard it on the radio at your local watering hole. However it happens, music has the unique ability to transport you back to the time or place when you first encountered it.


Ask anyone this question and I’m sure you’ll get different answers. Yet, more now than in the past, “the internet” — in one form or another — is a typical response. It’s never an interesting story when someone finds new music clicking on the top downloads or ‘suggested for you’ links.
For me, the answer is different to how it once was, but my memories are still clear for most of the bands I care about.


But what is it like if you are the person creating the new music? Word got to speak with David Prowse of the Canadian rock duo Japandroids, playing at Q4 August 21, about this and their explosive rise to fame on the North American music scene.


The Japandroids upcoming performance in Ho Chi Minh City is not just good compared to what usually comes through — it’s really, really good. The garage rocking duo is pulling in the accolades: the Paste Magazine song of the year in the single The House That Heaven Built, MTV’s and Rolling Stone culture blog Pop Life’s best album of the year in their latest, Celebration Rock, and Spin Magazine’s band of the year.


With the recent run of high quality music coming to Ho Chi Minh City, courtesy of promoters like Tiny Extinction, O Dau, Damian Kilroy, Rod Quinton, Loud Minority and Onion Cellar, the next time you’re asked, “How do you find new music?” your story won’t need to start with the click of a mouse.

 

Word: Japandroids went from their breaking point to international success in the matter of a year. What were some memorable high and low points of that tumultuous time?


David Prowse: We were at our lowest point back in 2008 before things started to really happen for us. I don’t want to sound overly dramatic, but we had been a band for several years by then, and the prospects of getting our music heard outside of Vancouver seemed pretty much impossible, and we still hadn’t achieved much success even within Vancouver.


In general, everything since that point has been a high, really. Some days are better than others, but when I look back at how bleak things seemed back in 2008 it helps to put things in perspective. I realise how lucky we are to be touring all over the world, playing our songs for people, and how many amazing experiences we’ve had on the road. We’ve gone so far beyond what I ever dreamed would happen for this band. So yeah, it’s been a pretty constant high since 2009.

 

Word: On the opposite side of Canada, in a small Halifax venue, I was given a scratched-up CD-R of Japandroids tunes from an ageing roadie for the infamous Vancouver punkers DOA. If the internet was turned off tomorrow, to whom would you turn to discover new music and where would you find them?


Prowse: Is that a true story? One of DOA’s roadies likes our band? That’s so weird and awesome!


I suppose it makes me sound old-fashioned, but I get most of my music from friends and fellow musicians, more than from the internet. I read some music websites, and check out mixes and compilations online, but I am still pretty reliant on people recommending stuff to me personally, or lending me records from their collections. Maybe it’s because I’m on tour so much and have the opportunity to talk directly with so many other musicians and music fans on a daily basis, but it’s usually word of mouth that leads me to the next record I become obsessed with. So if the internet suddenly shut down tomorrow, I would certainly have a lot of new challenges in my life, but discovering new music probably wouldn’t be one of them.

 

Word: Being in a duo leaves no back seats for criticising during the creative process. Have the Japandroids ever duked it out — “fisticuffs” — over contentious lyrics or riffs? If not, hypothetically, who’d win? Why?


Prowse: Look at you trying to stir the pot! No we haven’t ever gotten into a fistfight. I don’t think Brian or I are really the type to get into “fisticuffs” with anyone, really. We disagree about all kinds of things all the time, but we’re grown-ups so most of the time we can just talk it out.


As far as who would win in a fistfight, I guess my answer can be told with this story. A while ago our lighting tech Bob got real drunk and started going on a rant about how he’d really like to fight me one day, simply because he wasn’t sure who would win. He knew Lewis our sound guy would beat him in a fight, he knew he could beat up Brian, but with me he just wasn’t sure. It was weird.


Anyway, following that man’s drunken logic I guess he’s pretty sure I could beat Brian up, and I think he’s probably right.

 

Word: What’s the difference between a cyborg and an android — and how is a Japandroid different from that?


Prowse: A word of warning to all those people out there who are starting new bands: If you are lucky enough to still be in a band seven years after you started it (like me), you will still be answering plenty of “quirky” questions about your band name. SO CHOOSE WISELY!

 

Japandroids play Aug. 21, 7pm, at Q4, 7 Nguyen Tat Thanh, Q4. Tickets are VND300,000 in advance and VND350,000 on the door (VND150,000 for students). Support provided by Bangkok indie rockers The Standards and Saigon-based White Noiz

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