We get a lot of offers for e-mail Q+As with the cream of the pop world here at SCAN, but more often than not it’s actually a bit of a con. We’ll take our time thinking of deep, meaningful questions that reach right to the heart of an artist’s body of work… and then the artist in question will get his/her/their unpaid interns to copy and paste lifeless PR fluff under every question.
But the indie rock duo Japandroids, in keeping with their general theme of ‘being excellent at everything’, found the time out of a busy, cross-continental tour schedule to give us some properly superb answers! And why, fair reader, should you be interested in what they have to say? Because they’ve got two critically acclaimed albums behind them (2009’s Post-Nothing and this year’s Celebration Rock), one of the most explosive/loudest live shows on the indie circuit, and they arrive in the UK on October 26th (their closest show to Lancaster is the Manchester date on the 27th).
How did your approach to songwriting change between Post-Nothing and Celebration Rock?
When writing Post-Nothing, the music was considered primary and the lyrics/vocals secondary. On Celebration Rock, both the music and the lyrics/vocals were considered to be equally primary. That was the single biggest difference in the songwriting.
You can definitely tell that’s the case; your lyrics have got far more complex, was there a reason behind that change?
Generally speaking, I spent a lot more time on the lyrics to these songs; more than any we’d previously written. I felt that in the time since we had written and recorded Post-Nothing, my guitar playing had only marginally improved, whereas my imagination and confidence with respect to writing lyrics had improved drastically and I wanted to show off. Maybe by the time we write and record our next album, my guitar playing will have caught up and I can ‘shred sick solos all over that bitch’. You never know…
Since a major theme of your songs is the vitality of youth, growing up and all that, what effect has growing up yourselves had on your songwriting?
I think ‘growing up’ has had less of an affect so much as the evolution of my music tastes as I’ve grown up. Relative to a few years ago, I’m now finding myself listening to a lot more lyric-centric artists, and that has no doubt had an effect on my songwriting. So, even if the themes have remained relatively constant, the expression and description of those themes has certainly expanded.
You guys are renowned for your relentless tour schedule. How do you find you’re coping with the road two albums in?
Much better. We learned a lot of lessons touring on Post-Nothing, many of them the hard way, and have done our best to learn from those experiences and apply them to make our lives/lifestyle less chaotic and disastrous. It helps that touring is even more exciting now, as we actually have an audience to play for!
‘Rock and Roll is dead’ is obviously used so much by the music press nowadays that it is now almost beyond cliché, when it evidently isn’t true. Or at least I don’t think it is, what do you guys think?
I think you can definitely make the argument that rock and roll is dead in the UK, or at the very least, sleeping. It is pretty much impossible to make that argument in North America as there seems to be a never-ending tidal wave of vitality within the genre. In the last few days alone I have listened to brand new records from Thee Oh Sees, Metz, TySegall, The Men, Titus Andronicus, White Lung, Swearin’, DIIV, Ladyhawk, Trash Talk, etc., and those are just a handful of the bands I happen to know about. Perhaps the music press in the UK needs to put down the NME, and head down to their local record store.
You’ve mentioned a couple of Candian artists there, which brings me on to my next question. Canada. Why is it so good?
Poutine and Neil Young.
For me the Canadian music scene is the best in the world – but is this just me fetishising the Canadian music scene from a distance? On Rockers East Vancouver you seem to have a fairly negative impression of the Canadian music scene…
The local scene in Vancouver when we were starting out, and the Canadian music scene (both then and now) are two very different things. That song is specifically speaking to a certain time and place, and has little if anything to do with the rest of Canada, just like it has little if anything to do with Vancouver now. In fact, I don’t know if our impression of the Canadian music scene has ever been more positive. White Lung, Nu Sensae, Ladyhawk in Vancouver; Grimes, Purity Ring, Cadence Weapon, Mac Demarco in Montreal; Metz, Crystal Castles in Toronto – some of the best records this year are coming from Canada. STAY POSITIVE!